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No Such Thing As ‘Self-Confidence’: Five Sources of Confidence

“We aren’t born confident, we become confident.  Self-confidence is always something that has to be worked at patiently.  It is also something that, once we gain a certain level of effortless command, can give us profound joy.”  – Charles Pépin

Self-Confidence: A Philosophy by Charles Pépin is a meditation on the philosophical roots of confidence.  It doesn’t talk about how to become confident, so much as answer the question ‘what is confidence’.  Translated from French, it is a beautifully written yet meandering read.

To Pépin, confidence doesn’t come from the ‘self’. How could it? We are constantly changing from moment to moment. Instead, we can have confidence in our skills and the outside world. In this article, I share five places confidence can be found.

“To have confidence in yourself is not to be sure of yourself.  It’s to have courage to confront uncertainty rather than avoid it – to use your doubt as a push-off point and the source of your strength to go forward.” – Charles Pépin

1. Relationships

“A friend…is someone who makes you better.  When he or she is around, you feel good, you make progress, you become more intelligent or more sensitive, you open yourself up to new aspects of the world and of yourself – aspects you had not previously known.” – Charles Pépin

It’s impossible to be confident in ourselves without having confidence in those around us.  We are social creatures.  Having trust and support from others enables us to take greater risks and be bold in our lives.

We gain confidence from our close relationships.  Getting to know someone on a deep level helps us understand ourselves better.  When they see our flaws and accept them, we discover that our flaws aren’t weaknesses.  They are just the flip side of our strengths.

“…sometimes it takes only a few heartfelt words from a teacher or friend to instill self-confidence, and that those words from the heart can give a person confidence for a lifetime.  People can also give us confidence without making lengthy speeches or offering words of encouragement, but by trusting us with a mission.” – Charles Pépin

2. Decision

“To decide is to take a stand at the heart of uncertainty, at the heart of life itself.  Each time we consciously make a decision, we learn how to trust ourselves a bit more.” – Charles Pépin

The root word of ‘decide’ is the Latin decidere, which means ‘to cut off’.  When we decide, we choose one path and cut off all other routes.  When we don’t have enough information, we have to weigh the odds and make a choice anyway.  How willing you are to make a decision is a clear reflection of your level of confidence at that moment.

Once you make the decision, confidence shows up.  It’s only once you commit yourself to a choice that you become confident in it.  The more time and effort you invest in your path, the more confident you become.  No matter which choice you make, you can make it the right one – by taking action.

“The more we consent to the possibility of error, the more we experience ourselves as free beings, capable of acting decisively.  To have confidence in oneself is to learn to love one’s freedom, rather than to be afraid of it.  There is a special joy in knowing that one is capable of it.” – Charles Pépin

3. Action

“A man is relieved…when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said and done otherwise shall give him no peace.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Action creates confidence, and inaction is a source of doubt. Once you start taking action toward a goal, your doubts fade.  You become immersed in the moment, in the process of improving.  Each little win adds up and grows your level of confidence.  

With time and effort, you stack up bigger and bigger wins.  Then, when you’re struggling, you can look back at what you’ve accomplished before.  Knowing that you did it before makes it clear that you can do it again.

“You need to have confidence not just in your ‘self,’ but in the encounter between yourself and others, between yourself and the world – Which only taking action can set in motion.” – Charles Pépin

4. Practice

“Whenever doubt starts to get the upper hand, whenever we’re afraid that we won’t measure up, the best thing to do is to bolster our confidence by actively developing our skills.” – Charles Pépin

Confidence in your skill is built through consistent practice. As you learn and improve over time, your confidence builds.  It grows even more when you start to get positive feedback from others on your work.  

As you master the skill, you become much more confident in your abilities.  Confidence in ability is fragile, however, without confidence in ourselves.  We must also believe that we can handle any challenge we face, even ones beyond our current skill level.

“Develop your competence, skills and abilities as much as you can, but without tensing up.  Always make sure that your growing competence brings you closer in touch with yourself and allows you to find your freedom.” – Charles Pépin

5. Faith

“To have confidence in life is to bet on the future, to believe in the creative power of action, and to embrace uncertainty rather than being afraid of it…to have confidence in life is to surrender to its mystery.” – Charles Pépin

Faith in God, or a higher power, helps us maintain confidence through the darkest days.  When all other sources of confidence have failed, God is still there.  This form of confidence often shows up as a sense of surrender.  Letting go of trying to control everything, and just letting your life unfold, is often the best thing you can do.

“That is the power of confidence, which has the same Latin root – ‘fides’ – as faith” – Charles Pépin


When you’re confident, you’re focused on something outside of yourself.  The idea that confidence comes from the ‘self’ is a myth.  In order to become more confident, trust in life and the people around you.

Confidence and presence are the same.  No one is confident when ruminating over negative thoughts.  Confidence can be developed by clearing your mind – using meditation, action, or outward focus. 

Here are some other ways to tap into sources of confidence:

  • Surround yourself with great people you trust
  • Make a decision, even if you aren’t sure it’s the right one
  • Take the first tiny step, no matter how you feel
  • Keep practicing a skill and see your confidence grow
  • Connect with God through prayer and meditation

“Don’t have confidence in yourself, then…Have confidence in the reality that your active presence is already busy transforming.  Have confidence in the luck that your actions can stir up.  Have confidence in the men and women that you will meet and who will maybe give you ideas, advice, hope, strength, and – why not? – love.” – Charles Pépin

Joel Smith

Author and writing coach at The Fit Writer.

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