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Confidence and the Courage to Take Action

confidence and courage

There is an important relationship between confidence and courage? Have you ever felt that a lack of confidence was holding you back from living up to your true potential? When you think of reaching out for your greatest goals and dreams, do you fear that you won’t have what it takes? Courage is one way to overcome feelings of low confidence, but what kind of courage are we talking about? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, I just want to say that if you find yourself struggling with confidence, don’t be too quick to assume that your feelings are based on any kind of personal inadequacy. There are many reasons why confidence is such an issue in people’s lives, and a lot of them have to do with conditioning. In many ways our society teaches us to doubt ourselves. It’s all part of the conditioning process that is designed to make us dependent rather than independent.

Don’t be afraid of your own greatness

I personally know quite a few people who have had the courage to push forward toward their dreams even when they didn’t feel especially confident. You know what happened? Not only did they make amazing progress, but they were also able to build their confidence along the way.

There is something we can learn from this. Taking action is one of the most effective ways to conquer self-doubt. There is power in doing. Taking action is how we prove to ourselves that our lack of confidence was based on perception, not reality. Your personal greatness lies beyond the wall of low self-confidence. Do you have the courage to start climbing that wall?

Where did the wall of low confidence come from?

Our social structure is actually designed to produce people who undervalue their own abilities. Our children are taught to look to external sources for validation that they are worthwhile human beings. They grow up believing that their personal value depends on the approval of other people along with things like grades, looks, and being friends with the right people.

Why is going to school about learning to regurgitate useless information to get a good grade on tests that are meaningless? Wouldn’t it be better to learn creative thinking and problem solving? What do you think happens to an extremely creative child who gets a D grade on his report card while those who are much less creative are getting A’s and B’s? Lack of confidence and a low sense of self-worth, that’s what happens. They are punished emotionally for their creativity. They are rewarded for conformity.

What do you think happens to the employee who comes up with a brilliant way to reorganize his employers business and then gets fired for making his boss look bad? Meanwhile, his less motivated coworker is promoted because he panders to his boss. Again, confidence is squashed and creativity is stifled.

Why are we sending mixed signals?

It’s interesting to note that the same society that seems to discourage creativity outside the box also honors those who display this quality. From Henry Ford to Bill Gates, those with the confidence and courage to follow through on their dreams have been honored. Do you think famous people like these ever suffered from self-doubt or a lack of confidence? Maybe, but even if they did, they never let it stand in their way and neither should you. They had the courage to take action and the rest is history.

Did you know that Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Albert Einstein didn’t do well in school? These are famous, highly honored individuals who had the courage to follow their creative dreams regardless of popular opinion, even in the face of ridicule. They mustered up the courage to take action and overcome self-doubt.

What can we learn from this?

It’s perfectly normal to harbor feelings of self-doubt considering how most of us were raised. These feelings can be overcome, and taking action toward your dreams is a big step in the right direction. You need to believe, really believe, that there is something wonderfully unique and valuable about you and your creative abilities. You also need to recognize that it will take some courage to prove that to yourself. If you have the courage to take action, confidence will follow.

I want to encourage you to push beyond the limits of self-doubt. I want to encourage you to expand your beliefs about what you are capable of, so that you can discover the personal greatness you were born for. I am asking you to give yourself permission to become the best possible version of you, and then to take action in the direction of your dreams.

If you do that, you will soon discover that there’s no more room in your life for self-doubt. You will feel confident in your ability to be yourself, and that is the most rewarding thing any of us can ever be.

What has helped you to climb the wall of self-doubt?
How do you muster up the courage to take action?
The lines are open and your thoughts really matter!

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43 Comments

  1. Hulbert March 16, 2010 Reply

    Great post Johnathan! I think we all have moments in our lives where something happens and it just destroys our confidence. I get this feeling from time to time and during those days, I just don’t want to do anything because I don’t feel like I’m capable enough.

    Like you mentioned in here, I think one of the best ways to gain confidence and courage is to just take action. Making progress, however small it is, gives us some results; those results reinforce our beliefs, which build up our potential, and cause us to take even more action the next time around.

    Our dreams are possible, but we need to be able to push pass the limitations we have that are caused by self-doubt. Once we push pass those limitations one step at a time, and we just keep taking action, one day we will won’t even noticed how far we have gone and be surprised by how much we have accomplished.

