How To Bridge Your Confidence Vs. Competence Gap

Is your confidence waiting to catch up?

I bet you’ve fallen – as we all have – into the confidence trap (you might be in it now): the one where you wait until you’re competent enough or good enough at something feel confident in doing it successfully. You want to feel confident – but you can’t. And then there’s another level to get to and your confidence never seems to catch up. Instead, there’s uncertainty and fear in getting it wrong, not doing it right, or not measuring up to how you want others to perceive you. As a result, you don’t, for example, pursue the opportunity or take the risk – sound familiar?

We all know people who are highly competent yet lack confidence. You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% (HBR Aug 14). So the confidence trap helps explain pay inequality (why men get paid more) and senior leadership inequality (why more women aren’t in top leadership roles).

Confidence and competence are centred in self-certainty

When we feel confident – what we’re actually thinking is that we can rely on and trust ourselves in doing something successfully.

It’s the same with building competence through steps of progress. When we feel competent – what we’re actually thinking is that we can rely on and trust ourselves in our knowledge, ability or skill to do something successfully.

Competence will build confidence – that’s true – but not for everyone, and not all the time. So what if then, they weren’t the best reference points to focus on? What if instead, there was a more useful approach in creating the certainty of the experience – of ourselves and the outcome – we want to have?

The only thing we can be certain of is ourselves – everything else is uncertain

When we are self-certain, we no longer need to look outside of ourselves for certainty, validation and control, for example: we don’t crave positive feedback (that tells us we’re good enough); we don’t need to rate being liked above saying what needs to be said (that tells us we belong). We no longer have to rely on a strategy we can’t control and we take our own power back.

Great leaders create certainty for others around them because of how they show up as a function of their self-awareness and self-certainty. Think of any great leader you know and think about what they are known for. What are you known for? To create certainty in others you must first create certainty in yourself.

How to bridge your confidence gap

1. Create your experience with your attitude

Bring curiosity and a willingness to learn in everything you do – regardless of your competency level. Focus on the learning, not your judgement of the outcome.

2. Invest in exploring and discovering more about you and what makes you tick

  • Build self-knowledge: Be clear on who you are for you, what you believe about you; and what matters the most to you.
  • Be self-directed: Know what inspires you. Know your ‘why’ for doing what you do – what’s it all for? Be clear on what you want to achieve and when you’re making progress.
  • Have solid self-worth: Have a set of high personal standards (a set of consistent committed behaviours built upon expectations you have of yourself in a variety of situations). The fastest way to build your self-worth is to keep the promises you make for yourself.

Confidence comes from being sure of you and how you decide to show up – regardless of your competence level. Come from a place of self-certainty to get on track with where you want to be. You already have all the resources within you and you have what it takes – it’s up to you to create your success.



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