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Confidence Is Not Glass

Broken Glass (Obviously)
Confidence is many things, but it’s not glass.

If your confidence cracks when you’re feeling down or when you don’t know which way to go, then it’s not confidence.

If your confidence splinters when things don’t go your way or when life throws you a curveball, then it’s not confidence.

And if your confidence shatters when an insult is hurled or a failure is born or a misstep is taken, then it’s not confidence.

Confidence that breaks like glass isn’t confidence.

It’s armour; the thin skin that hides your feelings of not being good enough.

It’s pride; when your sense of your own dignity is under threat.

And it’s ego; the piercing of your own self-importance.

When things get through your armour, threaten your pride or pierce your ego it feels like your confidence is shattered. These things directly question your worth and your value as a human being. Who am I trying to kid?, you think to yourself as your confidence—the sense that you can fully trust that you’re already whole—goes MIA.

But these things aren’t confidence.

Real confidence goes deeper. Deep enough that it takes a crashing world to scratch it. So deep, that you can sometimes forget it’s there altogether.

But it’s always there, in the exact same place that allows you to feel at your best, to be flowing and to know what really matters.

It’s a bedrock. A place you can deliberately shift your focus back to when you need something to trust.

It’s a foundation. A place that can fuel you and guide you, not matter how crappy life gets.

And it’s a cornerstone. A place that tells you who you are and what truly matters to you.

That place can be forgotten or neglected, but it can’t be shattered.

Confidence, is not glass.

The Boom & Bust of Confidence

The Boom & Bust of Confidence
Finding that your confidence has dropped always comes as a surprise, because you rarely notice it happen. One day you’re out there doing things confidently, then time goes by and you suddenly realise that you’re questioning yourself and playing it safe.

I was as surprised as the next guy to recently discover that my own confidence has slipped.

It’s no crisis, but I’ve noticed I’ve been doing less, with fewer people, in more limited ways. And, as you might imagine, I’m more than a little perturbed by it.

It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make, but there’s often a boom and bust with confidence in the same way as there is in the economy. I’ll try to explain.

Economies grow as productivity increases, and that growth makes the market feel good about the economy. So we borrow and invest and the economy grows a bit more, and the market laps it up.

As confidence is established in the growth of an economy, the more it grows.

But then something interesting happens.

Either the collective belief in the system exceeds the reality of growth (after all the only thing that will just keep on growing is a virus) and creates a bubble, or things reach a plateau, the market gets twitchy and belief in the system underpinning growth falters.

As confidence grows in the market, the beliefs and systems that worked to create productivity and growth become unchallenged and unquestioned.

Blindly trusting any system easily tips into complacency.

And it’s under the blanket of complacency that real confidence gets eroded.

This keeps happening with economies, and it just happened to me. Without me even noticing, complacency and habit eroded my confidence.

And I woke up wondering why my metaphorical bank account was dry.

This boom and bust is part of our economic system and I’m seeing how it might be part of self-confidence too.

There’s one big difference though.

Markets are based essentially on fear on greed. Fear that they’ll lose what they have or what they’ve gained and greed for more growth and bigger results. I firmly believe that any system founded on two of our most base and unprincipled qualities will be deeply, systemically flawed, but that’s another article for another time.

Where confidence differs is that it’s founded not on any base or unprincipled qualities that are dependent on surrounding circumstances, but the belief that you’re whole and enough, regardless of circumstances.

You exert direct influence over the system of self-confidence, the beliefs that support it and the actions that stem from it.

The system of self-confidence is comprised of 3 A’s – awareness, acknowledgement and acceptance.

Awareness of thoughts, feelings and actions, open and honest acknowledgement of those things and how they serve you, and loving acceptance that you’re responsible for them.

The beliefs that underpin self-confidence all flow towards one thing: you’re already enough. You’re not broken, you don’t need to prove anything, you’re whole, just as you are.

And the actions that stem from confidence aren’t fed from habit or complacency, but by deliberate, meaningful decisions. These actions may not be easy, comfortable any may not even work out, but they’ll matter, whatever happens.

I guess these are the things I need to get back to, because confidence isn’t something you can “do” and then forget about.

So I’m getting out from under complacency and doing some work.

I got this.

