What is confidence?

I was reading a blog post by Kari Sperring recently, in which she asked what is confidence? Where does it become overconfidence? Her post is HERE – I recommend checking that out, as well as her TWITTER and her books.

As I was walking Star on what has turned out to be a truly beautiful spring day, I was thinking over these questions.

I think that confidence, like so many things, is a truly personal thing – how I feel confident, why I feel that way and my expectations of my abilities when I feel confident are likely quite different to someone else’s.

For me, being confident has come with age (which of course is grand, at 26!) and increased perspective on life. When I was growing up, I didn’t know how to assess my abilities or what would be positive outcomes for my actions – I could mostly only rely on input from others as to what I could do and how well I could do it, and that had serious knock-on effects on my confidence. I was told that I had potential and yet nothing I did ever seemed to stop meaning I had potential and had actually started achieving. Since I had ingrained into myself the idea that I was ‘good at school’, never really achieving this potential really did a number on my self-esteem.

But as I’ve grown up, I’ve learnt that sure, I do have potential. I could be great at something. If I had a calling, I could work hard enough to achieve it.

And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised I don’t care. I don’t (right now) want to expend the amount of effort it would take to be a master at any one thing. I have the luxury of a safe, comfortable home and a loving, supportive family. It doesn’t matter if I decide today that I’m going to be a shop-girl for my entire career and I’m never going to leave home. It doesn’t matter if I realise my vocation is perfect recreation Elizabethan dresses, and that I need to remain in education for another 8 years. If the urge to become a civil-engineer hits, then I can pursue it. If it’s what makes me happy, then I have the tools to achieve that goal, because I have been blessed with a solid base from which to operate. I’ve also been so fortunate to be friends with people who inspire me each day, but their own achievements and actions, they show me that problems can be dealt with and that you can go from rock bottom to stellar achievement, if you have enough time, kindness and drive.

And thus I’m confident. My only goal is to be happy and positive and to be as good as I can to those around me. I’d eventually like to move into full-time employment and be paid more than minimum wage. I’d quite like to travel around Europe. I want to maintain the friendships I do have and cultivate the new ones when they come.

I think that because my goals are nebulous, because I don’t have to complete a specific task RIGHT NOW, I can generally be confident that I am achieving my goals. If I wake up tomorrow and feel horrendously sad, if my current job ends suddenly or if I fall out with a friend, then I know that these are things that can be overcome. I won’t always be sad (and if I ever get really depressed again, I’m exceedingly lucky to know that I can talk to people who will understand), I have the skills and demeanor to get another job (maybe not immediately, but I will get one), I hope I’ve grown into the kind of person that can admit when I’m wrong and compromise with someone, so that we can both mend our relationship – OR I know I am the kind of person who is no longer so desperate for friendship that I cannot cut loose toxic people.

So confidence, to me, is the belief that I am moving forwards in my life to positive ends but that I am also happy right now. I’m full of potential – we all are – but I’m simultaneously achieving all I need to achieve. There is no longing void in me, waiting for some bona fide result to prove I’ve ticked the check-boxes of education, adulthood or achievement. I’m too full of happiness and hope. Or possibly cake. Probably cake, in fact.

But Kari wasn’t just asking what is confidence, she also asked where is the line with entitlement? What about overconfidence?

In situations when you’re trying to achieve a tangible result – safe skiing, making yourself a dress, gaining a degree – then I suppose the answer is that overconfidence happens when we assess the goals we wish to achieve and think our skills match up. Sometimes they don’t, and the results of this can range from life-threatening to merely irritating. I do think it’s important to temper our confidence with realism – partly so that we don’t fall flat on our face and partly so that we don’t damage our self-belief by failing to achieve that which we thought would be easy.

I think overconfidence is the difference between knowing that I CAN make a prom-dress but I WILL need help, or a great deal of time and a good seam-ripper 😉  I probably COULD play ice hockey, if I were to engage in fitness building activities and take a few (or …more than a few…) lessons, but I’m not ever going to be a pro (and confidence is knowing that that’s ok! you can still enjoy and be fulfilled by something which you aren’t the best at!). I am going to gain a degree with an acceptable result – overconfidence would have been to assume that I would get distinctions/high results, when I only put in a middling effort.

Entitlement and overconfidence in my situation would be taking my parents for granted, taking my happiness for granted. I know that I’m lucky (and indulged by my parents!) and that the safety and stability I cherish could change in an instant if a disaster happened. I’m not the perfect daughter by any means, but I hope I’m not the kind to take advantage of my parents or the kind to be ungrateful.

I think we’ve all come across overconfidence in other people – and just like confidence, it’s a personal thing. Our judgement is so subjective, you could ask a hundred different people and come up with a hundred different answers when it comes to things like this.

Confidence and how we achieve it is such a fascinating subject, and there can never be just one answer to these things. It’s amazing that it can be so nebulous and yet be so important to each of us.

And since spring is here and the sunshine and flowers have made me feel so happy and hopeful, here’s one of the photos I took this morning:


(Also I’m really sleepy right now, so this might be a bit more rambly and convoluted than it needs to be, but it’s been so long since I’ve updated and I thought it would be nice to have a positive post up!)


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