Being Confident, part I: what does it mean

Confidence is a word that fascinates me.

It seems to fascinate everyone. It’s almost impossible to read anything self-help oriented without someone telling you to BE CONFIDENT! (The other thing you should always do is BE YOURSELF – if your real self is not confident, I guess you’re shit out of luck).

So I thought maybe we could break down the word confidence and see what’s behind it, since we’re all so in love with it.


CONFIDENCE = with strength

 = sureness

 = sure grasp of situation, facts

 = comfortable in your skin

 = leader

 = charismatic

 = fortress – unbreakable – impenetrable

 = armor = projecting an image of strength = invulnerable

 = secrecy — sharing a secret in confidence — a confidante

 = trust — you have the trust of others

 = con man (literally a confidence man) – a professional liar, a swindler


A few interesting things here:

Confidence is an action, an exchange – the act of confiding or being confided in – a transaction between people, not a static state.

Confidence is conferred upon you by others. You inspire confidence, which means you inspire others to trust you.

When people give you their trust, they are opening themselves up to potential danger. They have confidence in you, but they also know that you could take advantage of them.

Here’s another way of thinking about it: we trust someone who is holding down the fort, because we have to. We don’t want someone guarding the gates who will fumble with the arrows. But we also know that no one has 100% sure aim. And so when we put our trust in someone, we are also acknowledging our dependence on them, which is an inherently risky state.

Confidence is also something that we project outward about ourselves in order to protect our vulnerable real selves.

And yet by projecting a fortress of strength, we are by nature projecting a false reality, which we know is false. We know that we are not in fact infallible and inviolable.  So we are depending on this fortress of certitude to protect us, and simultaneously doubting it’s strength.

This is very interesting!

It suggests that confidence and doubt are much more intertwined than we think.

Which makes sense to me. I always find it strange when someone tells me to be more confident, because I feel confident, even when I’m in the grips of the strongest self-doubt. Seeing it through this lens, I realize that when someone tells me to be more confident, what they’re saying is, I don’t trust you.

Hmmm. Is this true, or did I just fall down a word association rabbit hole? I’ve got more to say about this, but it will have to wait for next time.

Justin thinks she’s confident (I think this song is terrible)

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