How to Gain Confidence and Courage


For more than two years I wrote a free monthly newsletter called Individual Virtue. Recently I’ve received some interest in those articles, so I thought I’d republish one of them (with light editing). 

Confidence and Courage

All of us enjoy feeling confident, or at least we dislike feeling confused and weak. We also like feeling that we’ve been brave and not cowardly. But how do we get these things? If you’re at all like me, how to get them was never really explained to you. It all seemed like magic. Either you have the secret ingredients or you don’t.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s start with the basics:

Confidence is an opinion that you hold about yourself. It would have to be, wouldn’t it? You either believe that you are able to do a thing, or you don’t.

Courage is your ability to make decisions and hold to them in the face of fear. Courage is about what you do, not what you feel. Someone who feels no fear at all in the face of danger isn’t brave; they’re delusional.

Building Courage

Confidence and courage are not magic. They are built, just like most other aspects of human character. Do you want confidence? Do you want courage? You can have them! But you’ll have to develop them the old-fashioned way: by working on them.

By the way, this is the only way you’ll ever get them. The ‘fast and easy’ methods of building character traits don’t work; they are empty promises from people who have something to sell. These groups will offer you something that looks and feels like confidence or courage, but only if you are inside of their group. Don’t fall for it. Real confidence and courage come from inside, not from outside.

Now, let’s start with specifics on getting confidence and courage. We’ll start on courage with a quote from John Wayne:

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.

And this is true. Courage is your ability to act in the face of legitimate fears. You have to build this ability like you build your muscles. That means you start at a low level of courage and build up to a high level.

So, if courage is built, then something else is true: To act cowardly does not make you a permanent coward.

Imagine a weightlifter who can lift hundreds of pounds. But when he started, he failed many times to lift a fraction of the amount he lifts now. He only became a champion after he decided not to quit – even when he failed repetitively and things were very hard.

It’s the same with courage. If you face a scary situation – and act as a coward – that’s not the end of it for you. You can come back next time and do better… and come back the time after that and do better still. After a long time, people will watch you and wonder how you can have so much courage in the face of adversity.

This has been done by millions of others and you can do it too, but it requires consistent effort.

Building Confidence

As we said earlier, confidence is an opinion you hold about yourself. If you believe you can do something, you are said to be confident. If you don’t believe you can do it, you are not confident.

Judging yourself is where confidence gets complicated. For example, many of us have vaguely decided not to acknowledge our abilities because we fear that people would dislike us for having them. Turning your back on your own ability might have made sense at one time in your life (such as when we were children), but we must always acknowledge our abilities to ourselves, even if we hide them from the world.

The opposite problem, thinking that you can do more than you actually can, is usually only temporary; once you try, you learn the truth.

The second part of confidence is having ability. This part is simple, but not easy. All types of ability are built by practice, from physical skills to making moral judgments. If you want ability, act. And as you continue to act, analyze your actions and improve them.

Find your gaps and decide which abilities will be more or less important to you in the future. Keep acting and keep improving. Soon enough, you will begin to be a confident person. In time, you’ll be highly confident.

Here’s a tip: Don’t think that you should be able to do everything. You can’t. No one can. There are simply too many things that are done in the world, and no one has the time and energy to learn them all.

Carefully choose the abilities you will develop, and don’t hesitate to say, “No, I’ve never learned how to do that.”

And remember this:

Other people’s opinions of you don’t very much matter. It’s only when you accept their opinions that you suffer seriously. 

Paul Rosenberg