Have you ever looked through the wrong end of a kaleidoscope?  It gives you a dark, opaque, and murky view of an ordinary arrangement of beads, glass, or other small objects.  But then you turn it around and look at it through the correct lens, and Wow!  A brilliant display of shifting, perfect symmetry, and color!  

To me, this is the difference between how we typically view confidence and what it really is.

“Wrong End” Confidence

When people think about confidence, they often associate it with experience.  This is the “wrong end of the kaleidoscope” kind of confidence.  It exists, but it is nothing compared to confidence in its deepest, truest meaning.  

That’s because that kind of confidence is based on experience and is transactional in nature:  “I practice something enough and I become confident.  If I don’t practice enough, I don’t get to feel confident.”

True, deep confidence is about trusting yourself.  In fact, the word “confidence” comes from the Latin root “com” (with) and “fider” (trust).

“Now wait a minute”, you may be thinking. “Are you saying that if I trust myself, I can walk up to a baseball diamond and hit a ball out of the park without ever having swung a bat before?”

No.  That takes practice.

But the full kaleidoscope version of confidence is where you trust that if you really wanted to hit a baseball out of the park, you could count on yourself to put things into place to make it happen.  

And here’s the thing. 

The “wrong end” confidence can become a different kind of optical illusion—more like a mirage that keeps eluding you as you get closer to it:  

“Ah, I feel confident when I practice.  So as I take on bigger challenges, if I just practice more, I’ll be more confident, right?”

Have you ever felt like you kept practicing, revising, preparing, and rehearsing, and still felt anxious and unprepared?  

That is the illusion of “wrong end” confidence taking hold.  

True Deep Confidence

When you have true, deep confidence you know when enough preparation is enough.  You trust that you will respond in the best possible way when it matters most.  And you trust that even if you fail in the moment, you have it in you to pick up the pieces, learn, and move forward.  

Most of us, when we try to work on our confidence, take it from the wrong end of the kaleidoscope—focusing on skill-building and practice to get the job done.  

This is the kind of confidence you need when you encounter the unexpected, major problem or ethical dilemma.  

How to Develop True Deep Confidence

This is a lifelong journey.  But here are a couple of ways you can work on your deep inner confidence.  

Reflect on the times in your life when you should have trusted yourself. 

 Write down each example you can think of and answer these questions:

  • What instinct did you ignore?  
  • What value did you neglect?  
  • What do you now know about yourself as a result?  
  • What will you do moving forward to honor that knowledge?

Consult with your future self.

Daniel Pink refers to this in his book, The Power of Regret, and Tara Mohr describes something called an Inner Mentor in her book Playing Big.  Imagine yourself ten years from now.  What does your future self think you should do?  Or, imagine that your future self is reflecting with pride on this moment.  What is that person proud of in this moment?  

You may have noticed that these exercises have nothing to do with prepping for a big presentation.  Or getting your “head in the game”.  Instead, what they offer is healing and a deeper connection to yourself.   They offer a full and beautiful kaleidoscope of confidence.

True, deep inner confidence is key to navigating the challenges of life.  And if you are experiencing a challenge of the career variety—feeling like your career is stuck, stalled, or sabotaged, join Wendy for her free webinar, New Beginnings, on January 31st.