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.

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.

Be sure to “like” my facebook page, follow me on twitter, and join my LinkedIn network.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

There’s a fine balance to be achieved. Being balanced in one’s own well-being doesn’t suggest that you ought not be sensitive to others. The balance is struck by not betraying yourself in deference to getting another person’s approval.

Alan Brigish

This paradox goes right to the heart of the need for we have for permanence and security, a reluctance to move away from our zone of comfort. According to the Buddhists, when one recognizes that permanence is an illusion, when we learn to embrace change, something inside of us shifts… I may be feeling insecure in this moment but tomorrow is a new day and that feeling may dissipate.


“Typically, they are prone to measuring and judging themselves against others”……………. I would think that this applies mostly to unseasoned, immature folk, however, I can be wrong in this interpretation. To me, it’s….. take me as I am, what you see is what you get! However, it had taken me nearly a lifetime to feel and exert that confidence. I realized at a point in my life, some people may be smarter, some more beautiful, some more wealthier. In some instances, I am better at some things than they are. We are all unique in who we are, and we just need to accept the fact that some people are better and some worse in different aspects. Accepting oneself is what it is all about.

Suzanne Harvey

It’s too bad society teaches us the opposite of what is true. Messages from the media are we must be strong, self-confident, bold and beautiful. Wouldn’t it be great if it encouraged us to be open about our insecurities and honest about our vulnerability. The world would be a very different place if this were the case. Especially for men, this “tough facade” they must live up to actually hurts them and their relationships-


Do you think that the most confident people on the planet are also the ones who are the most vulnerable?

It’s hard to make the correlation between confidence and vulnerability.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x