Q&A: Do Confident People Ever Need to Be Comforted?

Seek comfort

Question: Do self-confident and successful people ever feel the need to be comforted by someone?

Hell yes.

To me, the thought that self confident people don’t need support, help or guidance from anyone else is crazy. But as we’re bombarded with images and messages and stories and media about success and hustling and crushing it, it’s sadly not surprising that people start to believe that they should be able to do it all themselves.

Self-confidence is not the same thing as strength. It isn’t the same as independence. Or self-reliance.

Confidence doesn’t make you a bullet-proof island where you don’t need anyone else. That’s arrogance, or hubris, or denial.

It’s fake news.

Self-confidence is the quality that makes it easier to trust yourself to be vulnerable. It makes it easier to seek comfort or ask for help, because you know your self-worth won’t decrease by doing so.

You get to go out there without your armor, curious and ready to explore.

It allows you to choose your behaviour with implicit trust. Not trust in the outcome, because none of us know what the hell’s going to happen, but trust in your ability to meet each moment fully and make choices that honour who you are.

Yes, you’ll screw up sometimes. You won’t have all the answers and things will go wrong. And that’s exactly where the ability to allow others to support and comfort you is so important.

That’s what real confidence is, and that’s what leads to real success.

How to Get Bullet-Proof Confidence

silver bullet

Bullet proof confidence sounds good, right?

Take everything life throws at you and shrug it off. All those people taking shots at you, and you don’t give a flying fuck. All the naysayers, critics and judgmental ass-hats no longer get to you.

Thanks to your bullet-proof confidence, you’re unassailable.

Great. Apart from 3 huge problems…

1. You’re human

Nobody is bullet-proof, and neither is your confidence. Life will always have something up it’s sleeve ready to surprise you. There’s always the chance that the rug will get pulled out from under you. That’s life.

Being hurt, feeling low or finding yourself lost is not a weakness to be fixed. It’s not a sign you’re broken or less than.

It’s a sign that you’re human.

Aiming for bullet-proof confidence is just a way to not get hurt. But that’s being closed and blinkered, and that’s not what confidence is.

2. You’re allowed to shake in your boots

The flipside of the desire to have bullet proof confidence is the notion that you’re a wimp if you’re shaking in your boots in the face of a challenge.

Let me call bullshit on that. Being scared doesn’t mean you’re not confident. It means you’re someplace new, faced with something you’ve never done before.

It’s okay to be scared in the face of that. It would be arrogant or complacent not to be.

Confidence is the thing that allows you to find a kernel of strength or peace or truth that allows you to take that next step, no matter how shakily you take it.

3. You need to be scathed

If you had bullet-proof confidence you could walk through a bullet storm and be unscathed. Not a scratch on you.

But I want to be scathed. I want the marks that show where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through. They don’t define me, but they sure as hell are part of me.

Fuck being smooth and perfect and unsacthed by life. It’s the edges and marks that are most interesting and beautiful.

It’s on the inside…

Being bullet-proof is all about having a hard shell that makes it impossible for those pesky bullets to get to you.

But it’s what you have on the inside, not the shell you construct on the outside, that fuels natural confidence.

Your values, for example. The things in yourself, others and out there in the world that are most important to you. They’re the foundations, cornerstones and bedrock for who you are. They’re the reasons that the most compelling or meaningful moments in your life have been so compelling and meaningful—because you’ve been honoring, expressing or demonstrating one of your values.

Your strengths. The combination of your experience, skills and talents that you can apply and that leave you feeling strengthened.

How you are when you’re at your best—that feeling of firing on all cylinders, being in flow and being at the top of your game. Which is also a place where you never even question whether you’re confident enough or good enough to do something. You just do it.

These things are hard-wired into you. They’re not going anywhere. You can always trust them.

The more you chase it, the more trying to be bullet-proof will hurt you.

So strangely, the key to having bullet-proof confidence (or its natural equivalent) is by practicing vulnerability.

Are you up for the challenge?

You Don’t Have a Freakin’ Clue

You Don't Have a Clue, and Nor Do You Need One
Life is hard.

I’ve learned that…the hard way.

Twists, turns, slaps and roundhouse kicks. Life is full of surprises.

We all go around pretending we know what’s going on. That we have our shit together.

