What is confidence and do we actually need it?

Jul 10, 2018 | Personal Development

Implicit through the life of the average Westernised person is the suggestion that confidence is an important part of achieving any kind of success or happiness. 

Confidence for taking exams, confidence in job interviews, sales pitches, while approaching a person you’d like to date, before attempting that snowboarding trick, and so on and so forth.  So much so that there are classes on it, hypnotherapy downloads, articles of 10 ways to increase your confidence.  Even personal shoppers and stylists to help you ‘dress with confidence’.


So what is this confidence thing of which we speak?

Well, when we drill down to it, it looks a lot like confidence is considered to be the absence of self-doubt.  There seems to be a further notion implied within this, that without self-doubt you are more likely to succeed.  Whoa there!  Let’s stop and pick this apart a little bit further.

Confidence and success

First of all, I want to look at the idea that confidence and success are inter-related.  It doesn’t look to me like they are.  At the point of writing, I have been working in the field of coaching for over 9 years, and I have worked with some incredibly successful, high performing people, who came to me because they wanted me to help them with their confidence.  But not because they wanted to be more successful (they just wanted to feel better).  So if confidence is necessary for success, then they wouldn’t be where they are.  Also, I have a colleague who is a professional sport person who can report winning Man of the Match on a day of feeling incredibly insecure.

In addition to these examples let’s consider whether it is also possible that a confident person could set out to do something with a great deal of confidence about it and not succeed?  Despite the absence of any self-doubt, they still don’t achieve the desired outcome?  I  am certain that that is something which happens frequently around the world.

confidence and self doubt

The understanding that I teach my clients is that how confident you are, doesn’t matter.  Knowing that you are okay whether you succeed or fail, does.  It’s the attachment of our wellbeing to outcomes that affects how seriously we take them and whether we experience feeling okay about doing them or not.  Really our wellbeing has nothing to do with whether we are successful at the thing that we set out to do or not.  (Read this article: Your wellbeing is always with you for more information on that)

In fact, after the London 2012 Olympics, a documentary was aired which featured Olympic Gold medal winners speaking about the feelings that they experienced not long after winning gold.  When their biggest desire has been fulfilled, they are often left with a sense of loss.  “I’ve done it, I still feel the same as I felt before, now what?” (or something along those lines).  So, other than an initial rush of euphoria, their happiness and wellbeing did not come from winning Olympic Gold.

What is self-doubt?

Let’s bring things back to the initial statement I made that confidence appears to be the absence of self-doubt.  Self-doubt is just thought. Negative thoughts some might say.  Certainly thoughts that question your ability, whether you are good enough, capable enough, whether you might ‘muck it up’ or make a fool of yourself.  If we are believing these kinds of thoughts we can feel pretty uncomfortable.  These are the thoughts of an ego that wants to protect itself.

The ego is the projected you that you perceive yourself to be.  The ego believes that things need to be a certain way for it to be okay, which makes the ego – by nature – insecure.  Fortunately, the ego it isn’t who you actually are.  It is simply a construct of thought.  Who You Really Are, before thought, before ego, doesn’t need protecting.  It is, and always has been, perfectly okay.

So let’s look at this statement again.  If confidence is the absence of self-doubt, who is the one doing the doubting?  Is it your flappable ego, or is it who you really are?  A deeper felt presence, a calmness, a knowing that you are perfectly okay? Who you really are has no doubt.  Who you really are already knows you are whole and perfect, and could not possibly worry about the outcome of any event or circumstance, so confidence/doubt do not feature.

If you sense that you lack confidence, all you need to do is enquire into who you really are – your true nature – before the ego.

Why confidence boosting activities are unlikely to work…

The absence of self-doubt happens naturally when we are not taking the ego to be a real and fixed thing.  Not taking it to be who we are.  Confidence boosting activities are intended to bolster the ego.  These two things are in direct contradiction of one another.  How can boosting who you are not, the thing that wants to protect itself, alleviate you of worrying about the security of this innately insecure thing?  It just doesn’t make sense!

All you need to do is to know that you are not your ego, so no matter the outcome of anything, you are always okay.  Doubt has no purpose with this understanding.  Doubtful thoughts will of course pop in, but knowing who you really are, they pass as easily a cloud in the sky.  All you need to do is know that those thoughts aren’t who you are, and get to work.

Just turn up, be yourself, and know that – no matter how you feel – you are perfectly okay.

Want to know more about how I can help? Drop me a line or give me a call. A successful coaching relationship depends upon a great rapport, so it’s important to talk. I want to get to know you, see inside your world and we can assess how we’d go from there!