A Fresh Definition of Confidence

I've long thought that we need a new definition of confidence, something that stamps out the mistruths and can actually be useful.

There are so many confidence articles out there that, in my humble opinion, get it wrong.

Take this one in the New York Times – “Why Self-Compassion Beats Self-Confidence“. In the article, the author explores how self-compassion is a more important quality than confidence. Many times in the article I found myself vigorously nodding along, but several times I wanted to stand up and shout “Noooooo!” as the camera dramatically pulled away.

Take this line, for example:

Confidence is aimed at feeling adequate and powerful despite how adequate and powerful you actually are.

No. No, no, no. No times a million. No to the moon and back.

This is a definition of confidence I can never get behind. That it’s about show and pretence and strength; all “fake it ’til you make it” and full of sound of fury, signifying jack-shit.

Confident people are often regarded as having all the answers with none of the self-doubt, being strong and fearless in the face of adversity and always being in control. The image used in that NYT article echoes this: some guy in a suit, feet up on his desk, hands behind his head, clearly “master of his domain”.

So yes, it raises my heckles when I see confidence spoken about in those terms, because it’s a definition of confidence I believe is wholly out-dated and inaccurate. And when people start thinking of it as something that’s sprayed around by the arrogant ass-hats of the world, all bluster and fakery, it’s even damaging.

This type of confidence is shallow, fleeting and fake. It has as much to do with real, natural confidence as my toenails have to do with a michelin-star dish at the Fat Duck.

It isn’t what confidence is supposed to be or what I’ve learned that it is, and it isn’t the confidence that I coach.

This is my fresh definition of confidence:

Natural confidence is accepting your full and unconditional worth, the ability to demonstrate compassion in the face of emotional challenge and leaning gracefully and whole-heartedly into uncertainty.

Let me take this confidence definition and break it down for you...

Natural confidence is accepting your full and unconditional worth...

Your worth isn't a made up story or fantasy. It's a fact that you accept, without condition.

the ability to demonstrate compassion in the face of emotional challenge...

Compassion is being radically kind towards yourself, knowing that you’re okay and don’t need fixing. This is especially true when you're quaking in your boots and wondering how you'll make it through, when you typically start doubting, fearing and judging yourself.

and leaning gracefully and wholeheartedly into uncertainty.

Confidence isn’t confidence if everything around you is established and known and predictable. That's complacency. So the ability to lean into an unknowable future with some grace and whole-heartedness, and not see it as the enemy, is golden.

This is a definition of confidence that I've observed, and it's one that I practice and nurture in myself and in my confidence coaching clients.

It works deeply and powerfully and quietly. It's simple and it’s honest and it's gorgeous.

  • Confidence that’s about being okay not knowing, rather than scrambling for the answers.
  • Confidence that’s about letting go of the outcome, rather than forcing things to be a certain way.
  • Confidence that’s about knowing you’re already worthy and deserving, without needing to prove it.
  • Confidence that’s compassionate in the midst of vulnerability, not building walls of in the face of it.
  • Confidence that’s knows and accepts who you are, and doesn’t need to fake anything else.

I may be a little biased here, but I freakin' love it.

There's an expanse in this definition of confidence that needs to be explored, and I think it’s the most rewarding exploration you’ll ever do.

So let me know in the comments how this confidence definition works for you. What bubbles up for you? Which leaders or friends do you see who exhibit this kind of confidence? How could it work for you?

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