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Unconfidence: The Essential Ingredient to Crazy Stupid Success

This guest post is by Steve of Thecodeofextraordinarychange.com

Confidence is over-rated.

At least, it’s over-rated in the homogenized, misused, self-help industry clap-trap kinds of ways.

In today’s world it’s both easy and tempting to start putting a confident veneer over things, because it seems as though the world expects that.  In relationships, friendships, career, blogging and business, there’s an expectation that you have to know what you’re doing, otherwise you just don’t stack up.

So communicating the “I’m know where I’m at” position becomes something we busy ourselves with. We become focused on the portrayal of expertise or success in addition to building that same expertise and success, and sometimes that portrayal prohibits the very thing you’re looking to achieve.

So I think it’s time to stop the BS and to halt the veneer of confidence.  It’s time for unconfidence.

Here’s how it works.

You don’t have to pretend

I work two jobs because my coaching business doesn’t make enough money to support me. I don’t pretend that it does, because to do so requires that I see this fact as a negative and I don’t want to lie to my clients.  

I don’t pretend that I know exactly where my business is going, because I’m largely making it up as I go along. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, because that would make me an asshole.

Pretending to be something you’re not or to know something you don’t is part of the old world. Online, people can now smell that kind of pretence and it’s only a matter of time before the offline world starts behaving similarly (if it hasn’t happened already).

You have an incredible array of skills, experience, strengths and talents and an even more incredible capacity to learn, improve and grow.  Focus on that, not on pretending.

Engagement with meaning is a pre-requisite

If what you’re doing in your life and business doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, or amount to a hill o’ beans, you’re just treading water. If there’s nothing on the line, there’s no need for you to push at the boundaries of your capabilities. If there’s nothing at stake, you don’t need to step up to the plate or raise your head above the parapet.

You can coast.

The things that matter to you matter for a reason.  Ignoring them disconnects meaning from your life and work, and the net result is that you don’t really care what happens.

It’s a place of limbo and increasing constraint, where you die a long, slow death wondering what might have been.  It’s a ghastly place to be (I learned this the hard way). Meaningful success can only ever be derived from engaging with the things that have meaning. That goes for life and business.

Unconfidence is about listening and engaging with the things that matter to you, and requires that you make a choice to grow to the point where you feel ready, willing, and even compelled to get involved.

You’re already worthy

There are a lot of people out there hustling.  Pushing, doing, moving.  Trying to make something happen so they can prove to themselves that they’re good enough or that they’re worthy of their peers, friends, mentors, clients, and partners.

I can’t imagine much worse than that.

You don’t have to prove you’re worthy or deserving to anyone—yourself most of all. You don’t have to fit in with the cool kids or gain approval from others. You don’t need to hide who you are to gain approval for who you think you ought to be.

Unconfidence is allowing yourself to show up as who you are, warts and all.  It’s knowing—and feeling—that with all your imperfections you’re just right. And it requires that you stop judging yourself for who you are and start being yourself because of who you are.

As Brene Brown put it in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

Shaking in your boots doesn’t mean you’re not confident

There’s a common misunderstanding that confident people don’t get scared. That they don’t feel fear. That they’re fearless.

More garbage.

That fear response is deeply coded into your brain—when you’re feeling fear your amygdala fires up, giving you strong signals that you’re about to die and that you need to fight, fly, or freeze. The fear is just there to remind you that things might not go to plan and you might lose out, which is sometimes enough to stop you, right?

But here’s the thing: you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a decision, and still be confident that you can make a choice and deal with whatever happens on the other side.

Unconfidence is the quality that allows you to feel fear without judgment.

You can’t control the whole world

Plans are great.  Go ahead and make them.  Just remember that if you try to have your plans cater for every eventuality, you’ll be making plans for the rest of your days.

You can exert some control over what you do and how you do it in an effort to get a particular outcome, but if you’re focused on outcome after outcome after outcome you’ll be driving yourself loopy trying to control every variable to increase the certainty of your results.

Truth is, the world is uncertain.  You can’t control everything.  There’s always something that can throw you sideways and knock your plans off track.  So what if you knew that you could make a decision and deal with whatever happens?  What if you detached your decision making from a specific outcome or result?

Do that and the focus becomes less about the outcome and more about engaging with your decisions and behaviour.  That’s unconfidence—being able to choose your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour, not in the outcome.  You always get to choose.  It’s liberating.

The choice to trust yourself is sometimes the only choice you need

Crazy stupid success isn’t a one-time thing.  It’s not something you hit and then settle back into and ride ’til retirement.  It’s a process.

It’s a process that requires you to strip away the BS, show up as yourself, be vulnerable and start playing because it matters to you in ways that scare you.  I’ve called it unconfidence here in order to differentiate it from your normal assumptions and beliefs around what “confidence” is.  But it is confidence.  Simple, graceful, natural self-confidence.

You have it.  You using it?

