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How I (Finally) Escaped the Confidence Trap

How I (Finally) Escaped the Confidence Trap

Brilliance chose me this year.

Let me explain: Each year, it's my practice to pick a word to guide me into the coming year.  My word of the year for 2019 is "Brilliance," with a capital B.

As I contemplated and meditated on my word for 2019, I kept coming back to "confidence." Yet, it just didn't quite fit. Historically, I've struggled to own my confidence, though you'd likely think I appear confident.

[Related: The 4 Confidence Commitments To Help You Achieve Your Goals]

I hold credentials that would lead you to guess I'd be confident. I take confident actions. In truth, I am confident in many domains.

Yet, like a lot of women, and not a few men, I've tended to hang back to wait for openings where I could tap into my designated allotment of confidence (as if there were such a thing!) to share an idea, make an offer, or lead a project or team.

It's just about been my undoing. Then it became an opening.

To develop in areas that are important (coaching business leaders, empowering women and girls, giving back to the community, being a good friend and partner) requires each of us - me and you - to stretch past our current levels of confidence.

This is where it gets dicey for all of us.

Stretching requires us to be vulnerable - to show our hearts, not hide them. Over time, in the practice of pausing and stretching, we do become more confident, more powerful.

Who doesn't want to be more powerful in life? I know I do, though it can be super unsettling to stretch so much. I never wanted to be that overly-zealous braggart who goes on and on and on about their great idea or overachieving team or "Instagram-perfect" life.

[Related: Be the Alpha]

I never wanted to have to sell someone on my worth. I never wanted to imply that others' contributions were "less than." Then one day during my morning sitting practice, pausing and listening, it quite literally dawned on me.

The sun is brilliant!

It glows. It offers warmth and nourishment to the world. And it's not doing anything; it's naturally a great, glowing star. It simply shines.

At a visceral level, I've experienced the tension of self-doubt, stumbling and fussing - a familiar tension that still lives in me at a deep level. That morning, it was a vague, persistent gnawing in my gut, as if something wanted to burst out of me.

I'd mistakenly come to equate confidence with expert knowledge (that I never thought I had enough of), smug self-satisfaction (that I only sometimes felt - can't satisfaction be clean?), and even arrogance (which I loathe).

And still, I longed for more of it.

Startled, I realized again that I'd gotten myself into a tangle with the belief that I had to work harder to become confident. This message is all around us. Do more, be more. Earn more, deserve more.

In reality, all I had to do was step into radiant, full acceptance of myself (warts and wrinkles) and simply shine.

Brilliant, like the sun.

[Related: What Do You Do Brilliantly?]


Chris Johnson is passionately committed to developing generative leaders and collaborative teams who will advance systemic change and create new ways of working together.

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