I have a friend who succeeds at pretty much anything she touches.
New business? She already owns one, so why not start another? Website, manufacturing, marketing, she’s on it. Neither starting nor following through are a problem.
Room remodel? She finds the right people in a jiff, knows what she wants, and viola, it’s done.
A different art technique for her designs? She finds a class, takes it, and boom, she makes her pieces. And yes, they’re gorgeous.
I’m not sure why we’re friends.
Well, actually I do. Circumstances, for one. Her open, friendly, helpful personality for another. The word ‘but’ (I could/should/would totally do this but!) as an obstacle doesn’t show up on her radar, and her natural confidence makes way through the ones that do. She genuinely and sincerely doesn’t see it as a challenge, and finds that most people see it way too much.
The Confidence Code
Growing up, I would have given anything for a bucketful of her confidence, to not shy away from trying new things, to be more open, to simply show up.
And while the playing field is slightly different and I’ve got more years behind me, it’s still an effort at times not to shy away from trying new things, be more open, to simply show up. Natural confidence wasn’t included in my particular genetic distribution, so I learned the work-for-it approach.
Now, I have no problem with the idea of effort. Life demands I do it often and has a good ol’ belly laugh when I expect more for less. But part of this effort, or what I call effort—gathering, willing, hoping for confidence—in the face of discomfort (so it’ll feel easier, and I’ll feel better) is the wrong approach.
Natural, easy, unshakeable confidence in times of scary decisions, taking the first step or possible failure is an idea—is the ideal—I’ve been fed for as long as I can remember. Forget getting over fear, make fear a non-issue.
As amazing as this idea(l) sounds, I don’t have a key to that door. Instead, what I see is a sign saying ‘out of order’.
Confidence? Coming Right Up!
As it turns out, if you’re not already inside, trying to get into the door of confidence is, in fact, out of order.
Per Debbie Millman, graphic design extraordinaire and author, the door I (and maybe you), are looking for is the one called Courage.
Confidence is developed over time after repetitive success at a specific endeavor.
It’s what the process delivers. But courage is what you need first, because it takes courage to start without any guarantees of success or safety or the certainty to know how things will turn out.
:: You don’t need confidence to make a scary decision, you need courage.
:: You don’t need confidence to take the first step, you need courage.
:: You don’t need confidence in times of possible failure, you need courage.
There’s always Plan B
It’s not about forgetting fear (good luck with that, by the way), it’s about moving through it. Again and again and again, till you realize that you can and you will. That’s confidence.
Realizing this didn’t magically make things easier, but it was liberating, which is what core truths tend to do.
Lamenting the lack of confidence in addition to the fear you face is a burden you need not bear.
Instead, you can focus your efforts to taking that first step, the course correction, or the picking-up-where-you-left-off, no matter how much you’re shaking inside, wracked with self-doubt or scared that it will all be worthless. Because it’s courage at the start and repeating it in the middle that leads to confidence over time.
In fact, there’s already a word for not feeling confident but having the courage to do it anyway.
It’s called Bravery.