Thoughts on confidence …

What people see is confidence.  And on the inside all I feel is doubt and uncertainty. Lots and lots of uncertainty. And I’m starting to wonder if this is the crux of people feeling like they’re not confident.  If you tell yourself you’re not a confident person, it might simply be that you expect confidence to feel like confidence, when the reality seems to be that it still feels like doubt and uncertainty!

Before I go any further, I would absolutely love replies on any thoughts that my musings inspire. I’m super intrigued by this topic of confidence, and I would love any insights you have to share on the matter! And any reactions you have to my thoughts on it!

Ok, so I just met a guy in Oaxaca that found my write up on Aconcagua and happens to be riding his bike to Argentina from British Columbia to climb and maybe ski it.  By some twist of fate, we happened to be about 10 miles away from each other in Mexico, so we met in person to talk about adventures and the mountain.

He was talking to his friends about me, and they agreed that it would take a lot of confidence to walk  into Aconcagua alone. That I must be a confident person. 

What’s funny is that my memory is of nothing but doubt. I don’t recall ever feeling confident about any of it. I do recall feeling like I had lost my mind to even consider trying.

And I had trust. I trusted, and trust now, in myself. I decided that the most likely worst case scenario was three days and $500 I’d never get back. I trusted myself to walk into Basecamp and back safely. It didn’t seem like that needed a lot of confidence. It was a trail, a hike, and  I’ve walked in a lot of mountains on a lot of trails.  

According to ChatGPT, “Trusting yourself involves belief in your abilities and judgment, while confidence is more about the assurance and faith in those abilities. Trusting yourself is more like the bedrock of your belief, while confidence is the outward expression of that trust.”  ChatGPT goes on to say, “Trusting oneself and acting on that trust typically results in confidence. When you believe in your abilities and decisions, it reflects in your actions and demeanor, contributing to a confident presence.”

So confidence, then, is the outward expression of trusting yourself. OK, I can probably work with that.

So I guess I was confident. I mean, if I use the definition. But that’s weird because I definitely didn’t feel confident. Does that mean the confidence doesn’t feel like it? Confidence means acting out of the trust you have in yourself even if your predominant experience of it is doubt? 

So is this whole issue out there with confidence that people believe that it’s supposed to feel like it? That you’re supposed to feel like you got this thing? Because, like, whoever feels that? 

I suppose people would routinely look at me and say that I’m confident, and maybe I am. But that’s never my word. I mean maybe sometimes it is. Sometimes I feel like I got this. Or, perhaps I don’t really care if I got it or not, because I know I’m gonna try. Whether or not I think I’m gonna be successful really doesn’t have much to do with whether or not I’ll try, if it’s something I really want.  Or if it’s something I’m curious about … As long as the most likely worst case scenario is tenable to me.

And yet I choose a frame of playfulness. I play with things, I try them like it’s a game. Read and run. I don’t get a lot of identity wrapped up in being successful. In some respects, maybe an element of that has always been true. I didn’t choose chemical engineering because I was sure I could do it. I chose to take a few classes to see if I could, and then just do my best.  I don’t recall feeling confident, I just recall feeling willing to try.

I’ve been sitting with my journal from 1999, and my 19 year old self was sure that the important thing was to figure out who you are and what you want, and then go after it without making excuses. She’s very clear on the no excuses thing. Very little tolerance for knowing what you want and not going after it.  I always just called that drive. I don’t think I’ve ever related to it as confidence.  But it would appear that the world sees it as, and calls it, confidence.

If people think that confidence feels like what they think it will, no wonder nobody thinks they have it! But if confidence actually feels like doubt, actually feels super uncertain and marginally unstable .., and it means trusting yourself to sort through whatever comes up…  I bet lots of people are confident and don’t even know it!

Is this like the ultimate reframe out there that’s holding everybody back? This feels insane.

I don’t know, maybe I am confident. I did this crazy, brutal, drive through the mountains to the coast yesterday in Mexico (alone), and when I started to think that I didn’t like it because it was dark and maybe I was unsafe and maybe things could go wrong and I didn’t want to be there, I just chose not to think those things. It wasn’t going to change whether or not I finished the drive, and it was just gonna make me carry tension for the rest of it. It wasn’t going to make me pay any more attention than I was, because I was white knuckles on the steering wheel and paying lots of attention, regardless. I had done everything I needed to be safe, and knew I was accepting the background risk because it was my best option, or at least my preferred option.  I was committed, but certainly wouldn’t label that commitment as confidence. Although anybody looking at me, probably would.

So is that confidence? That I just trust myself to sort whatever I need to, so I’m willing to try? That I’m willing to go after what I want, don’t make excuses about it? That 19-year-old would be so angry at me if I started making excuses, and I don’t dare incur her wrath!

Maybe I finally feel confident. Which is just to say that I believe in myself.  If I am confident, though, I do think it’s important that everybody know that confidence usually feels like doubt. Usually feels like fear. Usually feels uncertain. And sometimes that’s what’s fun about it. Maybe confidence is just a willingness to work with all those feelings, while still following your heart, and finding a way to do what it is that you want to do. And by want, I mean in your bones. That deep wanting, the yearning. The stuff that really matters.

So, if confidence is acting from a place of trust in yourself, then building confidence means building trust in yourself. I would say it’s trust in your capabilities, in your abilities. And your capacity. A capacity to sort it, and your inner knowing that you will. Or that you will do whatever you can when it needs to be done and if that’s not enough, then you’ll deal with that.  I suppose at this point, I trust my abilities because I’ve done a lot. I’ve proven to myself time and time again that I’ve got more in me than I think I do, and I can pull some shit off. I have lots of formal training, lots of mentorship, and I’m continually learning.

I would absolutely adore your thoughts on this matter, because I am now quite fascinated by the topic! Please do reply, and I promise to read it, and engage in lively comparison of what it’s like out there in the world!

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