Confidence or Guts?

“I just need a little more confidence”.

“How can I feel more confident”?

“I just don’t have the confidence to do this”.

I’m not sure you can just “become confident”. It’s not something you can decide you will be or declare it to be so.

Confidence is earned.

The key ingredient to becoming confident (along with a decent haircut, btw) is just plain guts. Releasing your curled toes that cling to the edge of the diving board.  Making the phone call. Pressing send on an email. Showing up at an event that scares the crap out of you. Walking up to the mic and asking the question.

So where do you get the guts? We all feel afraid the first time we did something. And discomfort is all part of growth and skill-building. I mean who was completely confident to sit down with their lunch tray at the cool table in junior high except for someone who had either done it before (and didn’t die) or the ones among us who are truly fearless (or completely delusional)?

But that’s not me and probably not you either.

I remember going to an event with my sister Chrissie a few years back. I have no memory of what the event was, I only remember that neither of us knew anyone except each other. My natural inclination was to skulk along the wall, dart over to the snack table and then slip out the back door (you will notice that I always make sure that snacks are part of any plan worth doing). But no, my sister Chrissie put out her hand to the closest stranger and said, “Hi, I’m Chris”.

Now, what kind of madness is that? Introduce yourself to a stranger? What? You think you’re MOM or something? This is the kind of activity that I felt completely uncomfortable about for years. If fact, when it was Girl Scout cookie time, I actually wrote out a script to try to sell cookies to my very own aunts!

Fast forward a few decades and I realized that my best shot at making any money and fulfilling my creative dreams was to be an independent illustrator, primarily licensing my art for cute and fun products. But that required making calls, sending cold emails, and showing up in person.

How was that going to work?

I had to figure out how to go from here (broke artist with a reasonable okay portfolio) to there (thriving artist with a few royalty streams at any given time). But I figured if I had learned how to draw well enough to go pro—a task that required many hours of practice, study and sheer grit to get better at it, then this part of the biz could also be practiced and studied too. But at the end of the day, it was the “sheer grit” part that took me to the next level.

Was I confident I could do it? Of course not. Was a I bundle of fear and uncomfortable dorkiness? Of course, I was! But the actual doing of the thing that made me the most uncomfortable was the thing that brought me to the thing I always wanted. Yeah, confidence.

And when you have done it enough times and by doing so you saw this thing called “success”, confidence takes over and you don’t need as many guts. You’ll remember, “oh, yeah, I did this before and I didn’t die”.

Confidence comes from accomplishment. Guts come from, well, your gut. When staying where you are no longer serves you and you’ve run out of excuses or diversions, conjure up a memory from when you demonstrated a little moxie (even if you have to go way back to our Girl Scout Cookie days)  and use that feeling to propel you to where you want to go.

I promise you won’t die.


PS. Right after I published this I started researching quotes by Aretha Franklin and this popped up:

“Be your own artist and always be confident in what you are doing. If you’re not going to be confident you might as well not be doing it”.

RIP Queen of Soul

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