Have you ever come across people who only seem confident on the surface? Like if their loudness, dominant manners and urge to take the center stage are more about compensating for insecurity?
Often, the reason for their overly confident manners deep down is a lack of confidence.
Then there are those whose confidence instead feels grounded and authentic. These people don’t need to show off. They can let others take the center stage, and when you talk to them, they don’t have to talk about how great they are. Still, they’re the ones people end up gravitating towards.
I have a friend, Nils, who started off as a rather self-conscious and socially anxious person (like most of us do). He managed to evolve through the “loud, compensating self-confidence” to finally arrive at the grounded, authentic confidence.
People who get to know him today are certain that he’s born with his confidence.
His journey is full of valuable lessons. Today, I want to share them with you.
During one period in his life, Nils tried pushing as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could.
Speaking in front of a large crowd
Doing stand-up on the subway
Talking to girls he felt attracted to.
It’s worth noting that he didn’t pull off all of these things because he felt confident. He did it because he didn’t want to feel nervous.
Here’s what most people will never know about extreme out-of-your-comfort-zone stunts you see on Youtube: They aren’t very effective at building a permanent confidence.
Just after Nils had succeeded with a stunt, he obviously felt like he was on the top of the world. But after a few hours, the feeling had worn off. A few days after, he felt like he was back to square one.
He told me that during these years in his life, he didn’t feel secure in his confidence. It bothered him that he still had created this personality of being the one who could do anything but still felt nervous.
When you work hard towards eradicating nervousness, you might have some success. But then the following happens:
First, life throws you a situation where you WILL get nervous despite all your work to eradicate nervousness. As you’ve worked so hard to eradicate it, you feel like you’ve failed: “All this work to become truly confident and here I am still getting nervous”.
Obviously, you don’t want to end up in situations where you feel like a failure. So, your brain solves this by subconsciously avoiding situations that will make you feel nervous.
This is a truly ironic side effect of trying to live a confident life.
Nils made two huge realizations:
- Acknowledging your weaknesses to yourself takes MORE strength than ignoring them
- Acknowledging your weaknesses to others takes EVEN MORE strength than hiding them
So he decided to strive towards being open and acknowledge whatever he felt. He told me how people truly started to respect him when he stopped trying to hide his weaknesses. They respected him because they saw that he was authentic.
Because we are human, we are afraid at times. We can and should strive towards improving ourselves, but despite this, there will always be times in life when we are afraid. Superficial confidence is about trying to not come off as afraid. TRUE confidence is to be comfortable with being afraid.
In order for Nils to truly accept who he was in any given situation, he first had to acknowledge and accept whatever feelings or thoughts that situation provoked in him.
It makes sense when you think about it:
Because Nils accepts whatever feelings or thoughts any given situations provokes in him, he can truly accept who he becomes. That gives him a core confidence about himself that few people have. It’s the confidence of knowing that even if I become afraid, that’s OK. Even if I let others know that I’m afraid, that’s OK too.
When we stop being afraid of being afraid, core confidence starts replacing that fear.
I’m excited to hear your thoughts about this in the comments!