Updated: Sep 3, 2022
Research indicates that lack of confidence is actually healthy.
Ask yourself: Am I confident?
Got an answer?
I anticipate a few different responses:
“Hell yeah, baby! I’ve got it going on!”
“Um, I guess. It kinda depends on the situation.”
“I wish I was more confident. I struggle with having pretty low self-esteem.”
Obviously the answers can vary tremendously, but I’d say that like most aspects of behavior, your answer for your level of confidence will operate on a continuum.
You’re likely thinking that you should be able to answer the question with something close to #1, yet avoiding what would be construed as arrogance and pretentiousness.
Research indicates that lack of confidence is actually healthy. It’s a driver for assessing your weaknesses and learning more in order to better yourself. Don’t confuse this please with a lack of self-efficacy and learned-helplessness. No, you weren’t born with your intelligence being genetically determined. Genes are important, yes. They provide the foundation for what makes us, well, us. However, it’s the environment and how we think and what we do and the activities that we engage in that unlock our genes and govern their expression.
Experience changes our brains in substantial ways. Mindful awareness exercises produce noticeable increases, for example, in brain matter density in the areas responsible for attention and emotion regulation. Why? Because with effort put toward this behavior and our attention being directed in this intentional manner, we increase blood flow to those areas. More blood flow means more nutrients and capillaries growing in those regions.
But back to confidence– if your confidence tank was always topped off how often would you be motivated to try something new, read a book, ask questions, meet people, engage in a challenging conversation, or take lessons to strengthen your skill in a particular area?
In his book, Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains how when you look past confidence, what you find is an underlying desire to be competent. We often confuse the two concepts.
In essence, when you say, “I lack confidence”, what you’re really expressing is doubt about your competence level in a certain area.
Competence is actually a key factor in our level of motivation and the determination we implement toward a goal. One of our basic psychological needs, it represents our felt sense of mastery and skill.
If we hear ourselves saying, “I doubt I can do this” or “I’m not confident I can succeed with this” perhaps this isn’t negative at all, as many people would think it is. I’ve heard plenty of people comment in reply to statements like this, “Have faith!” or “Have confidence! It’ll happen!”
Is it important to be positive? Sure. There’s plenty of research that shows a positive attitude changes the biochemistry in our bodies, results in improved health and immunity, and even changes the outlooks of those around us. But let’s not be unrealistically optimistic.
“I doubt I can do this” gives us impetus to ask the next question, “What do I need to consider as I move forward?” and “Are there obstacles that I might encounter along the way, and how might I prepare for them?” Anticipating in this manner creates an environment that leads us in the direction of greater competence, and confidence will follow!