Mature Confidence


Last week one of my UCLA students remarked that he used to be more confident when he was younger and he wondered why he lost that confidence. Then at Easter brunch, the topic of “confidence” came up. The woman sitting across from me said, “Oh, I used to be so much more confident when I was younger.” Then someone else chimed in, “I know what you mean; I’m the same way.”

A couple of random conversations? Yes, but — since January, I’ve had probably more than a dozen conversations with people, each of whom shared that they don’t feel as confident as they used to.

It’s got me thinking about how confident I am. While there’s a part of me that feels more confident in the skills I’ve developed over the years; there’s another part of me that feels less willing to try new things because I don’t feel confident in succeeding. Oh, how we complicate our lives!

My UCLA student wondered if he’s less confident now because he knows more than when he was younger. Others have wondered if they’re less confident because they’re less idealistic. And my Easter brunch friend admitted it might have to do with her being less impetuous.

No one of these people could pinpoint what he or she meant when saying they felt “less confident.” It was simply a feeling they each had. I was surprised because each was successful in significant ways. And in the case of three of them, they came to the States to study. You don’t decide to live in another country, whose language is not your first, without having confidence.

So what does it mean to have confidence? I think it simply means this: to know your strengths and to acknowledge your weaknesses. Relying solely on your strengths and refusing to admit your weaknesses, leaves you being vain and bombastic. Focusing on your weaknesses and not owning your strengths leaves you with a disabling sense of modesty.

Maybe the challenge is that when young, we tend to focus on our strengths and when older we become more aware of our failings and so think we lack confidence. With age, though, comes an opportunity to genuinely experience confidence.

Mark Goulston, Ph.D. defines maturity as: “being able to fully experience disappointment (vs. denying it) and fully ‘taking the hit,’ without becoming angry at someone else or yourself, making excuses, complaining, whining, or feeling sorry for yourself and then fully committing yourself to a solution.”

If you think about it, isn’t confidence all about maturity? Taking responsibility and believing that no matter what, good can come from the power of being responsible — now that’s confidence.

What about you — how confident are you feeling?

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at: Follow me on Twitter: @jprweddings

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