Everyone knows the importance of confidence. And yet so many people struggle with it. Why? Why is it so darn difficult to build confidence? The simple answer is: because it is work. The slightly more elaborate answer is: because it requires constant hard work and honesty. I believe that when people hear that they should become more confident, they end up becoming more arrogant, which is counterproductive.
Both confidence and arrogance start with someone not feeling good about themselves. The problem with arrogance is, that it is what happens when we try to make ourselves feel better, without being willing to acknowledge our problems. We try to make other people believe, how great we are, because we cannot believe ourselves, when we say “I am awesome.”. We hope that when other people believe, that we are great, we can believe it ourselves and find a way to be at peace with ourselves. In other words we are trying to put up a show. The show that we are awesome. The show that we enjoy our lives and that we are in control.
Another very characteristic thing that is an indicator for arrogance is, when we feel the need to be acknowledged and approved by others, but most importantly: when we always want to be better than others. We constantly need to measure up against other people and be better than them, in order to be able to feel good about ourselves. This sometimes goes as far as we feel the need to put other people down. We feel the need to be seen. We feel the need to brag. We feel threatened when someone is better than us.
And while we keep all this up we end up being exhausted and still not at peace. The reason for this is simple: we lack honesty. Everything we do is nothing but a show. We know exactly that we are not as great, as we want to make other people believe. And we end up never being able to fool ourselves. Because we are not stupid.
Confidence is knowing that who we are is good enough. And that knowledge needs to be based on facts. If we are not confident, we need to consider the possibility, that there are some things we need to work on. Gaining confidence starts with honesty. It starts with figuring out, who we are. What are the things we like about ourselves and what are the things we do not like? For me some things that I did not like were and still are that I do not study enough and how much I tend to complain. Often these things are the very things standing in between us and our happiness.
We do not need to despair. Confidence is not only when we have eliminated all our flaws. Confidence is, when we know we are working towards it. We are improving. Because we started being confidence by being honest, we are still being honest with ourselves. And we get to tell ourselves that we are handled our flaw brilliantly today. Or even just that we improved compared to yesterday. Or that we kept going, even though we did not feel like it. But we can say this without lying to ourselves.
Confidence is not about what other people think about us. Confidence is what we think about us. Confidence allows us to be at ease and gives us peace because we do not have to fear our own thoughts. Of course there will be days where it is more difficult than on other days. And that is where discipline comes in. Confidence is more than just a nice feeling. I said confidence required hard work. And it does so, because it is not always easy to improve ourselves. And sometimes we just want to give in and stay in bed. We all know the feeling. But confidence is what we gain from getting up nevertheless.
We cannot be happy without being confident. And we cannot gain confidence without honesty and self-discipline. We need both. We can acknowledge our flaws and do little to nothing about them. That is just immature, maybe even cowardly behavior. It showcases a lack of self-discipline. And while it is true that some naturally have more than others and some build it easier than others, I do not believe that anyone should allow themselves to use that an excuse to not be confident. If we are self-disciplined, but not honest about our flaws, we are wasting our energy, or maybe we are not as disciplined, as we thought we were to begin with.
I get it. I am struggling with discipline myself. It’s tough. And being honest with ourselves is a bench. But the reality is that we all want to be happy. And being honest with ourselves only hurts us, if it means, we have to work on ourselves. Why would we try to deceive ourselves? Arrogance is, when we try to deceive others in the hopes that at some point we end up believing it ourselves. We need to understand that it is our own decision. No one is making us build confidence. No one is making us be honest with ourselves. But I will rather be honest with myself and put in some work in order to gain peace and happiness. In order to be able to live with myself.
The people who are constantly stating we need to be more confident conveniently forget to mention how much work it is, because they are aware, that if they admit that, some people will choose to not start this journey. But I think, that we need to understand the choice that we have. And it is no good to us, if we think we are confident and still feel so insecure. That insecurity is most likely coming from some flaw within us, that we have not addressed yet.
While it is true, that confidence is not about how other people see is, rather than about us being please about us, we also have to understand that we are humans, which means, we have emotion and rationality. What I have described tackles the topic of self-confidence from a rational perspective. But sometimes there is no rational reason for us to feel insecure. Sometimes we are truly confident rather than arrogant, and still feel insecure. This is a mere emotion, and we really know, we are good enough. In such situations it can help to approach the problem from an emotional side, because the problem is purely emotional to begin with.
Let me illustrate this with an example: I have been very insecure about my appearance and my body since I was a little girl, even though there was no reason for that. When I got into uni and felt insecure, I imagined what I would think about me, if I saw myself. Since what I thought was never really negative, I have been able to tremendously improve my body image. Because what I felt was perfectly irrational. This would not have worked, if I had not been taken care of. Which is, why I advise to take a rational approach to confidence. We naturally try to deal with our insecurities emotionally. But we can do that so much better, if there are actually facts to back up our positive self-talk.
It is also important to understand the difference between being arrogant vs. being confident and competitive. Both types of people may feel threatened when they come across someone who is better than them. But the arrogant person may try to talk them down or talk themselves up, maybe even do some improvement to keep up the facade. The confident but competitive person will take this encounter as a motivation to improve further. That is a good thing as long as we don’t try to improve, just to be better than that person. A confident person does not care if someone else is better at something, they don’t care for. They acknowledge and praise the achievement. But they will not go out of their way to be better than the other person.
Say we meet someone who runs faster than us. Us trying to beat that person is not a bad thing. It may benefit our health and mental state. But it becomes problematic, as soon as we endanger ourselves, or when it makes us feel threatened even though running that fast was never our goal to begin with.
This illustrates beautifully not only what it means to be confident, but also why it is so “in” to not care about what other people think, because if we are confident, it does not matter, what people think, because we know our flaws and we also know we are working on them. In summary confidence is about knowing ourselves. Knowing who we are today. And knowing who we want to be. It is about working towards that in order to not lie to ourselves when we say “I love who I am.”.