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The Confidence Code

We all think we know confidence when we see it. It’s what the person who speaks first and longest at the office meeting has. It’s what your friend who always seems so sure of their opinions has. It’s there in the who-cares-that-my-last-10-ideas-were-shot-down,-I’ll-just-propose-another attitude of that slightly irritating new hire.

When we started this project we assumed this was confidence. It was an attitude, a mindset, if you like, of bravura. And there was something about it that felt pretty foreign to us. It seemed like you had to be a jerk to be confident – or at least confident in that way.

But the more we talked to the psychologists and neurologists who make the study of confidence their life’s work, the more we came to the realization that we were wrong. Our early assessment of what this elusive quality is, was off target.

Confidence isn’t about throwing your weight around or talking over people or always being the first to jump in. Confidence isn’t an attitude at all. You know that old expression about something being all in your head? Well, when it comes to confidence the opposite is true. Confidence is about the actions you take not the postures you strike.

Having confidence is taking action. We all want to do or try certain things but fear they are just beyond our reach and yet we worry about failing. Those nerves are normal – everyone has them. The difference between a confident person and an unconfident person is simply that the confident person acts on their ambitions and desires and who does let that fear of failure stop them.

And the notion of confidence as action is a virtuous circle. The more we act, the more our confidence grows. We try something, and the next time round we feel a little bit easier about trying it again. Even if we fail we have learned something valuable, namely that taking the risk of trying didn’t kill us. That’s useful, confidence building knowledge.

We spent a long time trying to define confidence because we felt that it would be easier to grow it if we really knew what is was. In the end we came to this conclusion: confidence is life’s enabler – it is the quality that turns thoughts into action.

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  • Katty Kay Katty (pronounced CAT-TEE) Kay is the lead anchor of BBC World News America. Prior to taking over as lead anchor, Kay served as the Washington Correspondent for BBC since 2002. Kay’s career with the BBC began in Zimbabwe in 1990 where she started filing radio reports for BBC World Service radio. From there she also ... more

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