Often people perceive me as very “confident.” Over the past two years, I have frequently been on stage in front of large crowds (even once in my underwear), I flew across the globe with $300 in my bank account to start a business, I have chatted with world-famous entrepreneurs, and I’ve even been on television. I put myself out there over and over daily.
What’s my secret?
It’s surprisingly simple. The truth is that I have no feeling of superiority, nor of confidence, and yet I am confident. What people tend to interpret as confidence (or sometimes arrogance) and what allows me to take risks is not an overwhelming sensation of how I am better than others, or how I will always succeed – the simple secret is:
I leave my fears at the door.
I made a pact with myself that I will never make a decision or take an action out of fear. Everyone feels fear of course, but we all also have the option of compartmentalizing it, of realizing it for what it is:
A feeling, not reality.
There is no such thing as fear in the world. Literally, by definition, it is all in your head, and yet it can become an extremely powerful force if you empower it and fail to recognize it as separate from yourself.
Instead, before every significant life-altering moment, when fear is most likely to rear its ugly head, I reflect on my pact. I feel the fear as a sensation…and then I let it go. This doesn’t mean I no longer feel it, but rather I don’t hold it as part of my perspective. I ask myself “what would I do/say/decide if I felt no fear?” And then I simply do it.
How do you mentally depict the concept of a “confident person”? Likely charismatic and articulate, assertive and maybe even a bit arrogant. In western culture there is a massive emphasis on confident independence. Just look at any movie hero – a charming and attractive character, unyielding in belief and stubbornly relentless in action.
But we’ve gotten it all wrong.
Somehow the word “confidence” has become an elusive trait, reserved for the ulta-successful and almost analogous to a slight sense of arrogance. Why?
When we think of a confident person performing a confident action, whether that is giving a polarizing political speech or walking up to that dime across the street, what we are amazed by is not any sense of superiority, but rather the lack of limiting belief that person has.
The truth is that anyone willing to admit it would agree that we waste an incredible amount of mental energy inflicting ourselves with self-imposed limitations. And rather than confidence being some rare trait only applicable to politicians, business owners or celebrities, I would argue that confidence is a default trait in all of us.
It is not something to be developed. It is not a positive trait to be added to our neutral selves, but instead the simple removal of sabotaging fears and limiting beliefs.
It is only the fear of public speaking that prevents most people from giving confident speeches. It is merely the limiting belief that “I am not good enough” or “I will fail. I will embarrass myself” that prevents us from confidently asking him/her out…or confidently asking for a raise…or confidently starting a business.
Most of us think confidence is reserved for someone else. For someone more talented, rich, successful, or good looking. While competence at something does indeed increase confidence, even this is not a true precursor to confidence. Being skillful makes it easier to ignore limiting beliefs, but just consider the 5-year old performer at that school talent show, who is utterly terrible but adorable in his ignorance of that fact, belting out an energetic (and creatively altered) rendition of Hot Crossed Buns. Alternatively, consider the prevalence of suicide at the most prestigious schools, and among celebrities. Neither skill nor fame correlates with confidence or self worth.
There is only one way to develop true confidence: to eliminate limiting beliefs and to make the DECISION to never make decisions based on fear.