Reality Check: Situational Confidence

Do you believe that having self-confidence is important, satisfying, and helpful?

My next question: “Are you a self-confident person?”

There are many competent, skilled, accomplished people who lack self-confidence, and they know it’s an unsatisfying state.

You might think that when one is competent (capable, skilled) that confidence automatically tags along. Conversely, when one is not competent, you’d think there would be a corresponding lack of confidence.

However, the relationship between competence and confidence isn’t so straightforward! Take a teenager with a new driver’s license. Barely competent, do they lack confidence? Some new drivers recognize their limitations; however, you can imagine situations where self-confidence far exceeds competence.

A toddler who wants a glass of milk demonstrates confidence with, “I can do it myself!” As you wipe milk off the floor, however, you know that expressing confidence doesn’t guarantee a corresponding level of competence.

On the other hand, there are plenty of examples where someone—perhaps you—is perfectly competent at a task, but not confident. What then?

A first question is: “Do you want higher self-confidence?” You might think the answer is obvious, but consider this: If you become self-confident, then you (and others) will expect you to act differently than you do now. Is that what you want? Or are you more comfortable with your self-doubt? It’s your choice.

If you decide you do want increased self-confidence, remember that no one is competent at everything. However, we all have some competence. So, it makes sense that we are confident doing some tasks, but not others. You may be perfectly competent and confident raising your children, but a quivering mass of insecurity when speaking in public.

Rather than, “How can I be self-confident?” try, “In what area do I want to become more self-confident?”

Try starting somewhere where you have some control, where you can practice. For example, say you want to become more confident with expressing your opinion at work.

First, work on competence. Are your opinions useful? Try them out with people you trust; get their reaction. Knowing that your opinion is valuable can go a long way toward increasing your confidence to express it.

Next, get a clear picture of how your actions would change if you were confident. I am “confident” that there’s an area of self-confidence somewhere in your life. Use that as your personal benchmark. How do you act when you are confident?

According to choice theory, actions lead our thoughts and our feelings. To change a feeling, change your actions. Thus, practice acting in a way that corresponds to self-confidence. Whether in front of a mirror, your toddler, or your dog, practice expressing your opinion in a confident way.

Then, when the opportunity arises, act “as if” you are confident.

Ken Blanchard, writing on Situational Leadership, suggests that we have different levels of confidence and competence for different tasks. Rather than perceiving your whole self as lacking confidence, concentrate on one situation at a time.

What does self-confidence mean for you? Would you speak up more? Would you say “no” (or “yes”) more?  Would you take on a challenge that you have avoided? Let me know

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