How to Avoid Confidence of the Wrong Kind
If you charted my levels of confidence throughout my life it would look like an EKG. It has soared to great heights, and dropped drastically. It has risen, but then dropped like a rock. It has slowly Increased, and then finally leveled out with maturity, understanding, and wisdom. I’ve learned how to be confident by taking the wrong path on most occasions.
In this post, you’ll learn five methods for being confidently humble. I’ll also teach you the value of erring on the side of over-confidence for massive growth.
As a middle school kid, my confidence was low. I wasn’t yet confident in myself, but I desperately wanted to be cool. Unfortunately, I learned a tough lesson early on. Bullies verbally beat the desire to be cool out of me. This taught me the power of close friendships and sticking with the right people.
My high school years were full of trials like any teenager, but as I grew in height and physical ability, my confidence climbed. I enjoyed learning in school, (I know, weird, right?) I played a lot of tennis, and my skills with a trumpet were passable. I also knew who my real friends were and stuck with them.
Then college came and ruined everything…
I was riding a wave of confidence born from doing well in high school. It wasn’t meant to continue. I remained undeclared until Sophomore year, had great friends, but wasn’t a good friend back. I also missed out on many exciting opportunities like studying abroad, being a part of community driven projects, and soaking up valuable information from incredible professors.
I look back on my college years with beige-colored glasses. I was confident in who I was, but I shouldn’t have been. The foundation was shaky.
After graduating and settling into life after college, I slowly entered the deep, dark waters of self-discovery. I found Atlantis. But it wasn’t all golden horses and mermaid armies. It was ripe with hoops and hurdles to jump through. Learning more about yourself is a necessary step, but it hurts like a ceramic baking pan slicing open your thumb (this happened).
Three years after college, my boss told me “You aren’t as good as you think you are.” Ouch. My confidence took a hit and I took awhile to recover. These moments in life are bound to happen. Much like being bullied in middle school, I learned to use these times for growth and change.
Now, my confidence is fueled by equal parts self-discovery and humility. It’s taken several missteps and challenging conversations to get here, but I’ve finally learned a better balance.
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Confidence is an important trait to grow and develop. But if you don’t bathe it in self-discovery and introspection, it’s meaningless at best, and dangerous at worst. I’m still learning how to accomplish this daunting task, and I still need a ton of work. Don’t we all?
The following strategies might help you learn how to be confident today.
1) Infuse Yourself With Humility
Humility is the antidote to arrogance. A well-known author suggested adding “but what do I know?” whenever giving advice to someone else. There is no better way to practice humility and to learn how to be confident. I certainly don’t know everything about confidence. I believe I have important words to share, but what do I know?
Dive into self-discovery to determine the solidity of your confidence. Imagine someone told you, “you aren’t as good as you think you are.” How would you respond? Is there a dash of truth in what they are saying? Would it cripple your foundation?
Embrace humility and learn from others, even if their well-meaning words sting.
2) Channel Your Coachable Superpower to Learn How to Be Confident
I’ve recently been playing a ton of padel ball. It’s a European sport that’s like tennis mixed with racquetball (squash). In a few short months, I’ve gone from having never played to being able to hold my own against natives who’ve been playing for years (while still losing a lot ;)).
If I have one superpower, it’s my ability to take constructive feedback to improve. I’d rather have superhuman hearing or the ability to breathe underwater, but I’ll settle for coachability. You can access this superpower too. Remember, I’m nothing special. Boost your confidence by accepting help from any reliable source.
When a partner tells me I’m out of position, I nod my head and adjust. When I get feedback to slow it down, I do my best to listen. When the activities coach tells me to “corre!” (“run” in Portuguese) I get on my horse and chase after the ball!
This is much easier when you are new to something, but it’s a skill you can apply to all areas of your life. Take advice and feedback even if you’ve been doing something for years.
Rely on your own knowledge as a filter against anything unhelpful, but don’t completely block new lessons. The most successful people embrace continued learning for enhanced mastery.
3) Don’t be Like Yoda, Learn by Teaching
Forgive the abrupt sci-fi reference, but if Yoda had been listening to his own words to “be mindful of the force,” maybe he would have noticed the Sith Lord in the next room. With great power comes great responsibility, and we’d best consider listening to (and putting into practice!) the things we teach.
When you teach a skill to someone else, your own understanding grows. When I’m teaching Miranda tennis or sharing padel tips, I try to integrate the very things I’m saying into my own game. Notice the need for improvement in others, but always check yourself too.
My biggest pet peeve is getting shown how to do something by someone who can’t show THEY know how to do it. I aim to stay cognizant of my own teachings. You’re bound to make mistakes, but never stop learning.
4) Lean Into the Skid: Fake it ‘Til You Make It
You are suddenly driving on an iced over city road in a snowstorm in a 2000 Corolla with balding tires. Oh wait, that was me… Suddenly the road turned into a steep hill and my fear meter hit critical mass. The car was in control. All I could do was lean into the skid and hope we would make it to the bottom without crashing.
The best way forward is to lean into the skid and brace for impact. It’s always better to be more confident than not. It’s how you improve. The unsurprising secret is that most people have no clue what they are doing when they start out, but they improve by slowly turning in the direction the car is going.
Err slightly on the side of overconfidence. Don’t be arrogant. Embrace humility. Be strong in your convictions and values to move forward with strength.
5) Stumble Often: Find Your Balance
This is the most important step. If I were to second guess every shot I make in padel, I wouldn’t grow. I’d be too tentative to try new things, and it wouldn’t be fun. Sometimes you NEED to slam the ball into the next court to realize what you’re doing wrong.
The same thing goes for business decisions, relationships, and any other goal you’re reaching toward. Failure breeds success. Sometimes you need to knock it out of the park to learn how to keep it in the court.
It is a chicken and egg situation. You need enough confidence to make the plays, both good and bad. But if you don’t start, you won’t be able to learn.
This fear of looking foolish or not being good enough holds people back. I was definitely nervous to go play padel ball for the first time with people who only spoke Portuguese, but I did it anyway. I barely knew how to play the game, and wasn’t sure if I was getting laughed at or praised, but I dove in. Now, I can even keep the score in Portuguese. 🙂
Fall often and fall hard, but always get back up. Life lessons involving blood, sweat, and tears will teach you more about how to be confident than any blog post.
Confidence will arrive when you forget what others think of you. Pull your shoulders back, stand up straight, smile, and walk confidently into whatever future awaits you.
What do you need to do to grow in confidence today? I’d love to learn from you.