Confidence is a fragile thing, but why do we even need it? What is it about this confidence things that makes us perform well or badly? Oliver Emberton explains in detail how crude confidence is and how it affects us in Quora
Think of confidence as a crude instinct for guessing when you’re going to succeed or fail. It’s exceedingly stupid and makes decisions based entirely on whatever comes to mind first. I call mine Paris Hilton:
Paris exists for good reason. Humans evolved in dark and dangerous times. An argument with your tribal leader could get you killed. Being rejected by an influential guy / girl could make you unmateable. Unchecked, your actions could end you.
Playing life too safe wasn’t much better. A man who wouldn’t hunt, or farm, or build, or bring any value to his peers was unlikely to survive. As we’re all blessed with uniquely uneven skills, it makes sense to act upon our strengths and shun our weaknesses.
We evolved confidence to focus our efforts on what we’re best at.
There’s just one minor problem: life has changed a lot since 100,000 BC, and Paris is still wearing animal hide and dragging a club behind her.
In the modern western world, the survival cost of failure is zero. You can jump out of a plane, argue with the biggest beefcake in the bar and ask Mila Kunis to take you to the ball. Not only are you almost certain to live through it, Mila might even say yes.
The rewards for those who are confident today are staggering. Confidence is attractive. It breeds opportunity. It makes us stand our ground and assert our worth. Confidence in yourself is infectious – it inspires others to believe in you – and can be self fulfilling.
Yet most of us have constant crises of confidence. We fret over something as banal as disagreeing with our superiors, or talking to a stranger. Many men would rather mud-wrestle a bear than ask their dream girl out; swimming with sharks is considered less scary than public speaking. There’s a reason people drink in social situations: alcohol makes Paris a lot – ahem – easier.
The simple truth is this:
It’s millennia behind the times. What evolved primarily to keep us safe in an age of sabre-toothed tigers is now holding you back. The trick is to know this, and to teach Paris to overcome her ancient programming. She’s not particularly bright, so this may take a while:
- Paris is a socialite. Nothing feels better or stings harder than feedback from others. This means your successes must be witnessed. Start in private, by all means, but know that the greatest leaps in self-worth will come from victories like public speaking, dancing in a crowd, or kissing the girl. You can’t do that staying at home or in your head.
- Effort trumps all. The wonderful thing about trying hard is it almost always succeeds, eventually. I’m not a natural runner, but if I try hard enough, I will accomplish something through sheer force of will, and that breeds self-worth. In the absence of confidence, work your ass off.
- Resilience. The most important thing is how you handle knocks. They are inevitable. They will make you feel like crap. But the more longer you linger on them, the further your confidence will tumble. Counter swiftly: try again, try something else, but never dwell.
The greatest confidence in life is won, not given. You can’t see it, but everyone has a capricious Paris inside them, dishing out doubt and courage on a whim. You just have to start taking responsibility for yours.
Ultimately, having confidence is the difference between doing what you want, and doing what you’re told. Without confidence, we condemn ourselves to a life in servitude of those who have it.Featured photo credit: sparkler on blue bokeh background macro close up via Shutterstock
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