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What really is confidence?

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Hint: It's not always about being front and center.

What REALLY is confidence? Somewhere along the way, the definition of confidence has gotten skewed. Confidence is not always about speaking in front of a big crowd or jumping right into what we commonly refer to as “brave” situations.

As explained by clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy in her book Good Inside, true confidence is about believing that you really know what you feel right now, and saying to yourself, yes, this feeling is real. Yes, it’s completely okay to be myself right now in this very moment.

“Confidence is our ability to feel at home with ourselves in the widest range of feelings possible.”

A colorful graphic that has a quote by Dr. Becky Kennedy about confidence

Confidence at play: real life examples

Once I heard a parent say, “My child is always standing quietly off to the side of a big group gathering. I wish she could just be more confident.” However, maybe that IS the confidence she is exhibiting. To say to herself, I feel nervous about joining the party right now. I need some space. Holding firm in that feeling. And feeling good about it.

Confidence for some may look like running for class president. For others, it might look the opposite—of not running despite external pressures, because she knows deep inside it would not feel enjoyable. Instead, it may look like channeling that energy into an activity that she’s truly passionate about.

Confidence may be politely saying you disagree when everyone else in the room seems to agree on a topic and sharing your point of view. Or if you strongly believe in something, then going for it with conviction because you trust yourself, even if there is a small voice inside of you that's afraid of what other people may think.

How do we prepare for those “put-your-self-out-there” moments?

As we honor the notion that confidence is about anchoring to that authentic voice inside of us, there will still be times where we must push through and do things that may feel uncomfortable.

One helpful tool is the power pose, a tip that we shared during the What's Possible: Be Bold You workshop. The concept of power posing comes from social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who in 2012 gave the viral Ted Talk “Your body language may shape who you are." She refers to this this general phenomenon as the “postural feedback effect" where simply adopting expansive poses increases people’s feelings of power and confidence.

Next time you need that extra umph of confidence, try standing tall with your feet wide and with your hands on your hips. You don’t have to do it in public; you can do this in the ladies’ room before a class presentation, for example.

Confidence is fully embodying who we are

Let’s shift our perspective of confidence! Confidence shines brightly when we can truly feel at home with ourselves and use the right tools to help us exude our authenticity. Confidence comes from being you. No one else can be you!

What does confidence mean to you?

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