How are you supposed to be confident about something when you have nothing to feel confident about? Like, how are you supposed to be confident in your new job if you've never done this type of work before? Or be confident in social situations when you've never made a friend before? Or be confident in your relationship when you've never dated anyone before?
This is the confidence conundrum, where in order to be happy or loved or successful, you first need to be confident. But in order to be confident, you first need to be happy or loved or successful.
But maybe we're going about this all wrong. Maybe the confidence conundrum isn't really a conundrum at all.
If we pay close attention, we can learn a few things about confidence just by observing people. Let's break it down:
Just because somebody has something doesn't necessarily mean that person is confident in it. There are business tycoons who lack confidence in their own wealth, models who lack confidence in their looks, and celebrities who lack confidence in their own popularity. So I think the first thing we can establish is that confidence is not necessarily linked to any external marker. Rather, our confidence is rooted in our perception of ourselves, regardless of any tangible external reality.
Confidence is a feeling. An emotional state and a state of mind. It's the perception that you lack nothing. That you are equipped with everything you need, both now and for the future. A person confident in their social life will feel as though they lack nothing in their social life. A person with no confidence in their social life believes that they lack the prerequisite coolness to be invited to anyone's pizza party.
A lot of people take a different approach: incremental, external improvement. They read articles that tell them the top 50 things confident people do, and then they try to do those things. They start to exercise, dress better, make more eye contact, and practice firmer handshakes. This is admittedly a step above simply believing that you're already confident and that you don't belong in the loser loop. After all, at least you're doing something about your lack of confidence. And actually, it will work — but only for a little while.
Ultimately, this type of thinking only focuses on external sources of confidence. And remember, deriving your self-confidence from the world around you is short-lived at its best and completely delusional at its worst.
So here's the real answer: The only way to be truly confident is to simply become comfortable with what you lack.
The big charade with confidence is that it has nothing to do with being comfortable in what we achieve and everything to do with being comfortable in what we don't achieve.
People who are confident in business are confident because they're comfortable with failure. They realize that failure is simply part of learning how their market works. It's a reflection of their lack of knowledge, not a reflection of who they are as a person.
People who are confident in their social lives are confident because they're comfortable with rejection. They're not afraid of rejection because they're comfortable with people not liking them as long as they're expressing themselves honestly.
People who are confident in their relationships are confident because they're comfortable with getting hurt. They're not afraid to be vulnerable and tell someone how they feel and then establish strong boundaries around those feelings, even if it means being uncomfortable (or leaving a bad relationship).
The truth is that the route to the positive runs through the negative. Those among us who are the most comfortable with negative experiences are those who reap the most benefits.
It's counterintuitive, but it's also true. We often worry that if we become comfortable in our failures — that if we accept failure as an inevitable part of living — that we will become failures.
But it doesn't work that way.
Comfort in our failures allows us to act without fear, to engage without judgment, to love without conditions.