Are You More Confident Now That You’re Older?

There was one time I was acting in a play and said to the director, “my character is so confident. How can I play a character who’s more confident than I’ve ever been?”

I can’t remember the director’s response, but it was something like “you’re confident. It’ll be fine.” I remember wondering whether I was fooling people into thinking I was more confident than I felt. I think I ended up repeating affirmations over and over to myself in order to get the character feeling right: “I’m confident. I’m beautiful. I’m frigging great.” Stuff like that. And I tried to imitate confident people I knew. It worked well enough at the time, I guess.

Is confidence a fake it till you make it thing? Does it help to take on a projected mindset of confidence?

I sort of hate the idea of ‘fake it till you make it.’ I like to think of myself as a pretty down to earth person, so I find it hard to attempt faking a version of myself. Whenever I try, it works for awhile, but sometimes I end up back where I started. Of course, now that I’m 30, I don’t always have to try and fake confidence. There are definite areas where I’m naturally confident from experience alone- usually in my job and friendships and certain subjects such as travel….areas where I’ve tried different things and failed and succeeded and failed again.

I recently read a brilliant article by one of my favorite writers, Mark Manson, called The Confidence Conundrum. In it, Mark says something I’ve always wondered about confidence- that the lack of it seems to just lead to a downward spiral of less confidence.

“On the surface, confidence appears to be an area where the rich get richer and the poor stay the fucking losers they are. After all, if you’ve never experienced much social acceptance, and you lack confidence around new people, then that lack of confidence will make people think you’re clingy and weird and not accept you. Same deal goes for relationships. No confidence in intimacy will lead to bad break ups and awkward phone calls … This is the confidence conundrum, where in order to be happy or loved or successful, first you need to be confident; but then to be confident, first you need to be happy or loved or successful.”

He comes to the conclusion that the answer doesn’t actually lie in faking it and saying “i’m fucking great. I’m fucking amazing at this,” but in “becoming comfortable with what you potentially lack.” In other words, confidence is about failing and failing again…and becoming comfortable with not achieving. In other words, confidence isn’t about what we achieve (which seems to bring about more of a temporary external confidence anyway), but about becoming comfortable with dreaded things like failure, rejection, and getting hurt.

Scary stuff! But imagine if instead of worrying about achieving all the time, and wanting to have a constant peaceful mindset, we instead became comfortable with discomfort. If we could get comfortable putting ourselves out there and failing, then we could become confident no matter what. We’d have nothing to prove to ourselves or others.

Perhaps it’s a numbers game. When you put yourself out there again and again and get rejected or fail and get hurt over and over, think ‘this is normal. And it’s fine. It’s actually great. Because this is part of life and it means that I’m truly putting myself out there and living.”

It’s scary, but if it’s actually the true key to building confidence, would you do it more?

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