The confidence mirage: Why achievements aren't enough

Success looks like working remotely from a beach sipping on a watermelon cocktail, right? Maybe that’s just my mirage.

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But most people do have a goal for their life or career, or at least the knowledge that they want to achieve something, even if it's not completely clear yet.

There is no denying that the end goal, the achievement, the accomplishment is key. The glittery success, the metaphorical trophy case, the pat on the back as you admire what you have done – it helps motivate us. Without this future focus, we would have no desire to do anything different.

The end goal is important!

But why, even when we achieve great things, do we still doubt ourselves, why does the joy seem fleeting, why do we still criticise ourselves? Can we just feel confident with what we are doing?

Perhaps, real confidence transcends accomplishments. Achievements alone might be a mirage — a fleeting illusion that can leave us thirsty for genuine self-assurance.


The achievement trap

Picture this: You’ve been promoted, you’ve completed your training, you’ve started your own business, you did that big event and are now being recognised.

You have achieved exactly what you set out to achieve…. but instead of feeling confident in yourself, you feel a creeping sense of self-doubt and fear. Or maybe you have dreamt about all these things and all you need to do is take the first step but again you can’t help but pull back as self-doubt settles in.

Late at night, a question keeps nagging you: Am I good enough to do this?

Why are you questioning yourself now? This was meant to boost your confidence, not take it away! The thing is that when you place too much importance on the end goal it can act as a mirage – promising so much, everything you wanted and needed, but that all evaporates as you get there. Here’s why:

Transient satisfaction:

The actual achievement, the moment of success, is short. Often the feelings of elation and joy are more fleeting than we thought. Your mind might anxiously turn to the next goal. How else will you prove your worth?

Comparison trap:

We often compare ourselves to those around us and what they have accomplished. In starting something new, you might realise you have a lot to learn and don’t feel as masterful as you hoped. And there is likely always someone richer, smarter, more confident, more skilful than you that you can compare yourself to.

Fear of failure:

When the accomplishment itself is the main source of satisfaction and self-worth, you can fear failure and that you might not be able to do what is being asked of you. You might start doubting your capabilities.

Imposter syndrome:

As we accomplish new things there can be a fear that people will realise you are not as good as they think you are. You might strive for perfection which is harder in this unknown territory, or struggle to ask for help in case it looks like you don’t know anything. The success puts pressure on you to perform.

All of these things can put a dampener on what you thought would increase your confidence.


Where confidence is built

It's not to say that confidence isn’t built through achievements – the more skilful and accomplished we become the more we build ourselves. But that is not enough – it needs to be about more than just the achievement. Otherwise, we risk being disappointed, feeling anxious, and criticising ourselves when we are not feeling confident even though we are doing so well.

What I have learnt from many of my clients’ journeys is that feeling confident is as much about the journey as it is the end goal. This is so often one of the key realisations that many of my clients come to. And each time, I see an opening of energy, motivation, and clarity as they start giving themselves space to enjoy every step on the way to the end goal. So remember to enjoy the:

  • Learning curves: Each twist, turn, and stumble teaches us. We actually build confidence through dealing with challenges, mistakes and failures rather than through victories alone.
  • Small victories: Large accomplishments only come around every so often. Small victories can provide a sense of achievement on a much more regular basis and if you can see them and celebrate them then you can use them as the building blocks of confidence.
  • Self-discovery: The journey reveals who we are beneath the titles. We learn our values, passions, and quirks. This self-awareness fuels authentic confidence. We are not the sum of our accomplishments – we are far more than that. If we don’t give ourselves time and space to have fun, kick back and enjoy the journey then we are also holding back on our whole selves.

Achievements are not the essence of your worth, most of your life will be spent on the journey so make that count. The journey isn’t a straight line, it's messy and a zigzagging path – the imperfection is where growth thrives. How you deal with mistakes and failures and how you treat yourself along the way is what really builds confidence. And that’s the true path to your oasis.

My name is Rhiannon and I am a life coach. I help men and women have confidence in their life, profession or business without overthinking or self-doubt. We work together to set clear and motivational goals, reframe fears and doubts and develop mindset tools to succeed.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Richmond, Surrey, TW10
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Written by Rhiannon Brittain, ICF Approved Life and Career Coach, MSc, BSc.
Richmond, Surrey, TW10

Rhiannon Brittain, ICF Approved Life and Career Coach and Founder of Swift Coaching.

I help men and women have confidence in their life, profession or business without overthinking or self-doubt. We work together to set clear and motivational goals, reframe fears and doubts and develop mindset tools to succeed.

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