6: Healthy boundaries
When you look around the world, there are a lot of examples of people who look confident on the outside:
From politicians who make sweeping claims and impossible promises to athletes and celebrities who swagger and flaunt from every angle possible, our society is full of fake confidence.
True confidence, on the other hand, is harder to spot because it’s less flashy and more humble. Genuinely confident people don’t feel the need to constantly prove themselves — they just go about their lives quietly confident.
Here’s a simple way to think about it:
False confidence hides insecurity. True confidence embraces it.
What follows are 7 specific signs that a person possess genuine confidence.
- Being compassionate to others
If you wanted to identify people with a high degree of false confidence, what would you look for?
For me, a dead giveaway would be people who are highly critical and judgmental of others. Like a schoolyard bully, they’re so insecure themselves, that the only way they know to feel good about themselves is to put other people down.
Well, what’s the opposite of hypercriticalness and judgmentalness? I’d say something like compassion. And in my experience, people who are routinely empathetic and compassionate are also quietly confident themselves.
Compassion is the outward sign of inner confidence.
It’s only when you’re not obsessed with yourself and your own insecurities that you can confidently shift your focus to other people in a compassionate and empathetic way.
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
― John Holmes
- Admitting it when they’re wrong
Humility doesn’t seem to be one of our culture’s favorite virtues these days. But truly confident people have it.
Of course, humility can be hard to spot because it’s not flashy or sexy or exciting. Luckily, there’s a pretty fool-proof test to see if someone has humility — and by extension — confidence: Do they admit when they’re wrong?
Confident people have the self-awareness to know when they’re wrong and the humility to admit it.
If you want to know if someone is truly confident, ask yourself:
When was the last time this person acknowledged they were wrong?
If you’re drawing blanks, that might be a sign that they’re not as confident as they appear.
“The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.”
― Alan Moore
- Being willing to ask for help
People who never ask for help probably have. major. issues with vulnerability.
Which makes sense if you think about it… When you ask for help, you are admitting at least a little bit of inadequacy.
Of course, it’s perfectly normal to feel somewhat inadequate about things — nobody is an expert at everything! But some people grow up believing they need to be good at everything. They’re afraid that if they’re not exceptionally good at everything that crosses their path, it means they’re unlovable.
But when people ask for help, it shows that they have a realistic view of themselves and their abilities. It means they know they don’t know everything and are interested in growth not just results.
Confident people are focused on who they can become, not who they think they’re destined to be.
Someone who’s too insecure to ask for help probably isn’t as confident as they seem.
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James
- Communicating assertively
One hallmark of genuinely confident people is that they’re okay just being themselves. They don’t feel the need to wear masks and perform and try to be somebody else. They’re comfortable in their own skin and basically like the way they are.
As a result, they’re usually able to communicate in a way that’s honest and straightforward — in other words, they’re assertive.
Assertiveness means having the courage to ask for what you want and say no to what you don’t want.
When people lack true confidence, they often resort to other less helpful communication styles like passivity, aggression, or even passive-aggressive communication.
True confidence reveals itself in assertive communication.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
– J. K. Rowling
- Accepting past mistakes, not dwelling on them
Dealing with mistakes and regrets is a tricky business: On the one hand, you don’t want to live in denial about your mistakes. But on the other, you don’t want to get paralyzed by them either.
The ability to balance these two tendencies well is a hallmark of genuine confidence and healthy self-esteem.
Confident people reflect on their mistakes but don’t dwell on them.
When a person is willing to confront and reflect on their past mistakes, it shows emotional maturity and self-awareness. At the same time, the ability to move past one’s mistakes with self-compassion demonstrates a healthy sense of self-respect and balance.
A good measure of confidence is how people relate to their past, especially past mistakes.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher
- Setting healthy boundaries
Confident people respect themselves just as much as other people.
This means that they don’t let other people bully them, manipulate them, or walk all over them. So when push comes to shove, they’re able and willing to set healthy boundaries.
But more than just setting healthy boundaries, true confidence leads to the willingness to enforce those boundaries, even when it’s hard.
Read also: Seven life ‘shortcuts’ that actually work
Anyone can set boundaries. Confident people enforce them.
The willingness to enforce healthy boundaries is really a matter of self-respect. When your rights are being violated, setting and enforcing healthy boundaries communicates to yourself and everyone else that you have too much respect for yourself to let that happen.
“If people keep stepping on you, wear a pointy hat.”
― Joyce Rachelle
- Choosing values, not feelings
A final way to identify truly confident people is to look at what really motivates their decision-making — specifically, are they motivated by their feelings or their values?
When you make decisions from a place of fear and insecurity, it’s easy to get pushed around by your strong emotions and feelings. On the other hand, when you are confident and secure in yourself, your energy and attention are freed up to spend time getting to know your values and highest aspirations.
Because it’s only when you’re clear about what really matters to you that you’ll be able to resist the whims of the moment and make consistently good decisions.
Confident people use values, not feelings, to make choices.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
— Viktor Frankl
Contributed by Nick Wignall
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