Mel Schwartz, LCSW

The Paradox of Confidence

As with many goals that we struggle to attain, we tend to go after them in a way that blocks our success. Quite often I find that individuals who quest for more self-esteem — more internal security and confidence — actually get in their own way. Typically, they are prone to measuring and judging themselves against others.

Such individuals attribute more confidence to others and arrange to always fall short in their comparisons. They see their vulnerability as a weakness and try to mask it. That is the source of the problem. We are all vulnerable and insecure in one way or another. When we accept that vulnerability and no longer seek to hide it, we are actually strong!

The person who tries to act strong or confident may well be masking their concerns and doing so serves to exacerbate the problem. We do this when we are more concerned by what we think someone else thinks of us than coming into acceptance with our own self.

The Paradox

There’s a paradox here. Embracing your vulnerability and no longer hiding from it means that you’re no longer concerned about others’ judgment of you. When you act in such a manner your relationship with yourself surges. This is strength and confidence!

The more you do this the more you will actually grow in confidence. So the paradox to being more confident is that you need to accept and embrace your frailty, and, then, your confidence will likely grow. If you try to disguise your insecurity, you betray yourself and stay mired in insecurity.

Some years ago I was giving a talk on this subject and an elderly woman in the audience raised her hand and timidly asked, “I have a fear of public speaking, what should I do?” I went to her seat and escorted her up to the podium. I guided her to the microphone and asked her to share her concerns once again with the audience. She once again articulated her fear. I then asked her how she was feeling. A smile came to her face as her tenseness retreated. “I feel much better now that I have nothing to hide,” she offered.

She had engaged the paradox of confidence, released her fears and grown in the process.

More from Mel…

Podcast #133: Possibility and Quantum Physics

The Possibility Principle

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I think this is very insightful–It feels like our fears and insecurities are often much bigger to us than they are to others. I see this with my school-age child. I will say, though, that in my life putting myself out there and being honest about fear and insecurity has usually backfired and positioned me as weaker or contemptible or “needy”. How do you get around that? It makes honesty feel like it’s not worth the risk

Maryann Ehmann

Pure brillance!! I have found this to be true in my life, and yes… it is a strange paradox! But what a fabulous discovery! Thank you for that reminder.

Maryann Ehmann

Sorry… my website was not transcribed accurately in my post.

Matthew Selznick

How do you know it backfired? It really only backfires if you’re measuring yourself based upon what You think other people think of you. Once you focus on affirming your relationship with your self–the other person’s reaction is their reaction. Your investment in yourself needs to remain intact no matter what their response may be.

On another note, if your stepping forward is met with contempt you might well reconsider the relationships you’re in.


that’s a good point and this is where i think many of us get hung up. I often FEEL like i’m being met with contempt. Is that always true? who knows–especially if other parties–siblings, spouses, coworkers–claim that they do not feel contempt. How do you parse out how feel you are being treated versus how the other person feels they are treating you? However, the real takeaway is what you said: Affirming the relationship with oneself. I often see people who seem incredibly self-involved and debate with myself–“should i admire them for their relationship with themselves or simply consider them selfish?”

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