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What Does It Mean To Be Confident

Posted on March 2, 2021

What Does It Mean To Be Confident

Confidence has long been a desirable trait, tracing back to even the Arthurian days where reputation meant everything – and if one wasn’t confident, they were simply forgotten. In modern times it can come naturally, as if every step one takes, they’re exuding a magical magnetism that draws you in. Whilst others have to work hard to become confident in themselves and their abilities. Then, you have the rest; those that simply don’t have the confidence and aren’t quite sure on how to acquire it.

There is no denying that confidence is an attractive quality. Society has celebrated and actively encouraged it for generations. However, more recently, it has attracted a good deal of adversity: its original meaning becoming warped and transformed into something unattractive and, at times, dangerous. Being loud, outspoken, interrupting because you believe your ideas are more worthwhile, does not equate to confidence. In fact, these qualities can most amicably be described as cockiness. This is the flip side, often occurring with those who aren’t truly self-assured but feel as if they must express it. They copy and perform what they think must be, and instead, come out as an outcast.

Confidence

The American Psychological Association defines self-confidence as “a belief that one is capable of successfully meeting the demands of a task.”[1]American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Confidence. Retrieved from APA Dictionary of Psychology: https://dictionary.apa.org/self-confidence

Confidence goes hand in hand with self-assurance. They are almost perfectly synoptic of one another. Self-assurance is the idea that as a person, you have different abilities and strengths that can produce certain successful outcomes; you trust your capacities and judgement.

The stigma truly sets in when one thinks that to be confident, one must always be successful in everything; omnipotent and omniscient. However, it is not as simple as that. To be truly confident, one must accept their capacities and limitations as an individual. Confidence means knowing what your strengths are, but also where your weaknesses are. The most important message of this is that you should accept and be comfortable with the fact that some things may not come to you as naturally as other things.

Just because one’s strengths may be in differing areas, does not mean that they cannot be confident in themselves.

Let’s put it into an example:

I’ve trained for the 100m race for an entire season. It all comes down to this moment. I’m prepared, ready and know I have what it takes to win.

This individual is trained and prepared for their speciality. Their confidence is in no doubt – they are positive in their attitude towards success.

However, put this same individual in this situation:

A busy kitchen. Pots and pans; screaming and shouting. I’ve got a three-course meal to prepare, and no idea where to start.  

The individual in question is not confident in this situation. It does not mean that they are not a confident person, but they understand where their limitations lie. Not having the skills to achieve optimum performance in this industry has little bearing or importance to the individual.

The main thing to take away is: that you don’t have to think you’re the best. You have to trust you can do what is needed with your skillset, whilst realising your limitations.

What you’ll notice is that there is a big difference between confidence, arrogance and one’s ego.

Why is confidence so important?

One simple reason as to why confidence is so important is because it affects an individual’s performance. If one is expected to do badly, or if it is known that their skillset isn’t up to the task, the performance of the individual will decline.

The whole art of confidence is based on self-knowledge, trust and self-assurance.  It is this type of energy that is attractive and allows one to feel more comfortable in any situation. It allows for the increase in leadership skills, relationship building and many other traits that are directly impacted by confidence.

Marie Norman and Terry Hyland examined a wide range of studies about confidence and found that lack of confidence makes people self-critical and doubtful of their own abilities, which results in an increase in anxiety and insecurity. Furthermore, the researchers found that those with less confidence experience challenges in communicating and interacting with others. [2]Norman, M., & Hyland, T. (2003). The role of confidence in lifelong learning. UBIR: University of Bolton Institutional Repository, 9. https://doi-org.ezproxy.navitas.com/10.1080/03055690303275

However, those with confidence were able to take on more responsibilities, adapt to new circumstances faster, and engage and enjoy learning processes. Furthermore, confident individuals were found to be more relaxed, motivated and socially engaged. [3]Norman, M., & Hyland, T. (2003). The role of confidence in lifelong learning. UBIR: University of Bolton Institutional Repository, 9. https://doi-org.ezproxy.navitas.com/10.1080/03055690303275

For those that are sportsmen, but equally, it can equate to the general performance of any task whether it be at work, in your social life etc. research findings outlined in an article of the Journal of Sports Sciences report that when an individual is confident, pre-event stress factors play a far less significant effect on the individual’s performance, compared to those who lacked confidence. Therefore, confidence can have a powerful stress-buffering effect. [4]Hays, K., Thomas, O., Maynard, I., & Mark Bawden. (2009). The role of confidence in world-class sport performance, Journal of Sports Sciences. Journal of Sport Sciences … Continue reading

Confidence vs Self-esteem

When talking about confidence, people often use the term ‘confidence’ interchangeably with ‘self-esteem’ when, in fact, the two terms have many intricate differences.

