What is Self Confidence and What it is Not


  • Self-confidence is an emotion that’s also an ability. It’s not a “natural” emotion (primitive emotion) so we’re not born with it and therefore, need to develop it.
  • In the English language, self-confidence is not the same as confidence, self-esteem or self-efficacy. They are
  • Self-confidence doesn’t work solely with positive affirmations, development of the belief is required through taking action without self-confidence.

Self-confidence: one part emotion, one part ability

Self confidence is an emotion first and foremost. But it isn’t the same as anger or happiness. We’re born with essentially six emotions (anger, sadness, joy, fear, disgust, surprise) ready to go on our birth day. They exist for our survival.

But self-confidence, like determination and motivation, aren’t pre-programmed in our brains. They have nothing to do with our immediate survival – babies are noticeably upset when they’re hungry or tired. They don’t require a fully developed brain to express their anger to survive.

As we grow, our language and cognitive skills develop which this, in turn, develops a new and nuanced emotional landscape. A landscape we don’t get much training in (by our parents or schools). If we don’t train the brain around these emotions, we don’t develop an ability to handle emotions and even further, develop emotions that not only help us survive but also help us thrive – like self-confidence.

Self confidence is one of those emotions that we need to develop so we can access it and then develop further so we can access it more easily – like anger.

Self-confidence is an ability (as an emotion) to get through anything.

Self-confidence comes from the simplest sentence:

“I can do it and get through it no matter what.”

But first, you need to believe it.

Self-confidence vs confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy

Self-confidence versus confidence

In English we’ve separated out confidence and self-confidence. Confidence is attached with a skill. For example, how confident are you in dribbling a basketball, swimming or pouring a glass of water. These are skills that you practiced to get to a certain confidence level. (Kids have low confidence/skill when it comes to pouring a glass of water but only until they learn how not to spill the water all over the place.).

You can be confident in your skill to pour a glass or water, to speak a second language or play the piano.

It’s important to separate out the two because we can then understand that the emotion of self-confidence needs to be present in order to move through failed attempts at developing confidence in a skill or reaching a goal.

Strengthening the ability of creating the emotion of self-confidence lends itself to developing confidence in areas of our life. Put simply, it becomes the prerequisite.

Self-confidence versus self-esteem

While self-confidence is an emotion, self-esteem is a mindset. It’s the collective thoughts you have about yourself.

Low self-esteem (negative thoughts/mindset about yourself) is highly unlikely going to generate self-confidence in yourself. So while they’re different, there is a link.

Increasing self-confidence doesn’t necessarily have to be done through altering self-esteem – changing negative thoughts to positive ones.

It’s useful to first understand that there is no weight or absolute truth in any thought you have about yourself. For example, some days I think I’m a terrible mother and other days I think I’m doing ok. My self-esteem is balanced in that I don’t believe that either statement represents a universal truth about myself.

Understanding this about self-esteem is enough to build self-confidence. There’s no need to comb through every negative thought about yourself. However, if you have overwhelming, consistent negative thoughts then dealing with those will allow self-confidence to be built alongside.

Self-confidence versus self-efficacy

Again self-confidence is the emotion that we can build and strengthen, while self-efficacy are a set of beliefs about your ability to impact a situation. Let me first point out that if you have low self-esteem (overwhelming, consistent negative thoughts about yourself) you most likely don’t have a belief that you can impact the results in your life.

A lack of self-efficacy is basically believing that you have no control in situations.

So if your belief in this is low, it will be an uphill battle to work on building your self-confidence. When you believe you create the results in your life, self-confidence will be that much easier to develop.

Without self-efficacy you will have no compelling reason to build your self-confidence.

Self-confidence can become a “natural” emotion

This is where the ability part of self-confidence comes in. We don’t have to develop our ability of anger. We naturally feel angry when hungry or insulted.

Self-confidence can be just as natural when we develop the ability. That means consciously working at it – at first. Almost like going to the gym to build muscle. Only this time you’re using your brain and how it deals with emotions.

Telling yourself “you can do it” without believing it won’t work. Because we, humans, love evidence.

In the beginning, there will be little evidence you can do it. All experts started with little to no evidence.

Here’s the key to having self-confidence become natural:

Do it anyway

Without self-confidence. Don’t wait for the feeling. You’re basically learning to override the emotion of fear to make room for the emotion of self-confidence.

Practice something that you don’t think you can do. Is it public speaking – go do it. Is it applying for a job you don’t think you’ll get, apply for it. Is it talking to someone that intimidates you, talk to them.

If it’s your first time, you’ll suck, you’ll probably fail and feel awful. But what you’ll notice is that you got through it, no matter what. You got through the awful feeling. That’s the secret, right there.

Then do it again – knowing that you’ll feel awful because you’ll fail or be rejected. Keep going and the evidence will be gathered and the belief will be strengthened enough that you can start to feel self-confident. Naturally, without working at it consciously.

Self-confidence isn’t knowing that you’ll succeed, it’s knowing you’ll be ok no matter what.

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