4 Ways Confident People Think Differently

A lot of people lack confidence because of misconceptions in the way they think about confidence—what it is and how it works.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through four ways confident people think differently and how you can use their example to become more confident yourself.

1. Confident people are okay with feeling afraid

Probably the biggest misconception people have about confidence is that being confident means you don’t feel afraid. But nothing could be further from the truth…

First of all, confidence isn’t a feeling—it’s a belief. Specifically, it’s the belief that you can do something difficult despite feeling afraid.

For example:

  • Imagine you’re in a meeting at work and you have an idea you want to share.
  • As you formulate what you want to say, some self-doubt and anxiety creeps in as you worry that people might think it’s dumb or irrelevant.
  • But you think back on the times when you’ve shared good ideas in the past and remind yourself that, even if people think it’s a dumb idea, you want to be the kind of person who speaks their mind and takes creative risks.
  • So you speak up and share the idea because, despite feeling afraid, you are also confident that it’s the right thing for you to do.

In other words…

Confident people are defined by their tolerance of fear, not its absence.

If you want to be more confident, you need to change your relationship to fear and anxiety. Instead of thinking of it as a threat or enemy that needs to be eliminated or avoided, try reframing it and normalizing it as something that’s uncomfortable but not bad or dangerous.

The more you practice tolerating fear and anxiety, the easier it will be to build confidence in your ability to handle it well.

Learn More: How to Validate Your Emotions →

2. Confident people ask for advice when they need it, not because they want it

One of the biggest confidence-killing behaviors is reassurance-seeking, which is the habit of immediately asking other people for comfort or advice as a way to alleviate anxiety.

For example:

  • After an argument with your mother that leaves you feeling anxious about your future relationship with her, you immediately call up your best friend and ask them to “process” with you.
  • Or, after you get some pretty negative feedback from your manager at work, you immediately head to your coworkers office to ask their advice.

Now, the problem with reassurance-seeking isn’t asking for help or support. In general, asking for help is a good thing!

The problem is that it’s done as a coping mechanism for fear and uncertainty…

When you immediately avoid your anxiety by asking for help from others, you teach your brain that anxiety is dangerous and something you can’t handle.

Over time, this seriously erodes your confidence in your ability to handle difficult situations and emotions like fear.

Confident people, on the other hand, don’t use others to do emotional work for them. They’re willing to sit with their own difficult feelings and try to understand and work through them, only reaching out to others if they really do need help—either emotionally or with the actual problem at hand.

Learn More: How to Stop Reassurance Seeking →

3. Confident people control their focus, not their feelings

As we discussed, when you’re in a difficult or challenging situation, it’s completely normal to feel afraid and anxious. In fact, one of the secrets of truly confident people is that, because they’re okay with feeling anxious, they don’t get anxious about their anxiety, which is a massive advantage.

One of the reasons confident people are so good at accepting their initial anxiety but not getting sucked into spirals of worry, panic, or self-doubt is because they do the opposite of what most people do with their fears…

Most people try to control their fears; Confident people control their attention.

Confident people know that you can’t directly control any of your emotions, including fear and anxiety. In fact, the harder you try to control your emotions, the stronger they get. Which makes sense if you think about it…

If you focus all of your attention on your fear, you’ll be consumed with negativity. But if you stay focused on what you want—your goals and values—you’ll be empowered.

Confident people are experts at briefly acknowledging and validating their fears but then quickly shifting their attention to more productive targets.

Learn More: Mindfulness Training for Attentional Control →

4. Confident people are compassionate, not critical, with mistakes

Of course we all make mistakes.

And one of the biggest factors that separates confident people from insecure ones is how they respond to mistakes.

Confident people use their mistakes for growth, not punishment.

Most people—through years of unhealthy training and modeling—have a tendency to punish themselves after mistakes with boat loads of self-criticism and other negative self-talk. The idea being that if they punish themselves hard enough, they’ll “learn from the mistake” and not do it again.

Trouble is this doesn’t work…

Punishment is a terrible teacher.

Confident people avoid this spiral of failure→self-criticism→lower confidence because they have a habit of self-compassion.

Of course, they get upset initially after mistakes just like anyone. But the key is that they don’t keep beating themselves up—instead, they treat themselves like they would a good friend who’s made a mistake: with empathy and kindness.

Learn More: The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Compassion →

All You Need to Know

One of the reasons confident people are so confident is because they think differently about what confidence actually is and how it works:

  1. Confident people are okay with feeling afraid
  2. Confident people ask for advice when they need it, not because they want it
  3. Confident people control their focus, not their feelings
  4. Confident people are compassionate, not critical, with mistakes

Learn More