Why Fearlessness Is More Important Than Confidence

Brave Man

We are our best selves when we are confident.

Some of the benefits of confidence are the ability to be yourself, possessing greater courage, speaking your mind, feeling good about yourself, staying calm despite unfavorable circumstances, and having greater appeal as a friend or a mate. But there is one thing that’s even stronger than confidence. Fearlessness.

Why Fearlessness Is So Powerful

Fearlessness and confidence are related. If you don’t fear anything, you will naturally be confident, because a lack of confidence is primarily caused by fear of rejection, danger, or failure. So you could say that confidence is a byproduct of fearlessness.

Fearlessness enables people to do unbelievable things like climb skyscrapers, launch their body across the goal line (in football), and most importantly, boldly live their ideal life!

Most people wanting to be more confident will aim directly for confidence, but I think they could have better success by aiming for fearlessness. In many ways, it’s a more direct approach to being more confident. When you try to be confident, you’re attempting to build yourself higher than your fears in a “I can do this” kind of way.

How Fearlessness Becomes Confidence

Imagine you see an attractive person and want to talk to him/her, but you aren’t confident enough. To try to gain confidence at this point is going to be very difficult. Confidence comes from within, so it takes time to improve your baseline confidence. Though there are some in the moment strategies like confident body language that can physiologically increase your confidence. But what if you attempted to conquer your fears as a way to become more confident?

Once you identify your fears, you can find some weaknesses in their “armor.”

First, you’d address your fear of rejection: The person might respond negatively to you. If you ask him/her out, they might say no. He/she could laugh at you and embarrass you. Ack!

However, these rejection scenarios are only scary or embarrassing for like 5 seconds. Can’t you handle that as a worst case scenario? Are you going to let yourself be scared of 5 seconds of awkwardness or discomfort? This applies to any possible rejection scenario, from asking for a raise, to asking for a job, to asking for a girl’s number.

Second, you’d address the fear of failure. The fear of failure is a level above the fear of rejection, and involves longer term evaluation of what the rejection means. You might feel that this one instance of rejection is representative of your general relationship with the opposite sex. You might feel like this person is the ambassador for their gender, and if they vote you out, then all hope is lost. I’ve had this fear before. 🙂

The fear of failure can be dissolved with some logic. There are 7 billion people on earth and every single one of us has different tastes and preferences. If you’re a good and honest person, then most people are going to at least like you as a friend. People tend to be irrationally scared of approaching strangers. The logic is that any single case of rejection is just that – a single instance. If you’re willing to keep trying, you’ll find success.

Jia Jiang decided to experience 100 days of rejection to conquer his fears. And he found that most people were nice and receptive to him (a complete stranger), but not all. What if he tried once, got rejected, and assumed that everyone would be that way? He would have held on to false beliefs. In statistics, the sample size is very important. The lower the sample size, the less reliable the data. Why can’t we see that this is true for our lives as well? And why can’t we see that for most things, all it takes is ONE successful result – for marriage, in business, and even investing. Investing in Apple stock in the year 2000 would be enough to overcome the collapse of the rest of your portfolio, as it has increased 80-fold since then!

What Happens When You Remove Fear

When you remove fear, confidence tends to emerge. Confidence is believing in a positive result, while fear is worrying about the potential of a negative result. Once fear of a negative result is gone, it’s easier to believe in a positive result (i.e. be confident).

Fearlessness means nothing is holding you back. 100% fearlessness isn’t healthy though. The L.A. Times interviewed Michael P. Ghiglieri about deaths in the Grand Canyon, and here was one Q&A that shows the consequences of careless fearlessness.

LA Times: Is it true that somebody once fell to his death in the canyon because he slipped while pretending to fall to his death?

