Unlock your inner confidence by practising courage

We tend to filter new experiences according to our expectations. When we expect to be awkward, shy, or silly, we will create experiences reinforcing our self-fulfilling prophecies about ourselves, others, and life.


Acquiring self-confidence is no easy feat, but is achievable by practising courage. Keep reading to find out how you can hone the skill of courage to boost self-confidence.

How does it start?

The simple answer is that it starts as soon as we are born. When we are children, we feel like minions in a world of giants. Literally, everyone around us is physically bigger. Everyone else seems to be self-sufficient, too. Meanwhile, we are puny and utterly dependent on our caregivers for survival. That seems like a pretty inferior place to start, does it not?

So we attempt to overcome this sense of inferiority during our formative years. We pay very close attention to our experiences and get ideas about how to get from that point of felt minus to perceived plus. We are alert to signals that convey what we can expect from others, our efforts, and life in general. Our earliest experiences tend to determine the expectations that will guide us during the rest of our lives. 

Because children are excellent observers and poor interpreters, mistaken beliefs start to emerge about how to achieve safety and significance in the world. We conclude that only if we behave in a certain way will we matter, and the gap between our self-ideal and our self-concept increases evermore. Pair that with discouraging parenting, and you get an all-too-tried and tested recipe for adult low confidence and self-esteem. 

So what is courage, anyway?

The word "courage" was formed from the idea that the heart is the seat of feelings. The Latin word for heart is cor, from where we have courage. Courage is the will to act towards meeting life challenges in a way that is not self-absorbed. Notice that it is not a trait we are born with or not. We are all born with the capability of acting courageously.

Consider children who are just learning how to walk: they keep trying no matter how many times they fall. Later on, when we start playing an instrument, we keep going knowing that we will get better with time. We carry on despite the initial obstacles, knowing intuitively that it is only by moving forward that we will achieve self-enhancement. That is courage. 

Where discouragement lies, disconnection looms

For people with low confidence, faulty experiences have slowly but surely eroded their ability to see themselves as capable of taking life in their stride. When we are given the impression that what we say does not matter, or what we do is never good enough, we unconsciously begin looking at alternative strategies to protect ourselves from the pain of that experience. Children might start to be shy, get angry, blame others, cheat, or be bullies.

I work with adults who suffer from crippling social anxiety or perfectionism-induced burnout. What these stories have in common is the tendency to distance themselves from others. Here are some of the strategies I encounter in my client work: 

  • chronic shyness (People cannot see how daft I am if I keep quiet)
  • compulsive pleasing (I will do whatever it takes to escape an argument)
  • an overwhelming desire to be in control (If I keep all circumstances under control, I will be safe)
  • attacking others (They will not see how low I am if they are too busy defending themselves)

How to develop courage

Practise critical awareness

Critical awareness is a concept I first heard about from Brene Brown’s work. The nutshell definition is not only to be aware that something exists, but also how that something came to be, what function that something serves, how realistic that something is, and who is the ultimate beneficiary of that something. 

For example, being in a meeting and not knowing how to answer a question someone senior asks can easily lead to a point of brutal low confidence. The embarrassment spiral starts, and thoughts like “How will I ever get a promotion if I cannot answer a simple question?” start popping like popcorn. Soon enough, we end up thinking "I am no good at all" or "I am worthless". How does critical awareness change these perceptions? It might look something like this:

  • I feel embarrassed because I do not know how to answer this question. I think that people will see me as dumb.
  • Because I feel dumb, I start to retreat and think I am unsuitable for this job, let alone for a promotion.
  • I am feeling this way at the present moment. However, my manager’s feedback is always good. People have expressed their satisfaction with my work. I have rarely been involved in a failing project. Plus, no one is realistically giving me signals that my not having an answer is incredibly serious. 
  • No one benefits from my low confidence. On one hand, I become scared of trying to get the promotion I want, and on the other hand, my team is not benefiting from all the creative ideas I have in my mind! 

Act “as if”

A technique used in Adlerian coaching, acting "as if" simply entails trying out the behaviours you think you would have if you did not have the issue. It comes from the idea that we can practice our way into incorporating new modes of being, despite the initial feelings of awkwardness or clumsiness. 

So if you have a very stressful, high-stakes situation conversation coming up and you know you tend to say “yes” to everything, you can ask yourself the following:

  • How would you feel if you did not say yes to everything? How would the world be different?
  • What would you be enabled to do if you did not say yes to everything? How would that precisely manifest?

You might realise that in a world where you did not have this problem, you would be able to state your preference about how things are or get done, and that feels empowering. How about setting a goal that you will clearly state your preference at least one time during the upcoming conversation? Wouldn’t you want to see how that empowerment actually feels? 

Summing up

Practising critical awareness and acting as-if are just two of the myriad ways you can start practising a bit of courage every day. Not only are the results astounding, but they compound with time too. It is in everyone's reach to press on the face of disappointments or setbacks. We all can grasp mastery, competence or fulfilment, in a way that is cooperatively respectful of others.

If you want to learn more about practical ways of increasing your daily dose of courage, get in touch!

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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Surbiton KT6 & London EC2R
Written by Madalina Galie, MAC, life coach with a therapeutic focus.
Surbiton KT6 & London EC2R

Hi, I'm Maddie. I work with women to claim a sense of power over their relationship dynamics. I help them understand what their life movement is so that they handle the next hurdle with courage and grace.

Read more about me -> https://talktomg.com/about-me-life-coach/
My Pinterest -> https://pin.it/2okg2QF

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