Confidence, you either have it or you don’t. If you have it, you’re king (or queen) of the world. People do what you want them to do, your attraction and sex appeal level go way up, your friends look up to you as a leader and people want to be more like you. If you don’t have it, you’re at the bottom of the social pile. No one cares about your opinion (not even your mother!), no one listens to what you have to say and people find you “cute, but not that hot”. In fact, we all know that people with confidence kick all sorts of ass and get all the cool stuff. However, no one I asked could ever really define to me what confidence was.
So I’ve been thinking, if I want to confidence to be one of the primary aspects of my cult members, I better figure out what the heck it is, and quick! Which led me to thinking, what is it that makes confident people special? Why do we look up to them? Why do we follow them? What I ended up realizing is the true meaning of confidence, and also the false meaning, the one most people seem to believe in.
FALSE – Confidence is knowing you’re right.
This is not confidence, it’s arrogance. I used to be arrogant. I used to think I knew all the answers and could never fail at anything I set my mind to. Do you know what that did to me?
First, it made avoid risks. It was subconscious but it was definitely there. If there was a chance of failure and proving to myself that I wasn’t right then I wouldn’t take that course of action. This prevented me from improving my life in a variety of ways, not the least of was in my job. I held back from voicing some ideas and I held back from asking for raises or promotions because I was afraid of being told “no, you’re wrong”. So I stayed quiet and only did the things I knew I could do well. End result, I didn’t move up as quickly as some other folks who took more risks.
Second, it made me unable to cope with failure. When my ex wife told me she wanted a divorce, I was stunned. How could this happen to me? How could I be a failure at the most basic aspect of life? This is impossible! My life was in pieces and I was on the floor trying to glue them back together. I had no coping mechanisms, no way to figure out what to do now and I spent six months going through a very deep depression before I found my way out.
Finally, my arrogance made me into a jerk of epic proportions and to this day I’m not sure how and why my friends put up with me. I was the kind of guy who always lectured people about why they’re so wrong and I’m so right. Even worse, I did it with that smug attitude that says “you suck!” to the people you’re lecturing. This is yet another problem with always believing you’re right, it makes you insufferable to be near.
So if confidence is not “knowing you’re right”, what is? Well, ultimately, I figured out that confidence means:
TRUE – Confidence means being willing to be wrong and knowing you’ll be ok if you are.
What the heck does this mean? It means that you admit the possibility of being wrong but you don’t let that stop you. You’re willing to take a risk, knowing that if you fail, you’ll be just fine. Allow me to draw a military parallel for a second.
Who would you rather follow, the commander who believes he’s always right, never listens to anyone’s opinion (why would he, he’s right!) and would break down into tears if he ever proved to be wrong? Or the commander who listens to other people, makes an informed decision and can then change the plan on the fly if there’s a problem?
The Fact Is, No One Is Right 100% Of The Time
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t make mistakes unless they refuse to take risks. Yes, it’s true, everyone makes mistakes. I know we wish our parents, our spouses, our leaders and our doctors were always right, but the fact is that they’re just human, and human beings make mistakes. The questions is, how will they cope with their mistakes? Will they fall apart or will they rise to the challenge? That’s the difference between arrogance and confidence. One backs away from a challenge, the other faces it head on.
Arrogance will lead you to back away from taking risks for fear of being proven wrong. Yet no matter how much you try to avoid it, eventually you will face failure, at which point your arrogance will shatter and so will your life. By way of comparison, confidence allows you to take risks and survive the consequences if you’re wrong.
Arrogance Vs. Confidence On The Job
Let’s take another example. That promotion you’ve been passed over for twice already. The arrogant man would either quit because he didn’t know how to handle failure or hide behind some excuse (“they hate men”, “they only promote their friends”, “they hate me because I’m smarter than them”). The confident man would have asked his boss “hey, what would it take for me to get a promotion? Can I do something to prove myself to you? Am I doing something wrong?” and would have been ok, regardless of the answer. And yes, if the answer was “you’re doing A, B and C wrong” the confident man would discuss these issues, get details and move on. Either they were right in which case he would try to change his ways, or they’re wrong, in which case he needs to find a new job. Either way, he’s ok.
Why So Sad?
The reason we sometimes mistake arrogance for confidence is because they seem very similar at first. Both seem like they’re not afraid of failure, and that’s attractive in a person. Unfortunately, the arrogant man is not afraid of failure because he cannot comprehend the possibility of failure. This man will either avoid risks for the rest of his life or he will be brought to his knees by the first real failure he needs to face. The confident man is not afraid of failure because he knows he’ll manage, he’ll adjust, he’ll find a way.
Now think to yourself, how likely is it that I will never face failure in my life? How likely is it that I will always succeed, even when I take the risks necessary to achieve my goals? Trust me, life is risky when you aim to succeed and eventually you will need to face failure. When you do, which would you rather be, the arrogant man or the confident man?