One of my entrepreneur clients, with great trepidation, recently confessed that she had a big secret to share.
Now, this is a woman who has single handedly built a successful, conscious company that employs 150 people and treats them unusually well, all while creating great value for her clients and delivering consistently high profits. Elizabeth has a beautiful home, a wonderful marriage, and is widely respected within her community.
She's been an incredible client, quickly taking to our leadership work, and using it to create significant breakthroughs in her company, her life, and the legacy she is beginning to build.
Elizabeth is one of the leaders in her industry. Yet she didn't feel that way. Instead, she'd spent years holding a secret inside, which she was afraid to share, for fear of what others would think.
"I've never had enough self-confidence. I regularly struggle with my insecurities, and I feel this has greatly limited my success over the years."
As Elizabeth shared this, I was able to empathize with her. As an entrepreneur, I've struggled with plenty of my own insecurities and self doubts. So I listened to her, shared some of my own experiences, and then we created a breakthrough for her by exploring the true relationship between insecurity and self-confidence.
Most people think that insecurity is the opposite of self-confidence. They believe that "I need to stop feeling so insecure, so I can act more confidently and courageously."
But this isn't true.
Insecurity is an emotional reaction that comes from our stored collection of fears and self-judgments. Self-confidence is a rational assessment that comes from our grounded assessment of competency in a given domain.
If someone asked me to perform as the lead tenor in an opera next week, I would not have the confidence that I could successfully do so.
That doesn't mean I'm insecure. It means I'm not an idiot.
In contrast, when I'm talking with an entrepreneur or executive, we find there is a good resonance between us, and they want to know if I could support them in growing their leadership, increasing their contribution, and developing their next level of success, I often have a high level of confidence that I could help them do so.
In this case, my confidence doesn't come from a lack of insecurity. I regularly work with clients who are dealing with such a high level of success and responsibility that the idea of coaching them triggers my fears. "Who am I to support someone in such a high level position?"
Instead, my confidence comes from a history of having served similar people in similar ways. It comes from the skill I've developed to qualify who's a good client for me and who's not.
Insecurity comes from the voice of fear. Self-confidence comes from the voice of reason. And while we often judge our fears as some big secret we need to keep bottled up inside, one of the truest signs of authentic leadership is when they show up together as a "Yes Yes Hell No" response.
When your voice of intuition says "Yes, this choice lights me up and feels on purpose," your voice of reason says "Yes, I have grounded confidence in my competence in this area," and your voice of fear says "Hell No! I'm not worthy," go forward. You're walking a wise and courageous path.