Steve is a superstar confidence coach who helps you build an extraordinary life. He also makes a fantastic ragu, and while he can’t promise you a batch he’ll promise to help you put your dent in the universe, which is probably a better deal.  Get more of him on Twitter and Facebook.

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  1. Hey Steve!

    This is great! I really think that low self-esteem comes from trying to be something that you are not. Whether it’s because it is what is expected of you, or if you feel like you’re not acceptable the way you are. It’s tricking the world into believing something false so that you don’t have to face your own truth.

    I don’t even think that having confidence means liking everything about yourself. I think it’s merely accepting everything about yourself. Acknowledge it, accept it if you can change it, and move on. Don’t live as an impostor in your own life. Don’t have a antipathetic relationship with yourself. It’s not conducive to happiness.

    Also, I love that you point out that how resilient and adaptable to change you are is proportional to how confident you are. The confidence has to come first. When you are confident, you know that you can handle whatever comes at you – no matter how bad you blow it.


    • So many good points in your comment that I found myself nodding all the way through. So agree that confidence has to come first otherwise the lack of it will continue to get in your way. Brilliant stuff Liz, thank you!

  2. Totally in love with this post. Spot on!

  3. Wow, thanks so much for this post. I just found ProBlogger … having recently started my own business (after being laid off from a great job) and starting a business-related blog myself … and this message is just what I needed to hear during my first 30 days of uncertainty trying to fend for myself and structure a new direction for my career.

    • You’re welcome Todd. Did you find yourself trying to beat down that uncertainty and beating yourself up a bit?

      Not needing to have all the answers takes off a load of pressure huh?!

  4. Great article, Steve. It is so true. Long-term goals and plans are very helpful and pushes us to greater achievement. However, if we try to plan and control every minute detail, then we will get bog down with endless tasks and this really derails us from the productive things we could be doing. It is a timely reminder for us to plan far but to be able stay productive as well.

    • The minutia of getting things done is easily confused with “hustling”, and there’s a big perception out there that hustling is how you get things done, right?

      Plan and stay productive as you say – but it’s the *quality of experience* and the *value of difference* in what you’re creating that really matters don’t you think?

  5. So true Steve. Being in the personal growth niche I understand how “being totally confident” is the ultimate goal. I am confident at some times, and totally not confident at others. Either way I can always get done what I need to whether I am confident or not.

    • Right – you can be shaking in your boots and feel totally not confident in the traditional sense, but still trust yourself to move forwards and make choices. That’s what I call natural confidence.

  6. Well said, I have been thinking about this a lot lately, the idea that confidence comes from being 100% honest with who you are including your strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for writing it down!

    • You’re welcome Gareth. Confidence is simply being able to choose your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour – not in the outcome.

  7. Hi Steve,

    Be confident enough to move out of your comfort zone yet human enough to realize that yep, you will be scared, nervous and agitated when you do it ;)

    You need confidence to move into action. Otherwise you’d just sit in your bed all day. Confidence plays a massive role in success.

    But so does fear. Because fear is the contrast many people use as a motivator when doing something new. Fear prods you forward if you allow it too…but you must slice through the fear.

    Feel fear and do it anyway.

    The doing part is rooted in confidence…because with no shred of confidence, there is no doing.

    As long as you are alive, you will be fearful, and you will doubt from time to time. The only people free of fear or doubt live in the graveyard.

    But never let your mind be dominated by these emotions, living in a continual state of fear…because then you’ll be lying beside the people in the graveyard without accomplishing much in life.



    • I think it also takes confidence (i.e. self-trust) to open up to that fear and allow yourself to be vulnerable, and totally agree that trying to avoid fear is the wrong motivator on every level.

      Really appreciate your comment Ryan.

  8. This is one of the best posts on the subject of confidence that I’ve read in awhile. You hit a couple of points I like in particular:

    -The portrayal of expertise: yes, pretense always shows, even in person. We really can’t hide who we are or what we know or don’t know.
    -Shaking in our boots doesn’t mean we’re not confident–yep. I’ve felt afraid of stuff while knowing perfectly well I was more than able to take care of something. Fear doesn’t have to stop us, even if we’re *not* confident. And I don’t always *feel* confident, but oh well. I can’t operate on emotions all the time, and as long as something’s not totally reckless or stupid (hopefully much better than that), and I know logically I can do something, why not jump in whether with fear, confidence, or a mix of both?

    Nice read, good stuff. Maybe you could call yourself The No BS coach :)

    • Thanks Leah!

      It can be something of a paradox at first – that you can simultaneously not be feeling confident at all, but also still be confident in your next choice. That co-existence is pretty delicious, I think :)

      I always aim to notice when I’m straying into BS so I can reset what I’m doing – thanks for that!

  9. I especially like the idea that it’s okay not to know what you’re doing. At some point even the pros didn’t know what they’re doing. We all have to learn. If you keep pretending that you know everything already, you block your opportunities to actually learn.

    And the already being enough thing… that’s a hard truth for me to swallow. I’m working on living it.

