What is Truth?

The confidence myth – the difference between self-talk and achievements


Confidence is one of those words which has just as many meaning as many people use it. The most annoying misconception about confidence came from my coaches and trainers during my martial art journey. Most trainer were quite good at training the body, some had a good idea how it works as well, but was quite baffled about how it connects with the brain.

Without any further ado, I’d like to share, in the simplest way possible, my definition of confidence. That is: confidence is remembering, we could do in the past, so that we can do it again.

Picture this. When you stand at one side of a stream, telling yourself that you can easily make the jump, but your legs don’t move. Why do your legs still not move? It’s not lack of confidence, it’s the lifesaving inner response from the brain for the missing ‘proof of doing’. Your legs will move when the brain lets them. And the brain lets them, when it finds a relevant memory of a similar stream, in similar conditions under similar circumstances being jumped across safely, ideally several times before. When it finds that relevant memory, the brain has proof that you can do it, so the brain lets the legs move. That is confidence.

Confidence is remembering past achievements.

Funnily, I first grasped this concept in a dream. A former math teacher from my elementary school, a gypsy lady, walked into her residential building with her usual strut. I grew up in a place with serious issues when it came to minority groups, including gypsies. Yet she walked with confidence regardless, as she’s always been doing.

The hint

In that dream, I shouted after her, ‘Ms Clara, you’re so elegant!’ She answered me back: ‘Yes, because I always got what I wanted’. I was thinking about the past tense of this sentence for days. Did she mean she was elegant and confident because in her past she achieved something that she wanted? Would that mean if I achieve my goals, I will gain confidence? Why, then, did I grow up being told that achieving goals required confidence?

I had to discuss it with my Jungian psychotherapy practitioner friend. They confirmed to me that what Ms Clara had told me was in fact the definition of confidence. I finally understood: confidence is a result of past achievements, and not something created in the moment with self-talk. Huge difference.

Since then, I have been a big advocate for clarifying terms. The damage some coaches cause with misusing the word ‘confidence’ is unbelievable. They practically setting up a wall in front of the students, by telling them they won’t be successful until they gain confidence. But how they gain confidence without the achievement, the coach would need to guide them to?  

What is Truth?