Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
I have a confession to make; I am not a very confident person. This may shock anyone who knows me because “confident” is a word that is often associated with me/my work. That is not to say that I am never confident, I have my moments, but more often then not the thing that has me putting myself out into the world is courage. I have not always done this skillfully. Lack of confidence creates unevenness in performance, and courage (when it is your only “tool”) can have you persevere in something without objectivity; this was (at times) pervasive in my work and life. Feeling secure allows you to be more relaxed and open to what is needed, to what is being called for…more adaptable. To relax into what you do you need to know the difference between courage and confidence. Just to make this even more complicated, your work will look the same whether it is genuine (confidence), or a mask (courage); as confusing for you as it is for those around you (“You say you love your work! Why are you so tired all the time?”).
Courage is something I am also profoundly grateful for, because without it I would never have pursued anything meaningful in my life. I would not have completed the various iterations of education that gave me the “entrance ticket” to what I am able to do as a professional today. Without courage I would be the pleasant, but deeply unhappy, person who unsettled you at work…the person whose smile never reached her eyes. Courage is the reason I have been successful as a career professional, putting new ideas and concepts “on the table” for consideration, making a difference to the organizations and individuals I serve. Courage had me leave a comfortable profession to pursue something risky, becoming a Career Coach and an entrepreneur (all at the same time, which is not the most rational thing I’ve done) allowing me to deepen the positive impact I now have on others. Courage did that, not confidence.
What I now understand from my own journey is courage will get you “out the door”, but it alone won’t allow you to be successful (you may win a battle, but lose a war, so to speak…the war with your inner critic, your health, your well-being). I have seen this many times in myself, in my clients and in my work in organizations; the person whose stellar performance gets them promoted into the next level, only to find themselves without the skills (ready to hand) to feel good about who they are in their new role. Courage can be a bridge, the key ingredient in “fake it until you make it”, but no one stays in a place for long where they are running on courage alone; courage is not enough to provide well-being, or meaning, in our work. Relying on courage alone is the path to burnout.
So, how do we balance these integral elements of courage and confidence in our working lives? Here is the valuable lesson I have learned. If you are using courage to do something, you are already enough. No one uses courage to do something they don’t know how to do; as beautiful human beings we use courage to enable us to do things we feel motivated and able to do, but where we may lack a complete belief in our selves. Courage and confidence are two sides of one coin…the coin of ability. You are enough. You wouldn’t be where you are, doing what you do, if you were not already enough. Look at what you accomplish, look at how you make a meaningful difference to others. You may not be exactly where you want to be yet, but you are on your way and both courage and confidence will pave the path to get there. Use them in tandem to continue AND enjoy your journey. Tap into your confidence, it is right there; in fact it has been quietly supporting you all along.