What exactly is confidence? How does confidence feel on the inside?
According to Brené Brown, confidence feels similar to happiness in the sense that it’s a feeling of a kind of pleasure. Happiness is the pleasure related to your external surroundings or circumstances. Confidence is taking pleasure in yourself.
Keep reading to learn about the psychology of confidence, according Brené Brown.
When We Assess Ourselves: Confidence
According to Brené Brown, confidence is a sense of certainty in our own abilities. Brown wants us to work toward a particular form of confidence that she calls grounded confidence: a powerful sense of self that comes from accurate analysis of what we’ve done and what we can do. For example, an accomplished performer might still feel stage fright, but she can draw confidence from the knowledge that she’s experienced and skilled, and that audiences love her shows.
Brown adds that defensiveness comes from a lack of grounded confidence—we feel the need to protect ourselves from anything that might disrupt our self-image or sense of self-worth, so we immediately turn to justifications and excuses for any negative traits we have and any mistakes we make.
(Shortform note: In The Confidence Code, the authors note that the commonly accepted image of confidence is how men traditionally express it: We imagine someone boasting about his skills, forcefully making decisions, and rolling over anyone who tries to argue with him. However, confidence doesn’t have to be loud and aggressive—someone who can listen quietly, make a decision calmly, and admit when he doesn’t have all the answers is also displaying confidence.)
On the other hand, humility is grounded confidence combined with a willingness to learn and improve. While it’s often considered to be the opposite of confidence, Brown says that humility is actually a function of confidence—we have to be secure enough in ourselves to recognize when we might be wrong and when we have room to grow.
Brown sums up humility by quoting another of her books, Dare to Lead: “I’m here to get it right, not to be right.”
(Shortform note: In Dare to Lead, Brown continues her discussion of humility by saying that humble people are those who ask questions, think critically, and admit when they don’t know something. In contrast, people who lack humility act like they know everything: They refuse to ask questions, believe their ideas are the only good ones, and clash with anyone who disagrees with them or proves them wrong.)
The near enemy of confidence is hubris, which is an overblown sense of our own capabilities that’s not tied to any actual achievements. Counterintuitively, Brown believes that hubris is actually a function of low self-esteem. Much like defensiveness, people who lack confidence feel the need to build themselves up and defend themselves from any negative attention—even (or perhaps especially) negative attention from themselves.
A side note: Brown adds that people often use the word pride when they mean hubris. However, pride is a healthy and positive state of satisfaction with achievements—our own or someone else’s.
(Shortform note: There are stories and cautionary tales about hubris dating all the way back to ancient Greece, notably the story of Icarus. Icarus’s father gave him a set of wax wings that allowed him to fly, but in his hubris, Icarus ignored his father’s warnings and flew too high. The sun’s heat melted the wax, and Icarus fell to his death. This story illustrates how hubris can lead us to believe that we’re invincible, or that we know better than anyone else, and the dangers of thinking that way.)
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- Brené Brown's guide to the many emotions and mental states that people feel
- Explanations of 87 emotions, along with the situations where you’re likely to encounter them
- How to form deeper connections with the people around you