The Confidence Paradox

How can you be confident about something when you have nothing to feel confident about?

Is what my two interns asked when I told them that confidence was the only way they could get rid of their shy nature of talking to random strangers. As much as they loved the idea of doing so, they realised that they couldn’t keep it together when they were about to talk to people of the opposite sex.

In their defence, they had never done that before and what hindered their cause was the thought of what the other person would think of them. I didn’t understand where they were coming from but in the hindsight, it does make sense. How are you supposed to be confident about something if you have never done anything similar or identical before? How is one supposed to be confident in social situations when no one has ever liked them before? Or how are you supposed to be confident in your relationship when you’ve never had a successful relationship?

On the surface, confidence appears to be like the Indian economy, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If you’ve never won at life, then it’s fair to assume that you will never be on the winning side anytime soon. And if you never expect to be a winner, then you’re going to act like a loser. Thus, your life will not stop sucking anytime soon.

This is, as I call it, the confidence paradox: where, in order to be happy or successful, first you need to be confident; but then to be confident, first you need to be happy or successful.  You can think of all of your steps on approaching a situation but if you don’t have the confidence to execute it, you’re likely to end up right back where you started.

We know a few things about confidence just from observing people. Following are the most common observations:

Just because somebody has something (tons of friends, a lot of money, a gorgeous body (that even Helen of Troy would be proud of) doesn’t necessarily mean that this person is confident in it. There are a lot of models who lack confidence in their looks, and celebrities who lack confidence in their own popularity. Hence, it’s fair to assure that confidence is not necessarily linked to any external factor. Rather, our confidence is rooted in how we see ourselves, and our perceptions about who we are.

Since our confidence is not necessarily linked to any external sources, it’s fair to assume that we will not count for much if we were to improve the external and tangible aspects, as that builds our confidence.

Getting a promotion at your job doesn’t necessarily make you more confident in your professional abilities. In fact, it can often make you feel less confident if you don’t step up in the need of the hour. Similarly, dating and/or sleeping with a lot of people doesn’t necessarily make you feel more confident about how attractive you are.

In the truest sense, Confidence is a feeling. It’s a state of mind. It’s the perception that, perhaps, you lack nothing and you are sufficient. That tomorrow if hell broke loose, you would have it covered. A person confident in their social life will feel as though they lack nothing in their social life. It’s the lack of perception of people in themselves that results in them, being needy and desperate.

The obvious and most common answer to this problem is to simply make yourself believe that you lack nothing. That you already have whatever you feel you would need to make you confident. But this sort of thinking — believing you’re already beautiful even though you’re ugly AF (a shallow statement with regards to the depth of the article otherwise. Maybe frame it differently?), or believing you’re a successful even though your only profitable adventure was being a drug dealer in college life, could lead you to being delusional.

In other words, there are two ways of solving the confidence conundrum.

A- Be delusional AF(again, doesn’t fit in with the tone of the writing). Believe that you lack nothing and you possess everything that many people don’t, which results in you thinking of yourself as a superior individual.

B- Become comfortable with what you potentially lack. People who possibly make it big in business are confident because they’re comfortable with failure. People who are confident in their social lives are confident because they’re comfortable with rejection.

The truth is (and it has been staring at you all along) that to become better at anything is to get rejected to a point that your soul can no longer take it. It’s only after you have seen that many rejections, that you will have nothing to fear, because you will stumble upon a usual realization: that getting rejected doesn’t hurt as much as you think it does. And once that has dawned on you, everything you know about getting confidence will change.

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