I do it too. I want people to think well of me. I want to be the best at what I do. I want to create stuff that matters.

But really, I’m just making shit up as I go.

We’re spinning through space at 1.2 million miles per hour, and yet we’re still dumb enough to think we’re in control.

Anything can happen. At any time. Good or bad.

When you get right down to it, you don’t have a clue.

Nor do you need one, if “having a clue” means pretending to have your shit together and being someone you’re not because you want a bunch of people who don’t give a damn to like you

So…improvisation then.

The ability to meet a moment in its fullness and come up with something worth a damn.

The only things that needs is:

a. dropping the pretence that you know exactly what’s happening
b. acknowledging that you’re good enough to meet this moment head on, and
c. trust in your ability to make a choice

Sounds a lot like confidence to me.

And maybe that’s what life has wanted from us all along.

3 Reasons You Keep Losing Confidence In Yourself

3 Reasons You Keep Losing Confidence in Yourself
Everyone has moments when self-confidence seems to vanish quicker than a shiny election promise.

It’s frustrating, especially given how far you’ve come and everything you’ve done. As soon as you seem to be on top of things, something happens and you realise that, once again, you’re out of your depth and shaking in your metaphorical boots.

Happens to me too, and here’s what I think is happening.

You’re somewhere new

It’s easy to feel confident when everything around you is familiar. It takes zero effort, and that confidence isn’t really confidence at all. It’s safety, perhaps even complacency.

But life is full of new places. Your first day at school or college. A new job or a new relationship. A fresh challenge or a new town. And new is, of course, wholly unpredictable.

Your natural response to the unpredictable and unknowable is fear. And where there’s fear, there’s a voice in your head designed to make you turn back toward safety. A voice that will tell stories designed to undermine you. A voice that knows how to make you feel small.

Your expectations call the shots

Your brain is a real piece of work. It really is. It has a billion expectations about how the world needs to work. Expectations about what you’ll do (you’ll get up a certain time, do a certain job, see certain people, take a certain route, etc). Expectations about what others will do (help you out, get in your way, hear what you’re saying, be home on time, etc). And expectations about what you expect others expect of you (they expect me to play ball, they expect me to speak up, they expect me to be compliant, they expect me to show affection, etc).

Expectations will fuck you up faster than you can spell spleen. Not only are these three levels of expectations rolling around in your head all the time, but they’re often in conflict and drive your behaviour.

These expectations are only stories designed to help you make the world a little more predictable and a little less scary. But any time that they’re violated, denied or countered, all you’re left with is uncertainty and your own inability to make sense of the world.

You want perfection

You have high standards. I like that about you, and it’s good to want to do things to the best of your ability. Land a new job, and it feels like you need to make a fabulous impression and do faultless work that everyone notices. Start a new relationship and you want to fit together perfectly and hide all your weaknesses. Start a new creative project, and you want it all to flow naturally and for what you create to come together at the first attempt.

Perfection, I’m thrilled to say, is bullshit.

The second you fall short of it, your brain kicks in and tells you that you were never really good enough. Who are you trying to kid?

Chasing perfection is one of the surest ways to short-circuit your self-confidence that exists.

How to stop losing confidence in yourself

Your confidence vanishes because you’re not paying attention to how you’re thinking.

It’s really just that simple.

Natural confidence is still there, but it’s smothered by thinking that’s layered on top like a old, damp carpet. Thinking that can be tough to shift, but can always be interrupted.

Good news though. You can train yourself to notice when thoughts of not-being-confident are rolling through your head.

You get to point at them and say, “Oh hey, it’s you again”, without any judgement or self-flagellation. That might not stop you from shaking in those boots of yours, but it affords you the space to reconnect.

And that’s the important thing. To realise that not feeling confident doesn’t mean that you don’t have confidence*.

You can reconnect with what matters to you most. You can reconnect with everything you’ve become. You can reconnect with what it feels like to be at your best.

Those are the things that are hardwired into you.

They’re not going anywhere, and even when you loose confidence in yourself, you can still place your confidence in them.

* Feel free to read this sentence again. It’s a tricky one.

Q&A: How to Be a Force to be Reckoned With?

