Saturday, March 9, 2013

The difference between courage and confidence—and which is better

The other night at the dance studio, a co-teacher and I were discussing his professional dance partner, an immensely talented young woman. She can sing, too. Boy, can she ever. I've seen videos of her performing, and I am blown away by her stage presence and full-bodied voice. So I was surprised when he said she's not very confident about her singing. You'd never know from watching her.

I am timid about a lot of things. Networking. Selling. Asking for a favor. Meeting someone new. Accepting charity. Cooking for a crowd. Driving with my husband in the passenger seat. Diving into the deep end.

Despite that, I've done all of those things out of necessity. I've also done things that scare other people—without hesitating. Jumped out of a plane. Ziplined at 140 feet up across seven miles in a pine forest in Alaska. Given countless speeches in public. Danced in the middle of a mall in broad daylight. Eaten snake, frog's legs, boar, and fermented duck eggs. Stood up to a bully. Abandoned everything familiar to move 8,000 miles away from friends and family, without job prospects or a plan.

I am not a confident person. That makes everyone else seem so sure of themselves next to me.

But I don't need confidence to do things I need to do. I bet you have a few things on your list that you'd really, secretly, want to try. If you ever get the nerve up.

A timid person like me would risk my own life to save another's. Because it needs to be done. Because it's courage that will propel me forward, not confidence.

See, that's the difference between confidence and courage. You can't afford to wait to develop confidence. Not with the things you've got to get done. It's in the getting them done that your confidence blossoms.

Courage, though, is already in you. Maybe you're too cowardly to admit it. What a paradox.