What Is Confidence & Why You Need To Understand It

What is confidence and why you need to understand it.

She strode into the room and took her seat at the top of the table.  She grabbed her laptop and notebook out of her designer bag and placed them in front of her.  Sitting up straight, and with a big smile, she looked around the room and said 'good morning'.  Confidence oozed from every pore.  I took in everything from the high heels to her brightly coloured nails.  My first introduction to my new boss and I wanted to be just like her.

If you’re looking to make positive changes in your life, so you feel happier about who you are and what you do, then you’re going to need confidence to help you through.

Change is scary because it’s filled with self-doubt and worry.  But with a good old dose of confidence in your power-pocket, you’ll be able to kiss goodbye to self-doubt and stop worrying about what other people think.

Before you know it, you'll be making your own decisions about what you want to do in your life.

What Is Confidence?  A Definition

Having confidence means different things to different people.  I'm sure you have your view of what it is, and what it looks like, which is different to mine.

But, let's go with the definition by Psychology Today, which defines it as follows:

'Confidence is a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly. Being confident requires a realistic sense of one's capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge'.

    If we break it down, there are six elements

  1. Belief in yourself
  2. Ability to face life's challenges
  3. Belief in success
  4. Willingness to take action
  5. Realistic understanding of abilities
  6. Secure in the knowledge of who you are

The definition is all encompassing as it considers what we think about ourselves, but also how we behave or take action.  Importantly confidence is all about having a realistic view of your own abilities.

But don't worry.  If you think that you don't have any special abilities then have a look at your strengths.  You'll find some helpful information on how to discover what they are by asking close friends.  For more information have a look at this article

What this means is that confidence is different for each of us.  There is no cookie-cutter approach when it comes to confidence, but there are common traits.  For more information have a look at my article on the 10 Characteristics of Self-Confident Women

Confidence tends to be judged as an external show of behaviour but, true authentic confidence starts from within.  How we feel about ourselves and how we are able to deal with life's challenges.  Because, let's face it.  Life has a habit of throwing us curveballs from time to time.  Our confidence shines through when we know in ourselves that regardless of whatever happens, we will cope.

But first, let's have a look at an interesting debate.  Is confidence something you are born with?

What is confidence? Something you're born with?

Is confidence something you're born with?

Are You Born With It?

There's a lot of evidence to support that confidence is something we're born with.

In their fascinating book 'The Confidence Code: The Science And Art Of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know' Katty Kay and Claire Shipman explored this idea. They interviewed, amongst others, Robert Plomin, a renowned behavioural geneticist at Kings College in London. He discovered through his experiments with twins that there was a strong link between genes and confidence.

Does this mean that those of us not born with confidence should give up now?


There is hope for us all.

Ongoing research suggests that 40% of our confidence is something we are born with.

But, we're also heavily influenced by our environment. Lynn Matti, in her book '5 Weeks To Self-Confidence' states how confidence lives in the brain. As a result, we can train our minds to be confident. There's a lot of talk about neurons and plasticity, which I will leave for another day.  

Scientists say we can build up to 50% of our own confidence.  If you're wondering about the other 10% this is down to food, shelter and safety. 

So although we are born with a certain level of confidence, we can also build our confidence, which is great news.

Think about it this way.  Are you the same person you were when you were 6? I know I'm not. In the same way, I'm not the same person I was in my 30's either. Life's experiences, whether good or bad, have shaped me as I'm sure they have you too.

Another reason I believe life experiences have an impact on our confidence is because I have three sisters. We grew up in the same house with the same parents, but we have different levels of confidence.

I don't think the same, behave the same or believe the same things they do on a large number of issues. All of us are individuals, and the better for it.

Confidence Changes Dependent On Circumstances

In considering what is confidence, another interesting factor is that our levels of confidence can fluctuate.  One day we feel confident and the next day be a mound of quivering jelly.  Our confidence can also change depending upon the circumstances or situation.

Here's an example.

A friend of mine is super confident when we're out. She'll speak to anyone. Happy to chat away to total strangers. Yet, when at work, she'll not speak up in meetings with work colleagues. Meetings are her worst nightmare. She worries that she will be asked something, go bright red and not be able to give a coherent answer.

So looking at what confidence is, can be confusing. There are many factors involved, and it can depend on the situation.

I think it's hard to label someone as confident or not. We're all on a spectrum of confidence. Some things we're comfortable doing and other things fill us with fear. Those fears and doubts are what holds us back from living the life we want to live.

What is confidence and why is it important

Why Understanding Confidence Is Important

We all have hang-ups.  Things that have happened in our pasts that have caused us to doubt our confidence in ourselves.  Or it can be a general fear of trying something new that looks scary.

But it's essential to understand what confidence is because there is a direct link between being confident and:

  • Success
  • Happiness
  • Fulfilment in life

Whether that success is in work, at home, or in your relationships.  

Confidence itself is an attractive quality because it inspires trust and capability.  In today's working environment skills such as innovative thinking, creative problem-solving and the ability to get on with people are highly sought after.  Confidence definitely gives you an advantage in being able to display these skills.

If you're confident you are:

  • Free from self-doubt
  • More resilient
  • Less stressed (and anxious!)
  • Accepting of yourself and therefore more authentic
  • Unworried by what other people think of you
  • Assertive
  • Able to ask for what you want
  • More productive
  • Able to say no and set appropriate boundaries
  • Not hung up on past mistakes or failures.

Importantly, confidence gives you the ability to live the life you want, on your terms.


Confidence in who you are and what you do will ensure greater success whether that's at home or work.

When looking to make changes in your life, confidence can help make the process easier.

Take a moment and think about how you would feel if you:

  • Believed in yourself
  • Had the strength to face life's challenges without getting stressed
  • Showed courage to take positive action
  • Understood your abilities and know how your strengths can build a better future for yourself
  • Felt content about who you are - warts and all.

You don't have to be born with confidence, as we discovered you can develop 50% of your confidence.  But this takes time and effort.  

In addition, building confidence is not a quick fix.  It's something that needs practice and going beyond where you feel comfortable.

The first step is to raise your awareness and discover more about yourself.  Are you brave enough to get to know yourself better?

If you are, take a look at the Confidence In Heels 6 step process where I explain my philosophy about confidence and how you can start to live a confident life.

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Coming soon.  An extra special offer