    • Hey Hulbert, it’s true that our confidence takes a beating from time to time and you made some great points here.

      When we feel that way there is a tendency to stop taking action. If we do that it sends a signal to our nervous system that says “I’ve been defeated.” Which, of course causes further damage to our confidence.

      At times like these, the best response is to just exercise a little courage and keep taking action. This is often a pivotal point and a little more action will often get us over the hump. As soon as that happens our confidence is restored and we are over it.

      When all else fails, act with courage and amaze yourself.

  2. Lana March 16, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, this was beautiful – “feel confident in your ability to be yourself” It’s all about seeing and believing in your own value. And the process starts from finding out who you are and what is unique about you. Loved it! Thank you!

    • Hi Lana, I know we are on the same page when it comes to the importance of getting in touch with our true self. Trying to be anything else is just a waste of time, and yet this is a process that people struggle with.

  3. Jonathan –

    Thanks for a great post. Self doubt is a challenge for almost everyone. I love that you encourage people to push past what they thought was possible. It is amazing what happens when we stretch ourselves and take action. I’ve seen my clients make amazing transformations in their lives once they take off the veil of self-doubt and start acting with conviction and clarity. Superb post – thank you.

    Phil

    • Hey Phil, thanks for the positive feedback. Self-doubt is such a weird space to get stuck in. The more you think about it, the worse it gets. That’s why I like the action antidote. Once you start doing it refocuses the energy in a constructive direction.

  4. Cheryl Paris March 17, 2010 Reply

    Hello Jonathan,

    I am thankful you wrote this article.
    Courage lets us fight our low confidence, let us rise from the down time in life to a beautiful you and a better tomorrow.
    Most important part here is to think positive and take an action. “There is power in doing” – this is so correct unless we take actions there are no results.

    Bye for now,
    Cheryl

    • Hi Cheryl, the way to avoid taking actions that don’t produce results is to temporarily fall back to some area in life where you already feel confident. Do something you are good at for awhile until you recover your balance. Then analyze the area where you feel doubt and decide on a small, calculated step that will start you moving in the right direction.

  5. Rishi March 17, 2010 Reply

    On your mark, get set, GO!

    The key is action. I whole heartedly agree with you guys, Jon & Hulbert.

    When you’re in action, things you would have never discovered come to light. In this discovery is growth, awareness and life.

    Cheers,
    Rishi

    • Hey Rishi, sometimes it’s about Ready, Fire, Aim. Just get the ball moving without over thinking every element. Then you can adjust where needed.

  6. Eduard March 17, 2010 Reply

    I was talking this morning to a client about his lack of confidence, and we reached the conclusion that it was the result of a lack of alignment between how cool and competent he really is, and how cool and competent he sees himself as being. I think this is the most common cause for lack of confidence.

    • Good point Eduard. It’s always a balancing act between being self-confident but not making it about ego. Many people struggle with this. And yet those same people are drawn to those who seem confident in their abilities. Confidence builds confidence.

      Knowing that you can do something is not an ego trip. It doesn’t mean that you put yourself above others. It just means that you are comfortable with your own unique abilities.

  7. Yolande Grill March 17, 2010 Reply

    Great questions. For me there came a moment when I realized that “who I am” is not “what I do”. That is my “Soul” and my “Role” were two different things. When I began bringing my Soul to the table (say, at the office, with my co-workers), my interactions became more authentic. When I made a mistake, it didn’t devastate me or reduce my self-confidence, It was an opportunity to learn. So the shift went from trying to be “perfect” and “doing” – to just “being” the best I can be in any given moment/situation… I cannot remember the “aha” moment that brought me here but I remember an interview with Alberto Giacometti one day on NPR where he was asked why he sculpts… and he said “I do it because I’m inept at it”… I’m paraphrasing a bit because the interview was a long time ago but that is the sentiment that stuck with me. I admired his sculptures and if HE felt inept! Wow. So feeling inpet and greatness could be found in the same person I thought to myself. The rest is just putting one foot in front of the other.

    • Thank you Yolanda. I just got done commenting to Eduard (comment above yours) that confidence is not an ego trip. Your example of Alberto Giacometti makes that point nicely.

