Confidence is tough, especially when stakes are high

Confidence is tough, especially when stakes are high

Confidence is tough, especially when stakes are high

    The guy cried right in the middle of the hallway. He walked out of the exam, convinced that he had failed, and never wanted to return again.

    This is the story of something that I'll never forget. It happened back when I was a software developer, turned Director of IT, at a major medical certifying board. And, we were conducting board certification exams.

    The building had lots of different rooms, equipped with computers, an examiner and the doctor who's goal was to become board certified. We were in the middle of an exam - I mean, right smack dab in the middle of an examination period, when the examinee simply walked out of his exam room.

    Confidence is tough

    I worked security during the event. In fact, we were dressed in black and wore those earpieces in order to communicate with our staff. We looked like regular secret service agents. I'll admit it, it was sorta fun.

    The moment I saw the guy emerge, I immediately started walking over. After all, walking around in the exam center during an exam was unusual and forbidden, except for staff. Clearly, this matter needed to be addressed.

    He walked out, turned and headed toward the elevator.

    "I just can't do this. I can't fail again. I already failed this exam once and I know that I'm going to fail again. I can't do this. I need to leave."

    The examiner chased after the guy and tried to convince him to give it another shot.

    "You never know how well you're doing," he said. Just finish out the exam.

    "No, I just can't. I can't fail again. I need to go." His eyes welled up with moisture, but he didn't try to hide it. He was clearly in the middle of a breakdown, and he was convinced that he failed another test.

    He headed toward the elevator, punched the button for the ground floor, and descended down to the lobby.

    I was a bit shaken by the have witnessed a complete breakdown in the examination center. But, what came next was just unbelievable.

    I walked back toward the examiner who just had his student bail. One of the board directors came by, too, after taking a look at how that guy was doing thus far into the exam.

    He was passing.

    If he just stuck it out, he'd probably would have passed and he'd be board certified.

    Why is confidence tough when the stakes are high?

    When the pressure is on, the consequences of failure seem much more dire. In most of us, we feel a sense of pressure to perform, to be "on", to never stumble over a word during a presentation or answer every question correctly on a test.

    And the bigger the presentation, the more eyes are on you. The more important the test, the more that rides on your letter grade.

    I stumbled on this interesting self-analysis of your level of confidence in Psychology Today, and I'm encouraging you all to give it a shot. It's nothing complicated or intensive. Just read each question and give it your best, honest, answer.

    Confidence test from Psychology Today

    From the original article, here's how to interpret your scores:

    Mostly A’s: Your confidence is on solid ground. You’re doing a great job of not allowing obstacles to get in your way of meeting valued goals

    Mostly B’s: You’re right in the middle, sometimes recognizing your accomplishments and other times, focusing on where you’re falling short. Your answers indicate you may fall prey to common pitfalls that undermine self-confidence.  

    Mostly C’s: Your self-confidence is a little shaky, but that’s OK.  Remember, there is no one with “total” self-confidence all of the time. You may need to ease up on yourself, notice your accomplishments, and find ways to handle setbacks.  

    Let me know in the comments how you scored. How naturally confident are you?

    I’m confident (to a fault?)

    Most of you recognize me as a confident person. Maybe too confident.

    Confidence doesn’t mean you’re full of yourself or believe that you’re always right. See, that right there is arrogance. Take confidence too far and you begin flirting with the a-word. Frankly, I make mistakes all the time.

    But, I've also found that life is nothing but a mind-game, and if we believe that we belong, then we do. If we don't, then well, we don't.

    Here’s the truth: There are a LOT of people in high places who probably aren’t “deserving” of their position. Aren’t smart enough. Don’t have the experience. But, they made it anyway.

    Unless they are the product of nepotism or unethical favors, they made it because they believed they could. They played a different game in their head. Instead of assuming they weren’t qualified, they instead made themselves believe they were.

    What would happen if we flipped the impostor syndrome on its head? Instead of assuming we aren’t qualified or deserving of success, how about we all make up our minds, today, that we ARE deserving of success?

    We’re qualified for anything.

    That author you’ve resisted reaching out to because you felt that you were “nobody” and they’d never respond? Yeah, fuck that.

    Put that attitude behind you. Even if you have to lie to make yourself believe that you’re not a fraud, do it. Others have and they’ve managed to achieve some incredible goals. I mean, outrageously incredible.

    Look at the current U.S. President. President Trump. Regardless of how you feel about the man, he’s a relatively unlikely person to win the highest spot in our government. He has a history. Stories. Books. Everything about him instantly became public knowledge, and not all of that was flattering.

    But, he still won.

    It doesn’t matter whether he was “unlikely” or not. It doesn’t matter how many cards were stacked against him. Nothing matters but the reality that we create for ourselves. We cannot let the unholy barricades of conventional wisdom hold us back from achieving success.

    What I’m trying to tell you here is quit shitting on yourself.

    Think you aren’t qualified for that presentation in front of a set of high-level manager? Who says? They are just people. You’re a person, too.

    They might wear a suit to work everyday, but that doesn’t mean you’re not as good at your job as they are at their’s. If you believe you’re qualified, then you begin living that reality. Something magical flips in your brain and you begin to believe that you can and do belong among those managers. Your CEO.

    Hell, the damn President.

    Even if you have to lie to yourself to instill within you a belief of confidence, then lie. Lie your ass off. Lie like you’ve never lied before. Lie over and over again…as many times as necessary to get yourself to believe that you aren’t too dumb, or not important enough, or just can’t hack it.

    If you believe you can’t, then you can’t. If you believe you can, then guess what? More times than not, you can. If you have something to say, say it! Your position is just as valid as the person next to you.

    Just because someone might have “Senior” in their job title or a Type-A personality that naturally takes over discussions doesn’t make them better or more qualified to do their job than you. Don’t kid yourself into believing that there is hierarchy in this world, and the only way to get ahead is to climb it.

    There isn’t. No hierarchy that needs to be followed, anyway.

    Do you consider yourself a naturally confident person? Why or why not?


    Steve Adcock

    774 posts

    Steves a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence.