Research shows confidence is one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior. But you didn't need science to tell you that.
Feel confident -- even just situationally -- and your performance can soar.
Feel doubt or insecurity, and all your talent flies out the window -- and with it, your hopes and dreams: Research also shows that perception of self-confidence is the "central mediating construct of achievement strivings." Think you have no shot at accomplishing something? You won't even try.
It's even harder to feel confident since negativity bias is hard-wired into our systems. While we appreciate positive experiences, we're much more attuned and give much greater weight to negative experiences like fear or threats.
All of which may leave you thinking you lack confidence.
But that might not be the case. What might appear to be lack of self-assurance red flags can actually be signs you're more confident than you imagine.
Here are a few examples.
1. You often ask for help.
Maybe you think asking for help is a sign of weakness, since implicit in those requests is a lack of skill, experience, or knowledge.
Nope: Only the most confident people feel secure enough to admit they don't know or can't do something. It takes courage to say "Can you help me?" because asking for help shows vulnerability.
Cocky people? They won't ask for help. Confident people will, because confidence also breeds courage: The courage to appear vulnerable.
2. You often admit you're wrong.
Granted, some people are quick to admit or even predict a mistake as a form of self-defense; emotionally, it can be easier to say you were, or might be, wrong than be told you were wrong.
But there's a flip side. While insecurity tends to breed artificiality, confidence breeds sincerity and honesty. Confident people don't mind the occasional misstep. Confident don't mind the occasional failure.
They know that successful people actually fail more, because those failures build a foundation for eventual achievement.
3. You're often quiet.
Cocky people talk a lot; their verbosity masks insecurity.
Genuinely confident tend to be quiet. They tend to listen more than they speak. They already know what they think. They want to know what other people think.
In short: They're smart enough -- and confident enough -- to know their ideas and opinions are not their identity.
Which means ...
4. You often change your mind.
As Jeff Bezos says:
... the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved.
They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.
Or as Inc. colleague Jessica Stillman puts it, "Smart people are actually wrong a lot."
We all know people who take a position, and then proclaim, bluster, and pontificate while totally disregarding differing opinions or points of view. They know they're right, and want you to know they're right.
Which means thinking you might be wrong isn't a sign of lack of confidence. In fact, assuming you're right is is a classic sign of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people believe they're smarter and more skilled than they actually are.
The flip side? People with high ability tend to underestimate how good they are. They underrate their relative competence, and at the same time assume that tasks that are easy for them are just as easy for other people.
Don't think you have all the answers? Don't automatically assume you're right? Are more likely to say "I think" rather than "I know"? Willing to change your mind in the face of new information or insight?
That requires confidence.
5. You often hide from the spotlight.
Even if -- especially if -- you deserve it.
Because truly confident people don't seek constant praise. Constant approval. Constant recognition. They know what they've achieved. They don't need validation from others, because their validation comes from within.
So if you tend to stand back and let other people shine, don't assume you lack confidence.
The opposite might be true, because only the most self-assured people believe the only opinion that matters -- at least where their effort and accomplishment is concerned -- is their own.