      This really said it all: “So feeling inept and greatness could be found in the same person I thought to myself. The rest is just putting one foot in front of the other.” That’s how it is for everyone and look how many truly accomplished people there are.

  8. Armen Shirvanian March 17, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan.

    This is very true about how confidence is partially taught to be based on how others perceive us. It is not so popular to explain that confidence does not need to be validated by external sources.

    You are completely right about the mixed signals. I would say that those mixed signals create a situation where only those who are able to deduce their way through the ambiguity can build up the courage to do large things. That ambiguity also cancels out a lot of effort that would have been put out by folks who don’t understand how society can be sending both messages out.

    Anytime I have had self-doubt, it didn’t help me. I have had times where everything would have been fine had I not had or shown doubt. I instead showed doubt, or insecurity, and then had some issues to clear up. I have learned in this regard for future occasions, though.

    • Armen, thank you man, several excellent points in your comment. The ability “to deduce their way through the ambiguity can build up the courage to do large things” is really important.

      Also the point that self-doubt doesn’t help anything. Of course, realizing that with our logical mind doesn’t always mean we can avoid the self-doubt trap, but it can give us the courage to push past it.

  9. Steven Aitchison March 17, 2010 Reply

    Great post Jonathan. I think lack of confidence and self doubt come about when we step outside our comfort zone. If there is nobody there to guide us whilst outside the zone then lack of confidence seems to occur .

    I always suffer from lack of confidence when outside my comfort zone, but when I get past it my comfort zone is expanded that little bit more.

    I think you’re spot on with the education system squashing our creative pupils and rewarding left brainers.

  10. Steve, the concept of comfort zone is an interesting one, don’t you think? We all use that term, but do we really stop an think about the signals it sends? It seems to imply that everything outside of that zone is the discomfort zone. What if we reframe that a little?

    What if the comfort zone became the familiar zone and everything outside of that was the excitement zone or adventure zone. Now how do we feel about the unfamiliar? When I change my reference like that, all of a sudden confidence is not even an issue.

    Hey, I think I’ll turn this into an article. Thanks Steve, you always find a way to inspire me!

  11. timethief March 18, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the encouragement. Our subconscious is actually programmed with patterns that influence our behaviors and relationships for a lifetime. When I became conscious I fearlessly examined all the “tapes” in my head containing all the “you can’t do it” and “you’re not good enough” types of messages and overwrote them I lacked self-confidence. But that was long ago and although I do have self doubt for as you pointed out we all do, I have been able to actualize – to achieve my dreams. I have become my own cheerleader and whenever I feel myself chickening out I close my eyes and remember the little cheerleader image I have in my personal journal blog and move forward. I’m so happy to see you encouraging others to do the same. Thank you.

    • Hi timethief, what a great example, I’m so glad you shared it. I think a personal cheerleader image paints an excellent word picture for us all.

      It certainly takes courage and honesty to examine ourselves as you did, the the benefits far outweigh any temporary discomfort involved.

  12. El Capitan March 18, 2010 Reply

    I’m really glad how you challenged our schooling system Jonathan and how it breeds compliance. The same message I’m hearing from everyone is that you must go against the grain. Do the opposite of what everyone is doing. Create, develop, redefine. That’s the answer to the usual regurgitated crap we’re being fed on a usual basis. Awesome post!

    • If we all move in a more productive way, I think we might be able to change the direction of the grain. Even if that doesn’t happen for the masses, at least we establish our own empowering path.

  13. Catrien Ross March 18, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, thank you again. I really appreciated your words, “there is power in doing.” Actually doing seems to generate its own power of intention. Steven mentioned stepping outside his comfort zone, but stepping outside already means the action of stepping has been initiated. And look what happens? Power and confidence to expand the comfort zone is immediately generated.

    As you point out, most of us face so much social conditioning that results in self-doubt. Confidence comes by acting anyway, regardless of that doubt. And as confidence grows, courage comes, too.

    And I really liked your perception of a familiar zone and an adventure zone. It’s a wonderful way to inspire us to step into a more exciting phase of our lives. Sharing spring energy from Japan with you – Catrien Ross.

