The sharply dressed man opens the double doors with a flourish. He walks into the upscale bar in a slow motion powerful-but-relaxed stride. An easy smile on his face, he looks around the room, clearly feeling at home. He’s brimming with self-confidence. He starts conversations with gorgeous women who look at him with wet eyes and parted lips. A man on top of his game.
Remember Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) from the movie Crazy Stupid Love? The scene above happens after he finally gets laid by a hot woman, after months of rejection. Up to this point in the movie, the same beautiful women found him unattractive and boring as he bumbled his way through toe-curling dialogues and rehearsed pickup lines.
In about twenty minutes of movie time, he underwent a transformation many men fantasize about: From an insecure guy no one would notice in a crowd to uber-confident hot shot who owns the room.
Right now, Amazon.com has 31,393 books on “Confidence”. With promising titles like, Confidence: How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Achieve Your Goals, The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt, or, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.
Obviously, you’re not the first guy to read about confidence, and I’m not the first one to write about it.
Why? Because everyone wants more of it. And the ones who’ve found the “secret” sauce, want to pass it on.
I’m going to share some of my thoughts and experiences on confidence here and as you’ll see, it’s not all that complicated. But just because it’s not complicated, doesn’t mean it’s obvious, either.
So let’s first break it down a bit, and then put it all together in a way that makes confidence easier for you to understand and have more of.
When it comes to confidence, there are a lot of important questions:
- How do you know if you’re confident or not?
- Are some men just born confident?
- Is all confidence the same or are there different kinds of confidence?
And perhaps the biggest question …
- How do you get more confident?
Starting from the top …
How do you know if you have it or not?
Simple. If you’re even asking a question like this, you’re not very confident. When you stop having that question in your mind, and you stop thinking about how to get more confidence, you’re … confident!
Almost too simple, right, but we only want what we don’t have. When you have it, you’re not worrying about getting more.
One of the main characteristics of a confident man is a man who doesn’t have questions like that running in his head.
An example from my world: From the work my wife and I do with men and women around relationships, we have coined the phrase, “Moving with a question mark”, which is how un-confident men move with women.
We came up with that term from seeing hundreds and hundreds of men approach their women in a similar way.
In a common example, a man tries to initiate sex with his partner.
“Uhm, honey, you know, when the kids are asleep, I mean, if it’s okay with you and all, it’d be really cool if we could, what do you say we go to bed early, and … it’s totally fine if you don’t want to, but … “
As he’s speaking, he looks up, down, to the sides, anywhere but sustained eye contact, and his body is either wiggling, fidgeting, or stock still.
That’s how an unconfident man does it. How a confident man does it could be like this (there are a million ways, of course, but just an example): “You turn me on so much! I want to have sex with you.” While looking directly in her eyes, his body close to hers, his hands touching her.
We have tested this stuff with hundreds of men-women couples, some being real-life couples, some being singles practicing with strangers. The results are always the same.
First, it’s very easy for the man himself to feel the difference between confidence and “question mark”. Now that we put their attention on the difference, most men can’t stand the feeling of “question mark” interactions.
Secondly, it never fails that the woman feels a lot more safe and attracted to the confident one. So not only does he feel the difference, his partner, whether long-term or brand new, immediately has a body-felt reaction to his confidence or lack thereof. When we ask women to describe the ‘question mark’ man, they use words like, “No way”, “Not interested”, or “Feels like I have to take care of him.”
But about the confident man, it’s words like, “Sexy”, “Open”, “Interested”, and “Safe”. Yep, a very interesting and to some men counterintuitive point, is that a man’s confidence consistently produces a sense of safety in his partner. I say counterintuitive, because to a lot of guys, approaching a woman with this level of directness would produce anxiety instead of safety. But experience says otherwise.
Here’s the next big question:
Are some men just born confident?
Are you just born with it? Is it from your parents, your environment, your peers, what?
For all practical purposes, some guys just come out feeling confident. They’re confident as kids, confident as teens, and turn out to be confident adults. If you ask these guys about it, they probably haven’t even thought too much about it because to them, it’s like water to fish.
In my mind, it’s not even that important whether some guys are just born confident. If they are, wonderful for them. For the rest of us, it’s much more interesting to ask a question like, “How do I feel more confident?” We’ll get to that part shortly.
It’s the boys and men who don’t just come out confident that are forced to pay attention to confidence, to what it looks like, to what confident people do that they don’t, and who develop interesting perspectives and strategies about confidence.
If you weren’t one of the confident guys, you already know. Because then you were looking at the confident guys, probably with a mixture of admiration, hatred, respect, and secret plans for taking them down. In any case, you were highly aware of everything you were not.
But when it comes to confidence, and every other thing we desire, most people commit an unknown mistake that causes a lot of anguish, and effectively kills their self-confidence:
We compare our own insides to other people’s outsides.
Say I was a teenage boy hanging out in the high school cafeteria. I’m looking at this guy who’s loudly talking it up with a group of friends, causing big laughs.
My insides in that moment feel like anxiety, nervousness, and insecurity, accompanied by thoughts like, “I wish I could do that (but I can’t)”, or, “How does he do that, he’s so confident (and I’m not)”.
His outsides, i.e. what I can see over there, is someone talking loudly with several people around him.
What I don’t see is his insides, which might feel much like mine, accompanied by thoughts much like mine. This boy might not feel anymore confident than me, but it sure looks like he’s acting a whole lot more confidently.