Maîtriser la force

Question: How do you make sure that you are perceived as a force to be reckoned with? Some people just have a presence in a room and it’s felt by everyone without a doubt. How do you achieve that?

Sounds good doesn’t it? Having people notice you. Attracting people towards you. Becoming a force to be reckoned with.

But, if I might answer a question with a question – do you want to be a force to be reckoned with, or perceived as a force to be reckoned with?

Maybe it’s just semantics, but if your goal is to be perceived as the kind of person who has presence and charisma then your focus is in the wrong place. People will perceive whatever the hell they want, and spending your effort and energy on having people perceive you in a certain way is sure to leave you exhausted, frustrated and empty.

It’s a hollow aim, focused on what others think about you rather than how you feel about yourself.

Real confidence comes from the inside-out, not the outside-in. Seems to me that the people referred to in the question have reached a point where they:

  • accept who they are, warts and all, and stop beating themselves up for any weaknesses or for their “darker”, less desirable parts
  • understand and honour what matters to them most
  • shift their decision-making behind the things in themselves, in other people or out there in the world that matter the most
  • prioritise being who they are over fitting in or pleasing everyone
  • recognise that they’re simultaneously a work in progress and whole, without the need to prove anything

What these qualities (and many more) lead to is a sense of congruence. A sense that someone is whole, together, flowing.

That’s what those people have, and that’s the aim here. It’s everything to do inner work, and nothing to do with how someone else judges your insides from the outside.

Reaching that point is a process of acceptance and integration of who you are and what matters to you—bringing all the pieces together— and also letting go of the expectations and drives that get in the way of that (messy stuff like fitting in, staying safe, people-pleasing, second-guessing, etc).

Your Comfort Zone Isn’t the Enemy

Your Comfort Zone Isn't the Enemy
There’s nothing quite like a warm bed on a weekend morning.

The ability to luxuriate in the comfort and simplicity of that is something that, after considerable practice, I excel at.

But comfort gets a bad rap.

It’s looked down on as the unwanted and undeserving-of-your-respect relative of getting uncomfortable. Of taking fresh action. Of doing things you’ve never done before.

I’ve even spoken about it myself, right here.

And then there are some other coaches who constantly tell you to fuck comfort, take a cold shower, go bungie jumping and hustle like your life depends on it.

But how do you reconcile how damn delicious comfort is, when there are messages all around that it’s the new Big Bad?

Let’s start with the dictionary definition shall we?

Comfort, noun

  1. a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
  2. things that contribute to physical ease and well-being
  3. prosperity and the pleasant lifestyle secured by it

Don’t know about you, but I want those things. I want oodles of those things. I want my cup to runneth over with comfort and for it to get all in the carpet and between my toes so I’m walking around in the stuff and traipsing it wherever I go.

There’s wonder in your comfort zone. There’s ease there. Pleasure. Joy. Freedom.

The problem comes when your comfort zone stays static, or when it shrinks. That’s when your life gets smaller and the ease and joy become harder to find.

And so this is the thing that occurred to me…

What if instead of talking about getting out of your comfort zone, you instead sought to grow your comfort zone?

What if your comfort zone was the whole goddam world?

What kind of playground would that give you?

Instead of thinking that you shouldn’t look for comfort, or that feeling the need to be comfortable somehow makes you less than someone else who’s out there doing “epic shit”, what if you sought to use the ease and joy and freedom that comes with comfort, and expand it outwards?

This, friend, is what natural confidence offers. A foundation. A bedrock. An unshakeable knowing that whatever happens, you’re enough, and you’re okay.

Confidence is the means to find comfort in the whole wide world.

How does that sound to you?

Q&A: Why are people turned off by lack of confidence?

IBM 26 on/off switch

Question: Why are people turned off by lack of confidence?
Like… if you show any lack of confidence.. it makes people suddenly not want to talk to you anymore..

When I saw this question it felt like the guy asking it had seen this happen too often. It felt like he was having a tough time. It felt like he was wondering what was wrong with him.


There’s nothing wrong with him.

It’s just that sometimes, people are selfish idiots.

Evidence suggests that people are more attracted to confident people, so it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to see how people could be turned off by a lack of confidence. We also know that we’re steered in all kinds of way by our unconscious biases, this being just one of them. But picking apart those biases feels like a distraction from the heart of the question—this one man’s experience.

