“I want to be more confident.”
I hear that phrase a lot from men, both when it comes to dating and when it comes to their lives. It’s a pervasive belief in our culture that confidence is what leads to greatness. I’m calling bullshit on that paradigm – it’s time for us to evolve beyond that. I’m telling you right here and now, confidence is NOT the thing you should be trying to cultivate more of.
Why you might ask? Let’s take a little detour and talk about two giants of modern mythology: Superman and Batman. As originally created, Superman is basically invincible – so much so that they had to invent Kryptonite to be his Achilles’ heal, and for very good reason. Without weakness, his character would get very boring VERY fast, as he’d essentially always be 100% confident! No weakness means no narrative drama, no tension, no stakes, and most importantly, no chance to be BRAVE or HEROIC.
Compare that to Batman, aka the Dark Knight. No superpowers, just supreme determination and dedication. This is a guy who risks his life every time he goes out into the world, and could literally die at any moment. His vulnerability leads to more interesting stories, more tension, and non-stop opportunities for him to be BRAVE, which unsurprisingly cause Batman to outsell Superman comics in basically all available metrics.
So what do these two comic book characters have to do with confidence as men? It’s simple really – being “confident” is actually just the result of being invulnerable, or going into a situation and already knowing the outcome.
So take a moment, and tell me, who’s the bigger hero? The one that can essentially go out knowing he’ll never get hurt, or the one that knows death is always just a moment away and goes out anyway? Clearly the latter is more heroic, brave, and courageous, and THAT is what we want to cultivate as men. In my mind courage and vulnerability go hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other, they’re really synonymous. Whichever phrase you prefer, the key to either is that what makes them meaningful is that they happen when you take an action without being able to guarantee the outcome.
When we shift our focus from being confident, to being vulnerable or courageous in our lives, we’re changing our paradigm. The act becomes the win, not the outcome. Leaning into our fear or uncertainty and approaching a woman we’re attracted to, setting edgy boundaries, or sharing things that feel risky – these become everyday acts of bravery that feed us no matter how those around us react because we took the risk.
The great irony of that of course is that a man who moves through the world leaning into his edge and lives moment to moment without being able to guarantee what’s going to happen next is a man who’s going to look very “confident” on the outside.