Confidence is not a personality trait but a skill
A few weeks back I stumbled upon a TikTok video where a statement truly hit home: Confidence is not a personality trait but a skill. As I walked my dog later that day and many more nights after that, I reflected on this simple, but yet so powerful sentence: Confidence is not a personality trait but a skill.
For most of my life, I have mistaken confidence for a personality trait possessed by the lucky few and wondered why I often found myself lacking it. For all of my life, I have enjoyed reading books, watching movies and tv shows where the underdog, and often the main character, would go against all odds and equipped with their inner strength and confidence fight the biggest battles and villains. Such admired heroes have been Katniss in The Hunger Games, June in Handmaid’s tale, Sarah Connor in Terminator, Rey in The Last Jedi, Sansa Stark in Games of Thrones, Eleven in Stranger Things, Clarke in the 100, Claire Underwood in House of Cards, The Bride in Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Ellen Ripley in Aliens and so many more. I admired these women for their self-assurance, their willingness to risk everything and, often against all odds, achieve their goals.
As I walked my dog and pondered upon the sentence “Confidence is not a personality trait but a skill”, I started to realize that I had misjudged situations repeatedly and that confidence is not a fixed attribute but a skill that can be cultivated with time, practice and the right mindset. None of these women I admired in fiction were confident by means of their personality, but cultivated confidence to reach their goals.
But what is confidence and why do we believe it is innate?
According to The Britannica Dictionary, Confidence is a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something. Confidence is the ability to trust in one’s own skills and judgment to handle various situations. And while some individuals exude confidence naturally through all of their being and charisma, confidence is not something people are born with but something we all acquire and cultivate throughout our lives. When that is said, society, media, social media and other sources of content often sustain the misconception that confidence is an innate personality trait only possessed by the lucky few and therefore, we often believe that some people are simply and luckily born confident while the rest of us struggle with self-doubt…
Confidence is a skill.
Like any other skill one can acquire, confidence can be cultivated by all of us. To do so, it requires willingness, dedication and effort. It also requires the willingness to step outside our comfort zone.
How do we build confidence?
Although I have become more confident over the years, I continue to often find myself in situations where I have zero confidence and doubt myself heavily. An important meeting with key stakeholders, a presentation I have to deliver, an article I want to publish, etc. As I continued to ponder on the sentence I had heard, I decided to do some research on how we build confidence as I enjoy understanding how things work, but also because I enjoy taking shortcuts and learning fast how I can improve and be better at everything. Actually, and this is a side note, developing and improving myself is my favorite hobby, so I am constantly seeking for new things to learn and develop. Over the last few weeks, I have researched how we build confidence and concluded on the following 7 items:
Self-awareness: like everything else we can learn, confidence starts with self-awareness. Understanding ourselves is the critical foundation for building confidence. It’s important to understand our strengths, weaknesses and areas of development before trying to build confidence. Being self-aware enables us to set realistic goals and progress at a pace we can sustain.
Self-compassion: being kind and compassionate to ourselves helps reinforce our confidence foundation. There is nothing that sabotages more a fragile confidence than self-criticism. Positive affirmations can shape our confidence and reframing negativity into constructive thoughts can fuel self-belief.
Achievable goals: to become confident, we need to succeed. And by succeeding we become more confident and we dare more. Therefore, to build confidence we need to start with achievable goals that will enable us to succeed and build the confidence we need.
Embracing failure: although we can set achievable goals, it is not always guaranteed that we will succeed and hence, we need to be ready to face and even embrace failure to be able to build confidence. Failures should not be seen as a step back but as a learning opportunity to develop resilience and determination. When I think of this, I like to think of Karate Kid failing repeatedly. Failure is needed to succeed.
Continuous learning: confidence grows and prospers when we continuously acquire new knowledge and develop new skills. It does so as we continuously push ourselves out of our comfort zone and embrace a growth mindset. By doing so, we build resilience and prove to ourselves that we can do more than we initially believed and in turn build confidence.
Facing our fears: understanding who we are (self-awareness) also means understanding what makes us anxious and where we lack confidence. It is not easy to admit what we fear and it is even harder to expose ourselves to our fears. By doing so gradually, we can confront our fears and learn to be confident even when we face something that terrifies us.
Celebration: to boost confidence, it’s important to celebrate our successes and recognize when we have attained our goals or passed a major milestones.
Although the 7 points above are quite obvious (let’s be honest, I didn’t share any secret revelation here 😉), building confidence is hard. It requires practice and persistence and it is an ongoing journey. Confidence, just like so many other things such as physical and mental health, is a lifelong journey. Just like getting in shape, becoming confident needs consistent practice. And just like being in shape, it is not something we can stop once we have attained it. It will require lifelong training, we will have to continue to push ourselves outside our comfort zone and we will have to choose to face challenges head-on. It will also require to continuously embrace opportunities to stretch ourselves and our abilities, to seek feedback and celebrate successes. We will also have to accept, with kindness and self-love, setbacks and try again.
To conclude, I’d like to go back to the title of this article: Confidence is not a personality trait but a skill. Confidence is not an elusive trait for the selected few and anyone can cultivate confidence. Confidence is not a fixed quality, but one that can be developed and maintained if we empower ourselves to embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth. With dedication, perseverance and willingness, we can all develop. Confidence is not a destination but a lifelong journey.