The American Psychological Association defines self-esteem as to what extent an individual’s qualities are seen by themselves as positive. This includes instances such as one’s own image, what they’ve achieved and succeeded in and how others interact with them. Adequately high self-esteem is an essential ingredient of mental health, whereas low self-esteem is often associated with depression. [5]American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Self-Esteem. Retrieved from APA Dictionary of Psychology: https://dictionary.apa.org/self-esteem

You’ll notice that the definition of self-esteem, as given by the American Psychological Association, has many more intricacies than the simple term, ‘confidence’.

Self-esteem is based upon value, particularly the value that one places on oneself. As the authors of ‘Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles’ suggest, high self-esteem can refer to an accurate and well-justified appreciation of one’s self-worth and one’s competencies and past achievements. However, high self-esteem can also refer to an inflated, grandiose, arrogant sense of egotistical superiority over others. The authors suggested that self-esteem is more of a perceptive trait than a reality. It is all about belief in oneself, whether or not one has the skills to do something or not. [6]Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles. Psychological … Continue reading

Having confidence, is having the knowledge that you truly can complete a task successfully. But having excessively high self-esteem is related to the perceived idea that you can complete any task regardless of your skillset. One can have inflated self-esteem that does not live up to their own reality. As Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs describe, it’s about whether or not a person believes something about themselves, irrespective of its truth. [7]Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles. Psychological … Continue reading

What confidence is not

We’ve looked into what attributes come into play in order to be confident, and we’ve discussed its difference to self-esteem. But what must be discussed is the common misconceptions surrounding confidence.

Confidence is not:

  • Narcissism
  • Arrogance
  • Cockiness
  • Ego

Often, these terms are confused and swapped out with too much freedom. Instead, we’ll go through the differences between confidence and these various negative traits.

Confidence vs narcissism

Before we begin, let’s remind ourselves of the distinction between being narcissistic and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The main distinction is that a narcissist is not mentally ill and obsessed with gaining power, money or prestige.

Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have an enduring, consistent pattern of self-aggrandizing attitudes and behaviours. [8]Marie Hartwell-Walker, E. (2016, May 17). Narcissistic Personality Disorder vs. Normal Narcissism. Retrieved from PsychCentral: … Continue reading It is not the same as checking yourself in a mirror or doing the odd selfish act – that is normal every day and, at times, healthy narcissism.

Individuals with healthy levels of narcissism usually have good self-esteem and do activities that give them meaning. They feel good about who they are without the need to be ‘superior’ in order to feel good enough. Yet, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) surround themselves with people that will increase their ego – always checking to make sure they have power, status and control over others. [9]Marie Hartwell-Walker, E. (2016, May 17). Narcissistic Personality Disorder vs. Normal Narcissism. Retrieved from PsychCentral: … Continue reading The distinguishing traits that separate narcissism and NPD are frequency, intensity and duration.

However, when can one separate the idea of being confident in themselves and being narcissistic. The Talkspace Voice accurately used therapist Elizabeth Hinkle’s definition:

“Confidence is believing in yourself – your talents and abilities.” But “narcissism includes an exaggerated sense of self and what you’re capable of, often having an expectation of admiration from others while lacking in empathy for others”. [10]Wiley, C. (2020, March 3). Is There a Difference Between Narcissism and Confidence? Retrieved from The Talkspace Voice: … Continue reading

What they’re attempting to say is that confidence is about believing in your talents and abilities. Self-esteem is about being satisfied with yourself as a person and acceptance of who you are. Whilst narcissism is about feeling superior and better than those supposedly beneath you.

Confidence vs arrogance

It is easy to understand that in order to be confident, you must be comfortable with your own abilities and standards. Essentially, you know what you can do!

However, the flip side of this, when confidence goes too far – can result in arrogance – a negative behavioural trait. As authors of the paper ‘Foundations of Arrogance: A Broad Survey and Framework for Research’ suggest, everyone holds some level of arrogance in some form or another, yet it does reside on a spectrum and has some limits. [11]Cowan, N., Adams, E. J., Bhangal, S., Corcoran, M., Decker, R., Dockter, C. E., . . . Tapia, M. (2019). Foundations of Arrogance: A Broad Survey and Framework for Research. Review of General … Continue reading

Different types of arrogance have been identified by the authors and include:

  • Individual arrogance (referring to an inflated perception of personal value),
  • Comparative arrogance (referring to an inflated perception of value in comparison to others)
  • Antagonistic arrogance (which refers to a sense of superiority that depreciates others). [12]Cowan, N., Adams, E. J., Bhangal, S., Corcoran, M., Decker, R., Dockter, C. E., . . . Tapia, M. (2019). Foundations of Arrogance: A Broad Survey and Framework for Research. Review of General … Continue reading

The main word which separates confidence from arrogance is ‘inflated’. Confidence is your own knowledge and understanding of what you can do. Whereas arrogance means that you may think you can do something, when the reality of it is that you can’t.

