A distinction I’ve always thought useful is that between courage and confidence. Courage is the ability to act in the face of great fear or danger, and seems to develop almost like a muscle – the more you use it and the “heavier” the fear and/or danger, the faster and stronger it grows. ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ is not only a great book title, it is the secret of developing the courage muscle.
Confidence, on the other hand, is an emotional state you can put yourself into in ANY situation, characterized by a sense of focused ease and well-being. It will invariably enhance your performance in whatever arena you are playing in, and your level of confidence will often turn out to be the difference between hearing a “yes” or a “no” from a prospective client, lover, boss, or mate.
While it is possible to demonstrate courage without ever feeling very confident, confidence tends to breed courage, and in that sense it is a bit of a ‘trick’ – a way of making yourself perform beyond the limits of what you currently perceive to be the bounds of your personality and capability.
What follows are three of my favorite “confidence tricks” – ways of feeling confident in almost any situation, regardless of whether or not your previous life experience seems to warrant it.
Confidence Trick Number One –
Act As If
“Always act as if you have already accomplished what it is you are setting out to achieve.”
The most immediately applicable confidence trick is to simply act as if you are already confident. There is a wonderful moment in the Danny Kaye classic movie “The Court Jester” where Kaye’s character is hypnotized into believing he is a great swordsman. By copying the thrusts, parries, and athleticism of his heroes with total belief and commitment, he too becomes great and defeats the villain.
Perhaps the single most important thing when creating confidence in this way is to stay physically relaxed. Physical tension mixed with “confidence” often appears as bravado or even cockiness, and we’ve all met people who seem permanently stuck in the first part of the “fake it ’till you make it” equation. The more you focus on relaxation as a key element of your confidence-building experiments, the more effective you will be.
Confidence Trick Number Two –
Update Your Self-Image
Your self-image can be thought of quite literally as the image or images of yourself that you show in the movie theater of your mind. If you tend to reflect back on all the times you’ve failed, or you portray yourself in your mental movies as a weak, frightened, childlike individual, you will tend to behave like one in your real life. To make matters worse, developmental theorists believe that your self-image is generally “locked into place” when you’re still a child – when you really are too small, too ignorant, and too incompetent to face the challenges of the adult world.
A simple way to transform your self-image (and build your confidence in a variety of situations) is to see yourself in your mind as you would ideally like to be. This is not self-deception but self-creation – i.e., you are not trying to fool yourself into thinking you are already that way so much as you are rehearsing your future – practicing being the way you want to be in your mind until you are ready to behave that way in the world.
One specific form of self-image enhancement is the creation of what I call your “Success Highlight Films”. If you haven’t ever done it before, investing an hour or so to mentally edit together a two minute highlight reel of some of the most successful experiences of your life is a great way to make sure you can access confidence in a matter of minutes.
Confidence Trick Number Three –
Practice Radical Self-Honesty
One of the definitions of confidence which is often overlooked when discussing self-confidence is “to trust someone with a secret”. In that sense, we can think of self-confidence as the process of confiding in oneself, and the more fully and completely we do it, the more self-confidence we will posess.
Why does this work so well?
In my estimation, it is because most of the secrets we attempt to keep from ourselves are the very source of our deepest fears. By exposing them to the light of our conscious attention, they lose their power over us, and we are able to explore, dispute, reject, or accept them. Even more importantly, as we honestly confide in ourselves we begin to fully trust ourselves, and that self-trust is at the heart of all lasting self-confidence.
Here are some of the “secret truths” many people try and hide from themselves. If they seem harsh, or you find yourself angry with me for writing them down in plain sight, consider the possibility that this may mean they are particularly important for you to explore further. I’ve divided them into objective facts and limiting beliefs that are pervasive in Western culture:
Some ‘Secret’ Facts
- We’re all going to die, including you, everybody that you love and everyone who loves you.
- You might, in fact, fail to reach your goals.
- Some people are willing to trick you, lie to you, and even cause you physical harm in order to reach their goals.
- Most people care about themselves more than they will ever care about you.
Some ‘Secret’ Cultural Beliefs:
- I’m not worthy.
- I’m never going to amount to anything.
- I’m a bad person.
- Sooner or later, I’m going to be found out.
While the idea of telling yourself the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth may seem to contradict the previous two offerings, it is in my estimation the direct (and most courageous) path to life-long confidence.
1. Choose a situation in which you would like to feel more confident. Use one of the techniques in the additional reading (via the link!) to act as if you are confident in the moment.
2. If you haven’t already done so, create your own success highlight reel. Block out a few minutes each morning and/or evening to run through your past success and upgrade your self-image.
3. Make your own list of “Secret Truths”. Be sure to separate them out into objective facts which must be accepted in order to move forward, and limiting beliefs, which can be transformed in the light of experience and rational exploration.
You may find this easier to do with the help of a friend, mentor, or coach who can see things you might be blind too; on the other hand, you may prefer to at least begin the process in the privacy of your own journal or diary.
To learn more about the Option Method, my favorite methodology for this kind of self-exploration, click here.
To learn more about coaching with me, click here.
Have fun, learn heaps, and choose confidence!