Okay, so let’s add a few more helpful distinctions about confidence.
Is all self-confidence the same or are there different kinds?
No, it’s not all the same, and it’s really useful to know the difference.
In the Crazy Stupid Love movie, confidence all about relationships with women. Granted, the movie simplifies it a lot, but it’s also true that relationships with women is one aspect of life where a lot of men experience a serious, sometimes even debilitating, lack of confidence. Having coached men for nearly ten years on intimacy, love, sex, communication, and dating, I can vouch for just how big of an issue this is for men.
Then there’s confidence abut making money, or providing for a family, leading other people or teams of people. Then there’s confidence as it pertains to social situations and being in groups. There’s confidence in physical abilities.
But whether it’s confidence about women, work, money, or physical ability, you can think of these more like different “applications” of confidence.
Looking a bit deeper, there are two kinds of confidence.
- External confidence.
- Internal confidence.
External confidence is a confidence derived from competence, whereas internal confidence is a confidence derived from a feeling or a choice.
External Confidence (Confidence by Competence)
I was coaching a man recently who said, “When I don’t know what to do with my girlfriend, I feel so insecure, inadequate. And I know this from my work, too. In the beginning, I’m just so anxious, but when I figure out how to do a certain task, I can relax”.
You relate to that? That you feel insecure until “you know what to do”? That’s confidence by competence. By learning a certain skill, anything from how to install an electrical panel, how to talk to a woman you’ve never met before, or how to get a new job, you gain confidence.
This is how you might find a man being totally confident in front of his computer at work, but horribly unconfident if he’s thrown into a new group of people, or in bed with his wife. He’s learned the skills required to master certain computer tasks, but not the skills required to socialize with new people or make love with his woman.
So the external kind of confidence we gain through competence is highly domain specific.
However, competence in any domain is a great way to help to develop the second kind of confidence.
Internal Confidence (Confidence by Feeling or Choice)
You can actually have huge amounts of the second kind of confidence, whether you have any competence or not.
So much so that, “a study at the University of California-Berkeley (mentioned here) found that people who are overconfident in incorrect information are actually more effective in building peers’ trust and respect than people showing less confidence in the correct information.”
In other words, even if you don’t know what you’re talking about, but you feel confident as you talk, you’re still more effective than the unconfident man who knows what he’s talking about.
You don’t need a scientific study to know this, right? You know those guys who seem to have an educated opinion about everything, who can talk like they practically know everything, even if they have no actual knowledge about it? Yeah, those guys. That’s confidence from the inside-out without actual competence.
If it were a choice between Internal vs External Confidence, there’s a case to be made for picking Internal.
That same Berkeley study states, “… overconfident individuals were perceived by others as more competent and, in turn, afforded higher status”.
And from same article quoted above, “Research clearly demonstrates the role of confidence in achieving goals and building relationships. The people who truly believe in their ability to succeed are the ones who end up being most successful at doing just that.”
We perceive internally confident people as more competent AND they end up actually being the most successful.
What’s the secret sauce? Can regular guys be confident like that?
Yes. Confidence can absolutely be learned, even you don’t feel you’re a “natural”.
Before I give you some practical steps, here’s the most important piece of information in this entire article:
Internal Confidence, or what you might think of as true confidence from the inside-out, rests upon one central belief to hold:
I can handle anything that shows up in my life.
That’s it. Imagine this … If you really believed you could handle anything that showed up in your life, how would that make you feel?
If you really believed you could handle anything that showed up in your life, what would that do your anxiety level?
That’s what makes the difference between confident guys and anxious guys.
That’s what makes the difference in YOU being one of those confident guys or not.
Here are some more practical steps you can take:
1. Adopt this new belief, “I can handle anything that shows up in my life.”
2. Get good at any skill. Basically, learn and practice anything, then “export” the confidence you feel to other areas of your life.
3. Notice where in your life you move with a ‘question mark’ hanging over your head. Then try the same thing with more resolve.
4. Keep taking new risks. Try new stuff. Every time you do, you show yourself you’ll be fine no matter what, and even it if flops, you learn something. Either way, you win.
At the end of the day, gaining confidence is about you feeling less anxiety and better about yourself. It’s a fortunate side-effect that your growing confidence makes your partner feels more safe and open, and increases your chances of succeeding in your endeavors.
If you don’t already feel super confident, don’t despair, just keep asking yourself, “If I knew I could handle anything that showed up my life, what would I do right now ….?”
Do you want more confidence now? The ManTalks online men’s program will help you build confidence, navigate transition, fix your relationships, all with a powerful group of men from around the world.
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Christian Pedersen is a relationship specialist, Certified Life Coach, and founder of Power and Heart Coaching for men. He’s author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, When You Love Your Woman.
Together with his wife, Sonika, he’s the co-founder of LoveWorks. Christian and Sonika produce and lead mind-altering live trainings, like Give Yourself to Love and The Masculine-Feminine Energy Dance. They offer potent inspiration and better relationship strategies to men and women, singles and couples, on love, relationship, communication, intimacy, sex, dating, and personal transformation.
Christian particularly enjoys coaching men on how to embody both the masculine power and heart with their women and how to get everything they ever dreamed of with her. Find Christian’s men’s coaching at www.powerandheartcoaching.com, and his and Sonika’s relationship work at www.loveworksforyou.com.