There doesn’t seem to be much consensus about what confidence actually is. I have developed a definition that I’m content with for now, that seems to be helpful.
The definition that I use is that confidence is a sense of trust and safety.
I won’t go into great detail about what trust and safety is – it actually seems to be the most helpful to talk about what confidence ISN’T to clarify the idea.
Confidence is the opposite of fear and anxiety. Some of the researchers in psychology and neurobiology who study confidence and anxiety seem to agree that they are studying opposite ends of the same continuum. Animals or people who have a lot of anxiety have very little confidence, and those who have a lot of confidence seem to suffer very little anxiety.
It seems to be helpful to point out a few other things that confidence ISN’T, because some people disagree. You’re free to disagree with me, but I want you to at least be on the same page about what I’m talking about when I talk about confidence here!
So, if confidence is the lack of anxiety and fear, confidence is definitely different from courage. Courage is what you need when you want to make good decisions and take effective action in the face of fear. Courage can certainly help you build confidence, but it’s not the same thing.
Confidence is also not certainty – it’s not always knowing how things will turn out, and it doesn’t make life predictable. I’m confident in my ability to drive around my city, but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t rear-end me (or that I could make a mistake and rear-end someone else!)
Now we can get talking about confidence and know we mean the same thing!