There's No Such Thing As Confidence

Confidence is bull shit. For those of you shocked by this, I’m here to explain 3 reasons why you don’t need “Confidence”, why “Confidence” holds you back and why you’ll always be wanting more “Confidence”.

1. Confidence doesn’t happen until you’ve already done the “thing”

Have you ever watched a toddler learn to walk? Or observed someone learning to drive a car? Do you remember the first time you tried tying your shoe laces, riding a push bike without training wheels or doing a new math problem at school? When we do something new, our brain triggers certain feelings. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s excitement, nervousness or nausea. A common one I hear is “but I don’t have confidence”. Once fear is overcome, by DOING the thing (by taking action), we then get confidence. Simply because we know we can do it, even if it’s clunky. During the learning process we go through these 4 levels of learning:

  1. Conscious Incompetence

  2. Unconscious Incompetence

  3. Conscious Competence

  4. Unconscious Competence

We want to get to Unconscious Competence (Level 4) for all of our activities. Think about when you first learnt to drive, especially if it was a manual car. I remember I couldn’t handle my parents (supervising) talking to me, music or the radio or anything else because I was concentrating so hard on what I was trying to do. My brain was on overload and my adrenaline was pumping to get the job done. Heightened alertness. But I HAD to learn how to drive. I grew up in a small country town and at 16 years old on my L plates, I was determined to get my P plates (i.e. ticket to freedom) the second I turned 17. Which is why the pain is worth it, right? The outcome is worth the discomfort. Being skinny is worth suffering through chocolate withdrawals. Getting to the top of Everest is worth the life-endangering weather. Getting the promotion is worth doing the extra work for. And this leads me to my second point.

2. Not having “Confidence” is our brain’s way of saying “oh no, not something new for me to learn, please don’t make me do it”

If I filmed you (without you knowing), getting into your car and putting your seatbelt on 7 days in a row, you’d do it EXACTLY the same way. We are biologically programmed to learn something (Level 1) and repeat it until it’s unconscious (Level 4). This is the brain’s way of automating things like breathing. Imagine if you had to consciously tell yourself to breathe in and out, every time. You’d have no mental space for anything else. So as soon as you want to do something new or different, our brains pulls on the hand-break and says ‘oh no’. This comes up for us in the form of no “confidence” or nervousness, or apprehension or “it’s too hard”.

Let me go back to the toddler example. If you’ve ever watched a toddler learn to walk, they do 2 things. They watch. Then they do. There’s no pity party or hesitation in between. There’s no ‘but mum I don’t have the “confidence”’. They just DO it. Then they fall, then they do it again and fall again. This repeats itself until they succeed. There’s never any doubt that they’re going to walk. It’s not optional. The pain is part of the process and the outcome is worth it. As we get older, the perception of the pain becomes too great compared with the value of the outcome. But years down the track, the pain becomes so great we don’t know how to move forward. We end up, over time, being so far away from where we want to be, that the pain of changing grows and grows, making it seem almost impossible.

3. You’ll never know what you miss out on, if you stay comfortable and let “not having confidence” stop you doing things you really want to do

I was searching my memory for a time when I was so terrified and I felt the fear, did the it anyway. The only memory I could conjure up was when I was off to go horse riding when I was in high school and I was so terrified I was physically feeling sick (another symptom of my brain saying “no, not something new!”). For the first time in my life, my Dad turned the car around and we didn’t go. I didn’t learn any lesson, I didn’t overcome anything and I remember his frustration and annoyance with me at that time. It’s not a pleasant memory.

On the flip side I remember every year, the first water ski of the season. The petrol fumes always made me feel queasy and I got the butterflies in my stomach. Questions like can I still do this? will I drown? will I hurt myself? Were running through my mind. Each and every year I’d get on that ski, wade out into the cold water, despite feeling sick to my stomach and I’d ski. The second I yelled ‘yep’ and the boat took off, dragging me through the water and up onto the lake I felt exhilarated. There’s no feeling like it. I couldn’t imagine my life without that feeling. The internal feelings I felt from achieving something like that are irreplaceable. Exhilaration, freedom, accomplishment, pride. Every single

second of being on the water was worth the growing pains of learning. Yet every fibre of my being was screaming “no”.

The “no” was to keep me safe. The “no” would have kept me comfortable. I never would have known I could do it and I never would have known what I was missing. Take it a step further, what else have I tried in my life (and succeeded at) that I never would have tried had I not learnt to water ski and had those internal feelings to chase? The list is endless.

You’ll never know how much your life can change by being courageous and doing the thing. Doing the thing gets you the “confidence” you’re seeking. If you wait for “confidence”, you’ll be waiting forever. The next time your brain puts on the hand break and you feel fear, nervousness, apprehension or not “confident”, take a deep breath in, count backwards out loud from 5 to 1 and do it anyway. You’ll always feel proud of yourself for the attempt, regardless of the outcome. You might even surprise yourself!

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