How We Think Ourselves Out of Confidence


Confidence likes to play coy.

The more you woo it, the more your efforts will feel futile and go unrewarded.

But when you pause, reflect, and wait, confidence might just come seeking you.

The struggle

If you have struggled with self-esteem, self-worth, or happiness, you definitely understand how great confidence feels. People like us really want confidence. It’s impossible to feel inadequate and small when feeling confident. It helps socially, it helps professionally, it helps personally. It helps with decisions, performance, romance, you name it.

Given how dramatic its effect can be, it’s only natural that we would try to gain confidence. This has the potential to be the starting point for a better life. It can also be the starting point for a huge amount of misunderstanding, which can take us even further away from it.

Most self-help strategies create misunderstanding. They imply that confidence is something out there, and they’ll agree that we don’t currently have it. But thankfully we can go get it. We can follow steps, reprogram beliefs, read the Huffington Post, and manipulate our minds to the point where confidence gets instilled in us.

Orrrrrrr not.

Because that doesn’t really work. Or to be more clear, it doesn’t work when we think the steps and new beliefs cause the confidence.

There’s another way. A way that actually works, sustainably. And the reason it works is because it reflects a basic truth about humans.

We are innately confident. It is our natural state. It’s who we are, deep down, all the time.

We can forget and think our way out of it. (Thinking is the only thing that can take us out of it—more on that later.)

So when any ploy to make you confident doesn’t awaken your innate confidence, it’s bound to be short-lived and unsustainable.

New beliefs and habits can’t create lasting confidence if you think they cause confidence. That’s because you also believe that confidence came from something you didn’t already have.

But real confidence always, and only, comes from what’s already inside us.

Confidence is not the addition, but the absence of something.

It comes forth naturally when we are free of insecure thinking and self-doubt. It feels like flow. And we are automatically in flow, feelin’ good, when we’re not thinking and analyzing.

OK, enough abstraction. Here’s a story that demonstrates what I’m talking about.

You can’t get enough of what you don’t really need

I went through a simple transformation recently around public speaking.

I used to feel that I was an awful public speaker. I didn’t feel comfortable with everyone’s eyes on me. It made me extremely nervous. I couldn’t be myself, let alone do what naturals do like make jokes and engage the audience.

Without explicitly thinking it, what I was looking for was confidence in public speaking situations.

Over the years many opportunities arose to give presentations and speak to groups. I slowly improved. Today, I don’t get nervous before speaking in front of groups. I feel more comfortable improvising, and I can crack the occasional funny.

However, until recently, I still felt awkward public speaking. I didn’t feel like I was a natural or that it comes easily despite an increase in my skill level. My experience was still one of unconfidence.

But something interesting happened when I asked a friend what he thought of my public speaking.

“You were great,” he said. He told me I looked polished and confident, that I had a powerful presence.

That was almost funny to me, because it was so different from how I felt.

He was saying that it looked like I had achieved the confidence I originally sought.

But somehow, my thoughts about my performance hadn’t caught up with my actual behavioral improvement.

When I was told that my public speaking was effective, it had a helpful effect. I gave myself permission to see myself as a good speaker.

And what happened next was most intriguing—all of a sudden, I felt like a good public speaker.

The next time I gave a presentation, I actually felt good. I felt confident.

My skill at public speaking hadn’t changed at all between those presentations. But how I thought of myself as a speaker did a 180.

What I was looking for the entire time wasn’t located in different behavior. My public speaking skill had changed. My thoughts hadn’t changed with it. What mattered–the goal I was pursuing the whole time–was the point at which I felt like a good public speaker. And this came when my thoughts changed.

I went from being unconfident to confident quickly. In the course of a few minutes. And it had nothing to do with changing, improving, practicing, or reprogramming.

It’s simpler than it looks

I’d like to suggest that you don’t have to become confident. You just have to see the source of confidence. When you really see it, you can’t unsee it. Your thoughts align with it, and then you feel confident.

Don’t try to change your thoughts into confident thoughts. Although ironically, confident thoughts are what you’ll have when you’re confident. But we shouldn’t work on the level of thoughts, because our confidence is present before thought. When I say that our natural state is confidence, I mean prior to any personal thinking, we are completely, flawlessly confident. And that’s what we’re trying to access.

So don’t change your thoughts. Just see that your thoughts determine whether or not you feel confident.

Any time you don’t feel confident, notice what you’re thinking. I guarantee it will be negative or unconfident thoughts.

We are confident, underneath whatever ideas we have about why we’re not.

In coaching

What I love about coaching in this area is that the same transformation that occurred in me in a matter of minutes is available to everyone, at any time. A lot of traditional coaching would work on doing things that make the client feel confident, gaining awareness about what confidence is like for them, and working on destructive habits that make them less confident.

But in my field of coaching we don’t have to do that. We talk about things that bring about transformation. What causes transformation is an insight—another word for fresh thought.

I know that whomever I speak to is confident deep down. Since that’s the case, it can emerge any second. And it’s most likely to emerge when we raise our consciousness about where it comes from and how we think ourselves out of it.

No techniques necessary. No years of hard work. No ingraining new beliefs and disengaging from harmful ones.

Just seeing the truth.

Connect more deeply

Do you have a story of a time when something triggered a slight shift in your consciousness that led to greater confidence? I’d love to hear about it. Drop a comment below. And if you liked this article, subscribe for more weekly goodness 🙂



4 thoughts on How We Think Ourselves Out of Confidence

  1. Being a new graduate nurse in a specialty practice, working with lots of seasoned nurses has made me feel vulnerable. My confidence has taken a beating. I will carry your words on vulnerability and confidence with me today.

  2. Today after giving someone directions while hiking my friend said “I know you think you’re horrible at it, but you’re really good at talking to people.” And it finally sank in. I can socialize with other people and they won’t think twice about me and my (internally felt) awkwardness. I’m the only party that experiences that awkwardness. So instead of playing it off as a negative trait next time, I can use this new skill to my advantage so long as I truly see it as a skill I possess.

  3. Yes! <3 that's perfect. One of my favorite philosophers, Syd Banks, had an enlightenment experience when someone said to him, "You're not insecure Syd, you just think you are." So great to notice that the stories we tell ourselves aren't necessarily (or even remotely) true...

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