The chain of events in the question goes something like this: (1) you have a lack of confidence, (2) you show this lack of confidence to someone else, (3) someone else doesn’t like what they see, (4) someone else decides not to talk to you.

You have no control over 3 and 4. You can’t control what people will think or decide is best for them.

It’s in how you approach 1 and 2 that you can make some huge shifts.

Everyone lacks confidence somewhere in their lives

You can be confident socially but not so confident with intimacy. You can be confident in your work but not confident in your friendships. Experiencing a lack of confidence somewhere doesn’t mean that you don’t “have confidence”. It just means that you have the opportunity to practice growing and stretching in a particular direction (if indeed that direction is something that matters to you).

Don’t think that a lack of confidence is a problem

It isn’t. It’s just a thing that happens from time to time. You are not a lack of confidence. That’s not who you are. You have strengths, talents, experiences, values and hopes that make you way more than the sum of your parts.

Showing a lack of confidence is a brave thing to do

The difference between allowing yourself to be vulnerable and undermining yourself in pursuit of self-protection is huge. The first is brave, the second is life-limiting. You can open to someone or share something that makes you feel vulnerable, but that is categorically not a lack of confidence. In fact, confidence is the quality that makes it easier to be vulnerable, because you know you’ll be good enough, no matter what happens.

Other peoples judgements aren’t truth

Some people will judge you harshly. Too quiet. Too timid. Too weird. Some people will judge you positively. Great energy. Very capable. Good looking. Others won’t judge you at all, because they’re wrapped up in their own stuff and you’re somewhere on their periphery. However you feature in their judgements is all down to their perception, which is down to the stories they tell themselves, which are focused on making sure they’re safe in the world. You’re under no obligation to taking those judgements as truth.

Showing up and demonstrating who you are through your actions is everything

Holding back because you’re afraid that someone will judge you or decide that they don’t want to talk with you will fuel feelings of not being good enough. Show up in the ways that are meaningful for you and spend time with the people who allow you to do that.

And my last words to go you, if you’re the type of person who walks away when you see someone who seems to lack confidence.

Have a little compassion. Think about how you can leave the room better than when you entered. Don’t be such a selfish prick.

Why Faking It ‘Til You Make It Is Terrible Advice

fake it

Six months ago a journalist asked me for some tips for an article about self-confidence she was writing for Monster.com. I sent her some nuggets of wisdom that I thought were pretty good, and she recently emailed me with the link to the finished article.

I clicked the link, and my heart dropped when I saw the title of the piece: “This is one emotion that you should fake”.

First, confidence is not an emotion. Second, it’s not something you should fake.

Let me break that down for you.

Confidence is not an emotion

Emotions are things that bubble up in response to circumstances. Things like fear, happiness, sorrow. Confidence not something that’s driven by events. It’s the ability to make a meaningful choice in response to events.

It’s your capacity for self-trust. A foundation. A bedrock. A core of knowing you’re already enough.

Confidence is not something you should fake

What does “faking it” mean?

It means that you pretend to be something you’re not. It means making assumptions about who you need to be to move forward. It means ignoring who you are and playing the role of someone else.

It’s bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.

The research that people refer to when they say that faking confidence makes you feel confident, is based on 2 fundamental misunderstandings.

  1. They say that adopting so called “power postures” will make you feel more confident. These postures increase testosterone and swell short-term feelings of outer confidence, making you more likely to bluff and bluster your way through to make other people think you’re confident. That’s not confidence; it’s arrogance.
  2. Confidence is not the absence of fear, it’s the ability to respond to fear in a meaningful way. Feeling afraid doesn’t mean you’re not confident, in fact, you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a challenge and still have confidence.

Worst of all, by choosing to fake confidence you’re reinforcing the belief that you don’t have something that other people do.

You’re telling yourself, “Face it, you’re not good enough to get through this in one piece, so you’d better pretend to have your shit together and be good enough, and then maybe you won’t get shamed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is incredibly damaging to your self-confidence.

Don’t respond to a challenge by pretending to be good enough. Don’t respond to it by thinking that you you shouldn’t be afraid. Don’t respond to it by thinking that you need to make up for something you lack.

Respond by choosing something that matters more than fear.

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