The power of courage over confidence

The power of courage over confidence

Many of us want to become more confident. In fact, confidence is one of the main personal development areas that OneUpOneDown mentees are looking to get support in from mentors. Confidence is a state of being that is heavily influenced by many factors – the environment, experiences, health & wellbeing, friends, family, peers, state of mind. For a person striving for more of it, it can be inconsistent, at least in our experience, sort of like happiness, which is also experienced at different magnitudes at different times. 

This is why we were so taken by the idea of ‘courage over confidence’. Whereas confidence is a way of being for a person, a description of who they are and how they behave on an ongoing basis, courage is something that a person possesses at a period of time, for a moment, and it pushes her to take action, despite how she might feel. 

As Dani Shapiro put it so well in her conversation with Debbie Millman, ”when you are acting from a place of courage you are saying that no matter how you feel about yourself or your opportunities or the outcome, you are going to take a risk and take a step toward what you want. You are willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable – in showing your art, starting a business that might succeed or fail, having an opinion on something, being in a relationship. You are not waiting for the confidence to mysteriously arrive.” – Design Matters Podcast, Dani Shapiro and Debbie Millman.

It’s not that I think confidence is an attribute that should be discarded as a personal development goal. Like happiness, it is a very worthwhile pursuit. But becoming more confident is certainly not a quick job. Sure, a person can fake being confident or fake being happy for a period, but over time this does more damage than it does good. Pretending to be something that you’re not is a destructive and exhausting exercise.  

A sound state of confidence comes from a history of experiences that build a foundation of self-belief in a person. These experiences are ones where a person sets their mind to something and achieves it, despite how she was feeling. Over time, this changes a person’s beliefs about what they are capable of and the byproduct is confidence. What is required to take those steps to create those new experiences? Courage. To be more courageous is to become more confident. 

How do I become more courageous?

Your ability to take action despite fear can be improved with practice – the more you do it, the better you become at it. 

Let’s try an exercise. First, reflect on a situation where you demonstrated courage and finish the following sentence:

I was afraid to..………. because…… But I did it anyway because….

For example, 

I was afraid to quit my job and start a business because I’d never done it before. But I did it anyway because I put the time, money and effort into getting myself into a position where I knew I could make something work, even if it wasn’t the idea I started with.

I was afraid to take the job position that I was offered because I didn’t feel like I had enough experience. But I did it anyway because I knew that I had a supportive team around me and the ability to reach out to people who would help me to navigate and grow into the position.

I was afraid to speak up about something that I didn’t think was right, because I thought I would get some negative backlash and wasn’t sure how it would affect the other things I’m working on. But I did it anyway because after speaking to a number of people about the issue, I realized that it wasn’t just me that was being impacted and something needed to be done. 

What was it that pushed you to take action despite your fear? Maybe it was the support of the right people or the passion you had for the problem at hand, or getting the necessary information to help overcome your fear. Maybe you took time to think about the situation at hand, or maybe you didn’t give yourself time to think and just took action? There is no right or wrong answer, just an opportunity to reflect and maybe realise something about yourself.

As a next step, finish the following sentence:

I am afraid to……because……..But I am going to do it anyway because….


Fear is a normal part of being human and taking risks. It is how a person responds to fear on an ongoing basis that makes the difference. Courage is the ability to take action despite fear. Confidence is built through the experience of taking action and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Be courageous and you will get the power to build your confidence as well.


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