Ghiglieri: Sad to say this is true. In 1992, 38-year-old Greg Austin Gingrich leaped atop the guard wall and wind-milled his arms, playing-acting losing his balance to scare his teenaged daughter, then he comically “fell” off the wall on the canyon side onto a short slope where he assumed he could land safely. As his daughter walked on, trying not to fuel her father’s dangerous antics by paying attention to them, Gingrich missed his footing and fell silently about 400 feet into the void. It took rangers quite a while to locate his body — and to determine that his daughter was an orphan only due to his foolishness.” (source)

The key in life seems to be knowing which fears are healthy and helpful to have (a fear of heights isn’t such a bad thing to have) and which fears simply hold you back (asking a question, trying something new, being embarrassed). Some people’s fear is so crippling that they can’t function normally. Others die because they don’t have enough fear. As with many things, balance is ideal. Be fearful of things that are worthy of your fear, but don’t ever let the word “no” scare you. Don’t ever let it hold you back from pursuing opportunities.

Opportunities only pay off if you’re willing to take them, which you can do by losing your fear and picking up confidence. The next time you’re struggling with confidence, think about what you’re most afraid of, and attack that root. Then you can move forward!

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Vincent Nguyen

I’ve been on a mission for years now to tackle my biggest fears. I noticed that there were a lot of times where I was denying to myself that I was afraid. Waving it off and making an excuse as to why you “didn’t really want to do that anyway” does nothing for you.

Now when I’m afraid I acknowledge it and say to myself, “You’re afraid. That’s why you’re not going for it.” That’s usually enough to scare me to action or at least for the next time around.

Stephen Guise

Oh yeah, denial of anything ensures that you won’t fix it.

“That’s usually enough to scare me to action or at least for the next time around.”

Haha, nice! That’s like the article I wrote called “Use Fear To Motivate Yourself.” Since fear is so powerful, we might as well leverage it for good!

Daniel Wojcik

I think that a good way to differentiate healthy fear from unhealthy fear is to ask whether or not something can kill you.

“This fear is unhealthy, I’m afraid of something that won’t kill me.”
and
“If I tried that, it might kill me.”

The healthy fear requires common logic still, for example skydiving and snowboarding can kill you, but they’re far less dangerous than pretending to be falling to your death on the railing of the grand canyon.

Stephen Guise

That’s a logical way to look at it. I might extend that to death or injury. Most people already have this fear, but take it too far to things that shouldn’t be scary, like asking a question or trying something new that isn’t dangerous.

SJ Scott

Stephen,

I get what you are saying with the difference between fearlessness and confidence, but I think an even BETTER trait is courage.

It is nothing for the fearless man to climb the skyscraper, launch himself across the goal line or boldly live their ideal life. They have no fear and are not afraid to face the dangers, hurt and possible pain.

But the man (or woman) who is full of fear and does it anyway, to me that is true courage, and quite admirable.

The best part is that just like fearlessness leads to confidence, so does doing it even though you HAVE fear lead to fearlessness.

Stephen Guise

That is a great distinction! I like it. 🙂

It’s important too, because fear is usually best conquered by action, which means you’ll likely be fearful when you take that first step. I think I was thinking about fearlessness as courage in a way, or as a choice. Either way, I agree with you. Thanks for sharing!

jamie flexman

Hey Stephen, I like what you are saying about how fearlessness comes before confidence. As confidence is the ability to do something without thinking about the outcome (in my definition anyway), this can only be achieved by ‘doing’ something new to begin with and that’s where fearlessness (or the ability to ignore it) comes in.

Stephen Guise

I like your definition of confidence, Jamie. That makes sense. Well said about the doing part too. That’s how it’s done!

Joseph Dabon

I take some reservations to this. I think to be fearless is to be reckless and brash but to be confident is to be able to proceed steadily, albeit caution and a fallback position should things don’t turn out as expected. – http://withinyouisyoursuccess.com/

Sylvia Rytarowska

Hi Stephen,
Great post. Have you noticed that, be it fear or courage, it is what you focus on that feeds you. Hellen Keller said that you don’t see shadows if you look towards the sun. If you have a purpose, a passion, a cause that’s important to you, you don’t pity yourself or agonize over how uncertain your future is (future is always uncertain for God’s sake!) or what these damn polititians are up to this time. I think if your drive is hot enough, you’re safe 🙂

Michal

Confidence is a bit more than that… but I have to listen to Jim Rohn once again to point out the differences between our definitions.
I agree with SJ. The best cure is a healthy dose of courage.

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