    • Hi Catrien, I must say, you sure express yourself in an appealing and clear way. Not only do I resonate with your thoughts, I just love the flow of your words. I really and truly appreciate each of your comments. Thank you for making such a valuable contribution to this circle.

  14. Hi Jonathan, I hope you read Lisis’s education article from earlier in the week. I think you are both right in that our education system is all upside down. They spend soooooo much time teaching useless information instead of teaching children important skills like critical thinking, adaptability, whole-mind thinking, creativity, etc. Instead our schools and our social structures tend to kill all of those things that are naturally there and wanting to come out.

    I think you are spot on with the advice to take action to conquer self-doubt and gain confidence. While I don’t consider myself to be someone who normally lacks confidence, I’m amazed out how much confidence I gain by taking even very small actions toward something I have been hesitating about.

    • Hi Stephen, what you said about the educational system also applies to so many areas in life. Look at the potential for enriching peoples lives that exists with the media. Imagine the potential of television to raise the consciousness of the masses. Instead, they use it primarily for worthless, or even counterproductive, purposes. It’s very difficult for people to reach their potential with so much stupid being programed into them.

  15. Jonathan, I wrote about this very same topic recently, and it’s caused me to reflect: at the end of our lives, we don’t want to live with regrets of paths untaken. By reading blogs like this one, we can assure ourselves of good company on our journey to success.
    .-= Steve-Personal Success Factors´s last amazing blog post ..Anthony Robbins, Michael Jordan, and the Meaning of Life =-.

  16. Daniel March 13, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan –

    I’m impressed by this. We are programmed to fail in American society (probably other societies as well). Fixing blame would be to miss the point, but knowing the source of the issues is immensely helpful. Well said.

    – Daniel

  17. Tariq May 28, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Nice article, very inspiring!

    Speaking from my experience, confidence and courage can only be implemented once you kill your laziness! I have faced this problem before. Like you said, “taking action is one of the most effective ways to conquer self-doubt”. Taking action was one of the greatest barriers for me to do. I used to procrastinate a lot. Although I realized that I have talents and I was so confident and had courage to realize my dreams and passions, but I still couldn’t achieve them. This is because I procrastinated! However, I managed to overcome the procrastination by following this steps:

    1) Take action for and within myself
    2) take small action
    3) Do It Now!

    Thanks again Jonathan, for sharing your great thoughts.
    Cheers!

    • Hi Tariq, getting results is usually a reaction to the action we take, no action means no results (reaction). Sometimes the ready, fire, aim approach is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling. Congratulations on becoming someone who knows how to take action!

  18. mike December 3, 2012 Reply

    Hi jonathan, They say procastination is a time thief. Thanks for this wonderful massage you have passed on to us. I believe that you have to learn and understand things like this so you can take some steps to make a change, surely anything is possible if you believe.

  19. Yoram Baltinester April 5, 2013 Reply

    I love this article and your website Jonathan. Agreed – the most rewarding thing to witness is when someone agrees to finally experience their brilliance again!

  20. Marc Allred November 18, 2013 Reply

    Good post because it seems like so many people have great ideas, but just like you wrote, we’re conditioned to believe we can’t or we’re not capable or not talented enough and some people just feel they’re not good enough to deserve it.

    I think a number of my successes can be tied to a moment where I just didn’t care about how other people viewed me and just did what I thought was right or best. But every time I come into that kind of a situation, it can be scary. And it takes a moment of recognizing the fear, facing it, and not giving into it. A lot of Tim Ferris says, the value of some people is based on the number of times they do things that scare them. I think there’s SOME truth to that.

    Thanks for the post.

  21. Jordan November 18, 2013 Reply

    Hello Jonathan, you’ll be happy to hear that, your article has provided great confidence within me. To change my fear into confidence and courage I’ve found every bit of this article effective. Thanks for this very educative and meaningful sharing.

  22. Xikandar Hayyat November 30, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    I don’t know who you are and what you do, i was just browsing through and saw this amazing, really amazing article in front of me… All you wrote is 100% true. I do have all these issues with in my self. I was a student but now I am an IT expert but still something pinches me. I still think that I didn’t do what I could. I want to know and reveal the talent within me but I never got to know what is that……… your article is so amazing.

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