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Confidence is fundamental to your capacity to live a quality life. The power to produce the life you want—one that reflects your goals, needs, hopes, dreams, desires, and ambitions—comes from taking action based on what you know you are capable of doing currently, as well as what you believe you can become capable of doing in the future.
Definition of Confidence
Confidence is the belief that you can or can learn to control your outcomes. Confidence is built on both belief and evidence—belief that you can grow and learn, and evidence that proves you have done so.
Truly confident people trust their capacity to learn whatever is required of them. They understand that learning is a process, and they believe that with commitment, focus, and strategy, their efforts will produce their desired outcomes. As a result, confident people face new challenges and moderate risks with enthusiasm and energy.
With experience, confident people continue to build confidence. They think about their failures and difficulties in ways that give them information about what to do differently the next time. They take pride and ownership in their successes. Success generates further evidence that they are “good” and can continue to get better.
The need for confidence extends into every area of your life.
Whatever goals you choose for yourself—your vision of your quality life—requires confidence in three significant areas: intellectual, political, and social.
In intellectual situations, confidence is knowing that you are capable of delivering quality performance and that you can learn to increase that capability.
When you are confident in your intellectual capacity, you know you are smart and that you can become even smarter. You sense no limitations with regard to what technical or academic skills you can learn. This area of confidence is often tested—at school, work, and in life in general. Being recognized as “smart” is highly valued in U.S. society. So much so, in fact, that success at intellectual endeavors is often mistaken as the totality of confidence required for success in a professional setting. But there is more.
In political situations, confidence is knowing that you are or can become powerful, that you can make a difference, and that you can learn how to influence situations, manage relationships and garner the respect of others.
The capacity to understand the interrelationships of formal pro-cesses, informal practices, and interpersonal relationships coupled with the courage and willingness to exert influence is at the heart of power. Many intellectually confident people lack political confidence and often express contempt for it. Those same people often go through life feeling badly that people don’t listen to their “brilliant ideas” or follow their recommendations. Their contempt—rooted in lack of confidence in their influence skills—translates to a belief that politics is something one “gets caught up in,” rather than an opportunity to act decisively.
Politically confident people understand how systems work and know that politics is about influence, not acquiescence. They learn how to leverage situations and manage relationships to achieve their desired outcomes. They know how to position themselves and their ideas to elicit the support of others.
In social situations, confidence is knowing that you are worthy of being liked, respected, and trusted and that your presence is valuable—that you can learn how to be socially skillful.
Do you have a sense of self-esteem that includes admiration and respect for yourself? Do you think of yourself as attractive and worthy of inclusion? Do you feel you are a significant and contributing part of any community to which you belong and that you are genuinely entitled to attention and consideration—even in the face of treatment to the contrary?
If your sincere regard for yourself translates into regard for others you will be socially graceful. If your regard for others provides you with the basis for establishing productive, mutually beneficial relationships, you will be socially skillful.
Most people tend to be more confident in some areas than others. Often people explain away low confidence or fear in an area as a simple lack of interest in participation. Too often though, the consequence of not developing capabilities in all three types of confidence is limitation—limited choice, limited effectiveness, limited vision, limited goals—a chronic falling short of one’s vision of a quality life.
However, the essence of self-confidence is that it is changeable and shapeable. Learn to conduct an ongoing, honest, internal dialogue with yourself that allows you to capitalize on your strengths and continue to identify areas where your confidence and effort could use some support.
Remember also, that confidence is fragile, and requires thorough and consistent attention. Our current accomplishments, no matter how great, do not preclude greater accomplishment and further development in the future. The continuous, deliberate construction of our own self-confidence is our responsibility. The number of travelers of color is rapidly increasing in the U.S. today, creating new business opportunities for your company.
About the Author
Verna R. Ford is an Executive Consultant with Novations Group, Inc.