Now we know. Confidence is more than a feeling. It’s a brain state. Link here.
That is, it’s a “measurable brain activity.” It exists within the orbitofrontal cortex. If you take a rat and shut off the neurons in this orbitofrontal cortex, it will exhibit less confidence.
No one is going to dispute the evidence. Yet, how much does this really tell us about confidence?
What if confidence is more than a feeling? And more than a brain state? What if confidence lies in the way you behave, the way you act… not in how you feel?
Is there a difference between feeling confident and being confident? And is there is difference between being confident and acting confident.
We will grant that if the everyday rat exhibits behaviors that signify confidence, it probably feels something resembling confidence. Moreover it probably is confident.
But, among humans things become more complicated. You might feel very confident and still act in a way that denotes an absence of confidence.
Researchers posited that a more confident rat would be willing to wait longer to receive a reward. If the rat was confident that he had chosen the right door, behind which was a reward, it would be more patient.
Apparently, it’s easier to delay gratification if you know that you are more likely to achieve gratification. This suggests that there’s more to it than repression and that people who are good at self-control are most often confident that things will work out as they wish.
By extension, people who feel compelled to seek instant gratification are demonstrating far less confidence.
One imagines that human beings can feel confident without being confident. And that they can feel confident without acting as though they are.
Then again, an individual should also be capable of acting as though he is confident even if he does not feel it. This ought to help someone who lacks confidence build his confidence, but only when his good-confidence behavior leads to a reward.
Serendipitously—for this post—Forbes offers us a column by Margie Warrell on… building confidence.
I will not summarize them all, but will try to draw a couple of lessons.
The way to act as though you have confidence is to act as someone who demonstrates confidence would behave in the same circumstance.
It’s based on role modeling. It is helpful, as Warrell intimates, to surround yourself with people who manifest confidence. If all your friends pursue instant gratification, you will surely find it more difficult to defer your gratification.
Choosing your friends on the basis of their good character is always a good strategy.
Warrell also suggests cultivating confidence in small habits.
Ask yourself this, if you are watching television and would like a beer, do you jump up to get the beer because it feels like something that you must have right now or can you, once you identify the urge, wait for a period of time before running to the refrigerator?
In this case, under the best circumstances, the beer is not going anywhere. You know that it will be in its appointed place in fifteen minutes. Why then do you feel a sense of urgency, a need for instant gratification?
If you are lacking confidence, rather than try to talk yourself into being confident, try adopting behaviors that signify confidence... in small, relatively insignificant situations... but where you know that you will receive a reward.