The Problem with Confidence

art of encore living personal development stoicism Jan 31, 2022
Creative On Purpose
The Problem with Confidence

I used to think that confidence was something you either had or you didn't—something you were born with or weren't. And me? I had it. I was born ready.

In Latin class I learned that we get the word confidence from confidere which translates most directly as "with full (or intense) trust." For the Romans, to have confidence was to have a firm faith in others, of course, and have the same conviction in oneself. 

As someone with an inherently high level of belief in oneself, I soon discovered that an innate sense of confidence is both a blessing and a curse.

Sure it comes in handy when you're learning to ride a bike or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But it's not so helpful when trying to advance in more involved or complicated activities like playing jazz guitar or navigating an intimate relationship.

In more technical and nuanced endeavors, what you think is confidence is more often pride or, worse, excessive pride. The ancient Greeks called this hubris, and it most often leads to what they called nemesis, an inevitable fall. This is where the Biblical proverb, "Pride goeth before a fall," comes from.

I've experienced the tick-tock of hubris and nemesis in my jazz guitar playing, intimate relationships, and most of my other life adventures. What about you?

If we're lucky or simply pay attention, we discover the antidotes to overconfidence—curiosity, and courage. A love of learning, solving puzzles, and embracing "not knowing" plus trusting yourself enough to lean in, find a way, and fail forward is a formula that leads to a happier and healthier relationship with confidence.

Regardless of your inherent levels of confidence, curiosity, and courage, each is a skill you can also develop through a daily discipline of practice. For advanced training, when you catch yourself being too certain and self-assured, stuck and hiding in a learning-not-doing cycle, or recklessly leaping into the unknown, think about which other skill will temper that instinct and weave it in.

Where could you stand to be half a shade more confident, curious, or courageous in your life and work? How about half a shade less? Now that you notice, how will you do it better?

Scott Perry, Encore Life Coach

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