Confidence vs Courage: What’s the Difference?

A woman wearing a red flannel shirt and jeans with her arms wide open standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a mountainous landscape.

I see people confuse confidence and courage a lot, but they're actually distinct concepts.

Confidence is about self-assurance. It's a belief in yourself and your abilities, and it's literally defined by the absence of uncertainty. Additionally, confidence is often earned through experience. You will likely have more confidence in things you've been consistently practicing and working on over time than things you haven't been.

That said, confidence isn't always earned. Both confidence and a lack thereof can be taught. Recall that 2019 poll out of Great Britain in which 1 in 8 men—men who are not professional tennis players, mind you—said they could win a point in a game of tennis against Serena Williams. That's confidence to the point of delusion, and the tweet below sums up how I feel about that.

A tweet from @longwall26 that reads, "Confident in my ability to properly tennis, I take the court. I smile at my opponent. Serena does not return the gesture. She'd be prettier if she did, I think. She serves. The ball passes cleanly through my skull, killing me instantly."

So clearly not all confidence is warranted, especially considering we live in a world where those with more privileged identities tend to have an inflated sense of confidence compared to those with more marginalized identities.

Then there's courage. Courage is about the willingness to take risks even when you're not confident in the outcome. If courage is driving, fear and uncertainty are almost always riding shotgun.

There's a reason nearly every big decision I've made in my life has come with stifling self-doubt and the general feeling of wanting to shit my pants. Why would I feel confident about starting a business, coming out, or getting a divorce, for example, when I previously had no experience with any of those things?

But even though my confidence was lacking in those instances, my courage was not. Without copious amounts of courage, I wouldn't be who I am, living the life I'm living today. And that's because it's courage that allows you to take the initial, terrifying leap, even though you're not sure if you'll land on your feet.

A woman wearing a red flannel shirt and jeans with her arms wide open standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a mountainous landscape.

Confidence is nice to have, but it's not a required ingredient for living your truth. Additionally, not feeling confident about a decision at first isn't necessarily an indicator that it's a bad decision. It's normal to feel hesitation, anxiety, and even regret when you're trying something new or doing a hard thing.

Lean into courage. Trust yourself. And trust most of all that no matter what happens, you'll get through it.

 

This essay was originally sent out to those who subscribe to my email newsletter, The Queer Agenda. To get more writing like this in your inbox each week, subscribe here.

 

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 Hello! 

I’M SHOHREH.

I’m a self-trust coach, writer, and podcast host with a mission to help people figure out who they are and what they value so they can come home to themselves.

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