Self-confidence seems like this shiny, elusive object we all wish we had, but often have a hard time figuring out.
As someone who used to struggle with sometimes almost crippling self-doubt, I often thought of self-confidence as something people are born with. And unfortunately, that didn’t include me.
But over the years, I’ve learned that that couldn’t be farther from the truth. And there are many more misconceptions about self-confidence out there.
So, I’d like to set things straight. In this article, I’ll tackle 10 things people get wrong about self-confidence. Let’s check them out!
1) Confidence is inborn
In short, you either have it or you don’t. Right?
As I mentioned in the intro, we typically see self-confidence as a product of some happy genetic fortune.
But it’s not. It’s a skill, just like time management or interpersonal skills.
Which means that we can all cultivate it and keep it growing over time with the right mindset.
Our experiences, perceptions, and habits have more to do with how we build confidence than anything we’re born with.
2) The big wins are what make you confident
Well, yes, to some extent that’s true. But it isn’t quite complete.
When it comes to building self-confidence, it’s actually the small wins that get the job done, slowly but steadily.
According to Stanford psychologist Dr. BJ Fogg in an interview with Forbes Magazine, the small wins are what give us “shine” – that positive emotion we feel when we’re successful.
So you might not think much of the fact that you now wake up earlier than you used to, or how you can brainstorm a hundred ideas in half an hour for a project at work…
…but those little actions make your brain go into celebratory mode.
It goes into a dance of joy and says, “Whoa, I did that? That’s amazing!”
3) Self-confidence means being good at everything
I used to be a perfectionist, working tirelessly to be good at everything I did. I thought, the more excellent I am, the more confident I’ll be.
In my head, I knew that it’s impossible to be perfect at everything, but I kept wanting to be anyway.
Well, I quickly discovered that it was a slippery slope to burnout and self-doubt. It took a while, but I did learn how to be okay with not being perfect.
So, these days, I’m all about throwing everything I have into what I’m doing, but also having realistic expectations.
I’ll express myself through painting, never mind if I end up with something weird and not “acceptable” by any standard of technical skill.
I suck at sports, but I join anyway when my friends ask me to come out with them for a round of tennis.
I guess what it comes down to is that self-confidence is not about being flawless. It’s about being authentically ourselves.
This leads me to my next point…
4) Self-confidence means you never have doubts
As I mentioned earlier, self-confidence isn’t about perfection. Contrary to popular belief, confident people do have doubts. They feel insecure and afraid sometimes just like everyone else.
The difference is, they push through anyway.
How do they do it?
Well, they didn’t learn how to do that instantly. Building self-confidence is a process that goes like this:
- Acknowledging your doubts
- Confronting them
- Learning from them
And as you keep learning, you’ll eventually see how uncertainty isn’t something to be afraid of!
5) Look good, feel good
This is another one that has a grain of truth in it, but only to a certain extent.
There’s no denying that looking good can positively affect your confidence. When you feel physically attractive, you just naturally feel good about yourself.
That’s why things like grooming, dressing well, and being fit all nudge us towards a healthier sense of self-esteem.
But – that’s not enough.
Think about it: if physical appearance was enough, why do some of the most beautiful people in the world still struggle with self-esteem then?
Because true self-confidence is a matter of inner work. It comes from within and is more about how you view yourself and your worth, not what society says.
And let’s face it – physical beauty fades. If we attach our sense of self-worth to it, that sets us up for a future where we begin to feel inadequate because we can no longer match those beauty “standards.”
So, the next time you frown at yourself in the mirror because you don’t fit a certain mold, remember that true confidence starts from within, not from the mirror.
6) You have to be extroverted to be confident
Ah, this one is a myth I really believed for many years.
As an introvert, I always envied those who could step into any room and command attention. They could flit from group to group confidently, while tiny, quiet me tried to blend in with the shadows.
Many people equate confidence with extroversion, assuming that you need to be outgoing and sociable to be self-confident.
But the older I grew, the more I realized that there’s such a thing as quiet confidence. In fact, sometimes that’s even more amazing than being the life of the party!
You see, a person with quiet confidence does not need to shout. Doesn’t need to constantly prove their worth.
In contrast, they have a calming presence, no words needed. Deep inside, they know exactly who they are and what they’re capable of.
In a world that often celebrates noise and constant self-promotion, quiet confidence is truly powerful and refreshing!
7) Confidence equals arrogance
Speaking of constant self-promotion brings me to this next point – the misconception that confidence is arrogance.
I used to shy away from being more assertive because I didn’t want to come off as arrogant or cocky. I would respond to compliments awkwardly, I would never volunteer for tasks at work lest people say I was showing off.
But l now know that there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is believing in your abilities; arrogance is believing you’re better than others.
Confident people understand their worth but also appreciate and respect the worth of others. They’re open to feedback, willing to learn, and don’t feel the need to belittle others to elevate themselves.
Plus, you know what else I realized? Sometimes, even when you’re really just being confident, people will call you arrogant anyway.
But that’s a reflection of them more than you – they’re likely not used to assertive behavior or they may struggle with low self-esteem themselves.
8) Confidence is about measuring up to others
Have you ever looked at a high achiever and felt small in comparison? Or practically killed yourself trying to compete and be the better employee?
That’s perfectly normal, but unfortunately, you might be going about building self-confidence the wrong way.
I used to do that myself, and let me tell you, it’s exhausting. Because it’s never-ending!
Real talk – there will always be somebody smarter, brighter, more creative, more beautiful, more whatever than us. So, it’s a battle we can’t win!
The truth is, self-confidence isn’t about being superior to others. It’s about being comfortable with who you are, but also wanting to grow and be a better version of yourself.
If you’re going to look to other people, look to them for support, not for comparison.
9) Self-confidence means never needing help
Back in college, I had this classmate who just seemed to know everything. We never invited her to study groups because we felt like she was so good she didn’t need the help.
But one day, I got to talk to her and found out that she’d been feeling so lonely…because no one ever invited her to study groups. Nobody understood that she needed some help, too!
That’s when I realized that even people brimming with confidence do need help. Just because they’re self-assured doesn’t mean they have all the answers.
In fact, part of growing in confidence is not being afraid to ask for help.
That’s why, if you want to grow more in confidence, it would be wise to seek out a mentor. Or just have a support network of family and friends who can hold you up when you’re not feeling your best.
10) Build confidence, then act
Lastly, let’s talk about the misconception that one must only take on a task if he’s feeling confident.
On the surface, that makes sense. But really, it doesn’t.
In his book The Confidence Gap, Dr. Russ Harris sets the record straight. He says, “The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.”
In other words, go ahead and tackle a project, even if you’re feeling all sorts of doubts and fears. Once you do it, then you will begin to feel confident.
And once you act over and over, those feelings of confidence will grow.
See, just like a muscle, confidence needs to be nurtured and exercised regularly. Sure, there might be a few setbacks here and there, but remember that every setback makes you stronger.
That’s the great thing about building self-confidence – it’s a process. So keep working at it, and before you know it, you’ll have enough mojo to power a city!