Confidence: What it is, What it isn't.

Recently, I was asked to share some of my teaching with a group of educators in Africa.

Circumstantially, there was a whole lot to fuel my insecurity. I’m me—a guy from another world, coming in to deliver training. But the truth was, they asked me to come. I knew that I had to be me, and bring me, however that would land. I knew I had a gift to bring, so I planned to bring it with my whole heart.

The conference director approached me on the first day with positive feedback—and some constructive criticism about tightening up parts of my presentation. I had what I needed to improve on day two. I felt grateful. I admired these people already, but the director’s confidence showed me something special about this group:

They had an agent of true confidence to inspire their work culture.

Most of us would like to be more confident. When you imagine a more confident version of yourself, what does that person look like?

  • How do you enter a room?

  • How do you receive feedback?

  • Do you give feedback?

To identify genuine confidence, it helps to identify what it isn’t. Confidence tends to be flanked by two, anti-confidence extremes: Anxiety and Arrogance.

Confidence Isn’t…Anxious.

  • Pretending you’re something you’re not—posturing.

  • Getting feedback. Saying ‘Okay, thanks.’ Then crumbling inside.

  • Refraining from giving feedback to avoid awkward or difficult conversations.

Confidence Isn’t...Arrogant.

  • False security, hubris, acting.

  • The elimination of your sensitivity and vulnerability.

  • Hearing critical feedback and saying to ourselves, ‘They just don’t get it.’ Or giving negative feedback because something wasn’t done your way.

Genuine Confidence. Here it is...

  • Self-Awareness: Staying sensitive enough to know your context, your limited perspective. Speaking from that place.

  • Humility: Knowing what you have to bring—abilities and weaknesses, together.  

  • Practicality: Receiving feedback for exactly what it is. Extracting what’s useful to you for your improvement, being gracious, and moving on.

  • Courage: Having the guts to give feedback, too. Caring enough about your team and your work to speak up—with both encouragement and constructive criticism. (It helps to lead with encouragement.)

‘Confident’ is an incredible (and possible) way to live. Here’s how we build it.

Our ability to be confident is built entirely on our identity. When our identity is secure, we feel confident. If you want to build confidence, practice reminding yourself of these three identity strongholds:

  1. Who you are. (You’re unique; you have core values. What are they?)

  2. Your value. (You’re alive; your work is important.)

  3. The fact that you’re not perfect. (You’re human; you’re doing your best.)

Maybe the feedback you’re receiving isn’t packaged well. Maybe some feedback is just plain wrong. Remember: Your identity isn’t on trial.

If you can believe that, then you can ‘bring’ the real you. And your confidence will follow.


I encourage you in confidence: Be generous with what you have to offer. Stay open to receive what will make you better. Be willing to speak, to help your team reach its full potential. ‘Bring you.’ Your team, your patients, and your world will be better for it.

Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at