Starting in the 1960s, the self-esteem movement in the USA and elsewhere began in earnest. The idea behind this educational movement is pretty straightforward. If you foster self-esteem in students, self- confidence will naturally follow. When people are more confident, they tend to excel better in life. This has been the accepted gospel in education policy for going on fifty years now.
The thinking is pretty straightforward. It’s simply elegant, actually, since self-confidence involves one’s attitude about one’s ability to get things done. When people have a high opinion of themselves, confidence should naturally flow, right? Not quite.
It turns out that “hollow” self-esteem only tends to produce impostor syndrome and, worse yet, an entitlement mentality. Whatever achievements people get with this mindset will be quite spotty.
In fact, in many cases, they are unable to replicate their earlier success. They tend to do things right from time to time but not all the time. There is no consistent threshold of success and excellence.
It turns out that the real solution to consistent victory still involves self-confidence; however, this self- confidence must come from the right place. It cannot be stimulated into existence through self-esteem.
Instead, you need to build your self-confidence on the solid bedrock of competence. Let me spell it out for you C-O-M-P-E-T-E-N-C-E. Put simply, you need to be the best you can be in something. Anything. Find it. Do it.
Scale that upward spiral made possible by a feedback loop that you create. When you become competent in something, you become more confident. After all, you have shown to yourself that you can get things done. You can show up at the right time to produce the right things, to achieve the right results with the right people, which then leads to the right outcomes.
This is not a theory. This is not a guess. This is not something that just happened by random luck. This is something that you yourself made happen because you chose to be competent in something.
Once you see this play out, you become more confident. You start to believe that you can make things happen. What do you think happens next? That’s right. The more confident you become, the more you do it and do it and do it.
This means that you do the things that you excel in different types of circumstances. You’re able to overcome more challenges; you are able to solve more problems and you get better all around. When this happens, you become even more competent and, you guessed it, even more confident.
So, this upward spiral process repeats itself over and over again. This is called a positive feedback loop. The more confident you become, the more confident you are, the more actions you take, and the more opportunities you give yourself to get even better.
The bottom line is you need to start with competence. This fuels increasing levels of confidence.
Competence is the linchpin to sustainable confidence.
Compare this to somebody who just got lucky. For whatever reason, somebody found themselves at the right time at the right place with the right people to produce the right results. So far, so good. That person racked up a victory for that day. Congratulations!
However, the next day, things simply did not line up properly. For whatever reason that this person can’t quite put their finger on, things did not happen. The same thing happened the next day and the next day. Weeks turn into months, then what happens next?
That’s right. There is no confidence there. Whatever confidence this person may have achieved because they got lucky, or things just worked out that one day, is gone the next day or shortly thereafter.
Do you see how this works? Do you see the big picture? You need to build your self-confidence on competence because that’s how you create an upward spiral system of positive feedback loops that enables you to become excellent.
In fact, you reach the point where you are so in command of what you’re doing that it doesn’t really matter what you feel like. You can feel like a pile of crap the next day and still perform at a very high level.
People around you may be in a file mood, but it wouldn’t matter. Things may not line up. All sorts of accidents happen. All sorts of unforeseen situations break out but, guess what? You’re still able to perform at a very high level.
That’s the difference between competence and confidence that flows from feeling right at the right time. In other words, that’s the difference between competence and simply getting lucky. You cannot afford to get lucky.
Another thing about competence is that it is objective. If you go through that process of building up your competence one inch at a time, one step at a time, one block at a time, it cannot be taken away from you.