There are three senses of confidence, and all three of them define feelings about something.
- trust, as in “I have complete confidence in my employee”
- truth, as in “I am confident that the earth spins” and
- self-esteem and a belief in the ability to succeed, as in “I am a confident person.”
This essay deals mostly with the last sense of the word. I want to talk about confidence because it’s an important business skill. Actually, it’s a necessary life skill too.
Here’s a video presentation of this essay. The words
Women less confident than men
Also, studies show that women tend to have less confidence than men. One of the most impressive of these was conducted by University of California researcher Dr. Wiebke Bleidorn and six co-researchers. After interviewing 985,937 people from 48 different countries over a period of eight years, they showed that men express higher self-esteem than women and both men and women become more self-assured as they age. The results appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015.
The eight-year study by Bleidorn her co-researchers analyzed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, from Norway to New Zealand, Kuwait to South Korea, asking them to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem study found that across the board – regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.”
So: where does confidence come from; what influences it; and how can people become more confident?
Where does confidence come from?
Thanks to human behavioural tendencies towards imposters’ syndrome, self-doubt and procrastination, confidence is something that has to be continually regenerated.
All of these tendencies stem from a natural human behaviour of narrow framing.
Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman says narrow framing is natural since people face problems one at a time, under circumstances in which the immediate consequences of the choice is so clear that other possibilities might be hidden. That means we make decisions from a more narrow perspective than might be rational. An impending deadline only feels urgent when it is only a week or even a day away. Then we realize that we can’t succeed as we hope to, and our confidence wanes.
What influences confidence?
The opinion of others can influence confidence, but so can other factors.
In 2018, a group of European scientists reported in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology how stress affects our degree of confidence. Here are their conclusions:
- Stress generates competitive and economic inequality.
- Competitive confidence is unaffected by trait anxiety under control conditions.
- Stress makes low-anxiety individuals over-confident and high-anxious people under-confident.
- Stress affects self-confidence under high-uncertainty conditions.
How can people become more confident?
Taking action, changing your body posture and setting and accomplishing goals all lead to confidence.
Frances Bridges summarizes ten ways to generate confidence in an article for Forbes:
- get things done
- monitor your progress
- do the right thing
- be fearless
- stand up for yourself
- follow through
- think long term
- care little about what others think
- do more of what makes you happy
Maggie Warell put together a similar list in a different Forbes article. Her list includes:
- lower our bar
- reject the word “should”
- practice self-compassion
- embrace your feminine side
- champion other women
- take risks
Peter Economy focusses more on mindset hacks in his Inc story:
- make lists of goals and things you are grateful for
- generate positive enthusiasm
- change negative thoughts to positive ones
- improve your posture
Economy also says: “You might have to fake it at first and merely appear to be self-confident, but eventually you will begin to feel the foundation of self-confidence grow within you.”
How I generate self-confidence
My own way of generating self-confidence can be summed up by five elements:
- write down three things I’m grateful for every day
- keep enthusiastically taking risks
- generate courage, which often looks like confidence
- aim to fail until I succeed, so that trying again becomes routine
- frequently adopt the Wonder Woman post (shoulders straight, head back, hands on hips)
Write down three things I’m grateful for every day
I’ve been following this habit at least three times a week for two or three years now. When I stop doing it for a few days, I can feel the whining and negative self-talk take over. Getting back into this habit never fails to make life better. It’s much easier to remember how lucky I am when this practice is regular.
Keep enthusiastically taking risks
Recently I realized that all of the most exciting changes in my life have come from what I then perceived as big risks. On the list of accomplishments–going to University, skydiving, moving to Toronto, going to Australia, applying to Florida, going to Nepal and Thailand, moving to Montreal to become a creative entrepreneur, living in Paris for a month, getting married, having children, writing my first book, taking summers and winters off to research hiking, cycling and cross-country books, co-founding a coop, co-founding a non-profit to animate the Verdun greenhouses, writing a nonfiction novel. All of these projects began as a risky idea. I had to give up stability in something to try each of them.
Generate courage, which often looks like confidence
“Just do it” might be Nike’s motto, but it’s mine too. Publishing videos remains difficult but I keep doing it anyway. After a while, it’s become significantly easier. The technology no longer stresses me; now it’s the message that takes time.
Aim to fail until I succeed, so that trying again becomes routine
This goal remains elusive most of the time. I still find failure difficult to take and find myself questioning most goals too much before going for them. Too often, I abandon goals before even trying. NaNoWriMo this year was the only specific time I remember actually putting it into place. This intention needs to become a lot more frequent before it takes hold. One of my online mentors Amy Porterfield actually sets resolutions aiming to fail a certain times in the following period. I’m considering adopting this for next year, but haven’t decided if I will or not yet. It still feels too daunting.
Frequently adopt the Wonder Woman post (shoulders straight, head back, hands on hips)
I love practicing this poise. I have to figure out some way of reminding me to do it more often. If you have ideas about a routine that would work, let me know in the comments.