Confidence vs cockiness

By now, we all know that confidence comes from believing in yourself and having the ability to back it up. It’s a realistic sizing up of one’s strengths and intelligence when put in a scenario.

However, cockiness comes off as quite a rash and hard-hitting trait. It is actively attempting to show off and brag about all these skills you have and the intelligence you muster, without actually having the ability to back it up. [13]Fox, M. G. (2011, April 27). Is There a Difference Between Confidence and Cockiness? Retrieved from Pyschology Today: … Continue reading

Those who are cocky, often have a low-self-esteem. They feel as if they need to brag about these skills in order to make themselves feel better for not actually having the ability to perform the skill.

Confidence vs ego

Individuals with a large ego have the incessant need to always be correct. They fail to take up criticism and feedback whilst maintaining a selfish and self-righteous attitude.

As you’ll know, one of the main defining factors of being confident is understanding your own capacity. Those with an ego, fail to do so.

Ego is an artificial quality; it doesn’t physically exist. Whilst confidence can be earned through competence and bettering oneself, ego is a title given to an individual by themselves and is often perceived to be negative.

Confidence and Humility

Don’t take it from me – see what Ryan Holiday[14]Holiday, R. (2016). Ego is the Enemy. United States: Penguin Random House. has to say from Ego is the Enemy:

If you know that you’re not perfect but are prepared to face uncertainty – then you’ll find yourself acting out the main characteristics of humility.

People need to throw away the idea that to be humble, one must be submissive and unassertive.

Showing humility is having the quality of having a modest view of one’s importance. You can completely be confident in your ability without thinking your success brings you increased importance.

Confidence and competence

These two can come hand in hand. It is only too obvious that in order to be confident, you must first be competent. To be competent, you must have a willingness to learn.

Once you action something over and over, you will start to believe that you have that ability. This is where confidence comes into play. You can only start to be realistic and confident, once you have proved your ability – this is where competence comes into play.

Conclusion

The term confidence is something that has been lost to society, twisted and turned and morphed into new, more detrimental words. But what you’ll notice, is that each of these terms that have been outlined throughout this article has some health benefits.

It is okay to have narcissistic tendencies, show humility, have a slight ego, or even high self-esteem. That does not make you a bad person. It only becomes harmful when these traits become unbalanced.

Before you leave, check out how my counselling and coaching services can help you by clicking here. I am a certified counsellor and life coach Sydney based, and I help my clients, predominantly men, improve their lives in different domains. Confidence is something you can develop; let me help you raise self-esteem and build trust in your abilities.

References

References

References
1 American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Confidence. Retrieved from APA Dictionary of Psychology: https://dictionary.apa.org/self-confidence
2, 3 Norman, M., & Hyland, T. (2003). The role of confidence in lifelong learning. UBIR: University of Bolton Institutional Repository, 9. https://doi-org.ezproxy.navitas.com/10.1080/03055690303275
4 Hays, K., Thomas, O., Maynard, I., & Mark Bawden. (2009). The role of confidence in world-class sport performance, Journal of Sports Sciences. Journal of Sport Sciences https://doi.org/10.1080/02640410903089798
5 American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Self-Esteem. Retrieved from APA Dictionary of Psychology: https://dictionary.apa.org/self-esteem
6, 7 Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 1-44. https://doi.org/10.1111/1529-1006.01431
8, 9 Marie Hartwell-Walker, E. (2016, May 17). Narcissistic Personality Disorder vs. Normal Narcissism. Retrieved from PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-vs-normal-narcissism#1
10 Wiley, C. (2020, March 3). Is There a Difference Between Narcissism and Confidence? Retrieved from The Talkspace Voice: https://www.talkspace.com/blog/narcissist-narcissism-confidence-definition-what-is/
11, 12 Cowan, N., Adams, E. J., Bhangal, S., Corcoran, M., Decker, R., Dockter, C. E., . . . Tapia, M. (2019). Foundations of Arrogance: A Broad Survey and Framework for Research. Review of General Psychology, 425-443. https://doi.org/10.1177/1089268019877138
13 Fox, M. G. (2011, April 27). Is There a Difference Between Confidence and Cockiness? Retrieved from Pyschology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/think-confident-be-confident/201104/is-there-difference-between-confidence-and-cockiness
14 Holiday, R. (2016). Ego is the Enemy. United States: Penguin Random House.

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2 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be Confident”

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