Posted in On confidence

The Quest for Confidence – Part 2

I have asked time and again for a definition of confidence. Now I have two from Dr Russ Harris:

1. A feeling of certainty or assurance.

2. An act of trust or reliance

Interesting to look at it this way and it makes sense to make this distinction between the act and the feeling. Number 1 is the modern usage, 2 the more traditional meaning.

When we consider the idea that we are terrified of doing something yet show poise, calm and display a veneer that we know what we are doing: This is confidence as an action. Though Nelson Mandela is the case study in the book, acting with dignity and poise from his prison cell yet feeling terrified every day at his incarceration and nervous about what might happen to him on the inside, he never let it show. To get it clear in my own mind I’m going to discuss my own experiences of confidence as action.

Situation: First dates with Little Red and Ubergeek. I felt very nervous. Little Red because she was my first ever online date. Ubergeek because of how promising things were before we even met

How did I demonstrate confidence as an action? By not outwardly appearing as nervous as I felt. Approachable, open body language, expressed pleasure in meeting them, being appropriately tactile with a brief peck on the cheek at meeting and a hug departing.

Result: Both expressed desire for a second date declaring that they had enjoyed my company. I was nervous at first yet my nerves were not apparent to them. I was particularly nervous at the second date with ubergeek, butterflies in the stomach etc. Yet, I was just as forward, flirted with her despite my nerves and confidently asked for a third date. These bold displays were acts of confidence.

So it seems that being confident can mean feeling terrified but not succumbing to the terror, not letting it dictate our actions and most importantly, not showing our true emotions. Is it bluffing? Maybe, but it seems more complicated than that from how he describes is. ‘Fake it until you make it’?  or ‘Feel the fear and just do it’? He insists not and claiming he will do the opposite: be true to yourself and use fear to your advantage. What is clear though is that we should not sit around waiting for confidence to come to us – it builds inside us when we do things. I guess I started to realise this when I began dating six months ago.

But there is a problem. The Confidence Gap is when we tell ourselves that we will do things when we are confident. We won’t do them until we are confident but – as above – we see that we won’t be confident until we do them. This is why it is such a vicious cycle – and I touched on this before when I was trying to come to terms with how I was going to build my own self-confidence when it comes to dating (on a side note, that post doesn’t even sound like me any more – what a difference six months makes).

Refreshing is how disparaging he is of ‘positive thinking’, how it goes against our natural psychology and evolutionary survival instinct. He recognises how fragile such a state of mind is. After all, confidence can be easily lost and as anybody who has experienced depression will know, ‘positive thinking’ achieves nothing except to make the person doing it feel worse when it fails miserably.

The first rule of confidence according to Harris:

The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later

Hang on, you must show it to feel it? That goes against everything we’ve been led to believe. Interesting to see where this is going…



I go by the name of Frank Speaking. My blog "In the Mind of Men" (former name Chin Up, Chest High) started out as a chronicle of my mental health recovery. Now it is a forum where I discuss issues related to male mental health.

2 thoughts on “The Quest for Confidence – Part 2

  1. “What is clear though is that we should not sit around waiting for confidence to come to us – it builds inside us when we do things.”- yes! You build confidence by doing things and seeing how capable you really are.
    I just heard about a book that talks about doing small physical things in order to feel the way you want to feel. If you wan to feel happy, then smile, etc. Don’t remember the name. But it was basically, fake it until you feel it kinda thing.

    1. I’m currently planning a post about how put myself out into the world of dating killed most of my relationship hang-ups. It is built on some of the principles discussed here. Only, I didn’t realise it at the time

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