    This all reminds me of Brene Brown, with the idea of being vulnerable. I’m a huge advocate for being yourself.

    Thanks for this particularly inspiring post.


    • Brene’s awesome. My work in natural confidence has been touching on a lot of her expertise recently; I don’t think you can have a proper discussion about natural confidence unless you look at vulnerability and shame too.

      Let me know how you get on and how I can help Sarah.

  10. Excellent advice. It seems like everybody in my peer group is a rat-race just for the sake of being “in it.” Sometimes it feels like being on the outside because I don’t see the meaning to what they are doing. I constantly remind myself that I am worthy to do my own thing without needing to be “in it.”

    • Spot on Alex, love your comment. There’s a real temptation to join in with that race because everyone else is doing it, but there’s no substitute for doing what matters to you – even if that takes you out of their in-group.

  11. Steve,

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. My main hesitation in starting my coaching has been the fear that others would look at my life and think, Who is this guy to be telling me anything. I too have other sources of income and felt like I would be seen as a hypocrite. Yet, I know what I know and I know that it works and will be of help to those whom I see as my target market. I suppose I am doing them a disservice by holding back until my personal life is “perfect”. What a farce!

    • One way of looking at this is that if you’re capable of adding valuing and making a difference to people then you have a duty to leverage that capability. Hold it back and you’re simply being selfish, letting your own fears get in the way of doing what you could otherwise be doing.

  12. Nice post, Steve…

    This is both s simplistic and complicated topic…

    I have a tendency to observe people, and have been fascinated by how people react differently to the same stimuli….

    Shaking in your boots, so to speak, is actually to your advantage in many ways…

    Some of the best performers, stage, athletes, etc will state that they were a bundle of nerves before a performance. Only they harnessed that nervous energy, and used it to fuel their great performances….

    As far as trying to gain approval of other, this is really folly…

    You can please some of the people some of the time, though, you cannot please all of the people all of the time…

    Also, another great saying is that, ” It is much easier to change yourself than to try to change the whole world(Or, changing one person is much easier than trying to change seven billion people).

    • Thanks Daniel. Yep, this is really about the quality of your *thinking* – have crappy thinking and you’ll have a crappy experience of life, business, relationships, etc.

  13. Thanks for that. This is going up on my wall: “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” Need that as an entrepreneur, father, husband and man. I’m struggling to do all of them well and there never seems to be enough to give. But I’m giving enough!

    • You gotta thank Brene Brown for that quotation Craig – it’s a good one huh?!

      Funny how much pressure there is on men these days; we’re expected to be so many things and to do it all with “strength” that our emotions can get completely ignored. It’s not really spoken about, but really troubling.

      You are both giving enough, and you’re plenty.

  14. Steve, I am not sure I agree with your point, “You don’t have to prove you’re worthy or deserving to anyone—yourself most of all.” You wouldn’t have any clients for your coaching business if they weren’t convinced that you were worthy. I am sure I am looking at this from a different angle than you, so, I am interested in your respnse.

    Although I am still convinced that people need to have real confidence: an, “I am worthy” attitude, I do see your point.

    There is a balance between a hang dog, “I am nothing attitude,” and a phony overconfidence.

  15. Treay says: 08/28/2012 at 7:57 am

    What an excellent post. I’m going to print it and re-read it. Often. So much of the IM advice out there is to position yourself as the expert. That has never felt ethical to me: you can know an awful lot about something and have excellent information to share, without being an expert. You are so right about fear and not letting it stop you acting. Trusting in your decisions as valid is in itself incredibly empowering and I have learned perhaps more from those which were ‘wrong’.
    Thank you for your excellent, insightful post.

    • Presenting yourself as an expert has its place, and is sometimes a very desirable quality. I wouldn’t want to be operated on someone who wasn’t an expert, or to seek legal advice from an amateur, for example.

      I think problems creep in when your beliefs and judgements about what an “expert” is or what an expert should and shouldn’t do get involved. Those beliefs and judgements are essentially just flawed thinking that lead to patterns of behaviour that might not be helpful.

      I think that if you know a lot about something and have excellent information to share, then that *does* make you an expert to someone who doesn’t have that knowledge or experience. The trick is to strip away how you think an expert should behave and do it your way.

  16. I accept been cerebration about this a lot lately, the abstraction that aplomb comes from getting 100% honest with who you are including your strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for autograph it down!

  17. Hi Steve,

    This is a and much needed message – thank you for giving it a voice here. Not many people dare see, feel or express what you’re saying above. When I share a similar message (in small private circles) it is met with a tremendous sense of relief and liberation. Trying to be “perfect”, “living your full potential” etc. is such a tough demand on so many people these days. While it may work for some, for most people it just stands in the way of their natural flow and prevents them from trusting, being, living and sharing their authentic, beautiful, (extra)ordinary self.

  18. Hi Steve
    This is my first visit to this blog, i like your writing style. i’m very interested in your posts, please keep up the good work. Thanks.

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