Because there’s a huge difference between cockiness and quiet, genuine confidence.
If you’re like most people–even highly accomplished people–you don’t always feel confident. For most of us, confidence is situational; depending on the setting, sometimes we’re extremely assured. Other times, we feel hesitant and even insecure.
Plus, if you’re like most people you experience at least some degree of imposter syndrome (which even Paul McCartney falls prey to): the inner belief that you’re inadequate and mediocre, despite evidence that shows you’re extremely skilled and very successful.
You compare yourself not to how far you’ve come, but how far you still wish to go. You’ve internalized your achievements–to you, that’s just who you are. Which means your achievements seem unremarkable…even though to others your achievements are amazing.
All of which affects your level of confidence.
So let’s fix that. Here are some signs that you’re more confident than you think–and are definitely more confident than most people. (Thanks to Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot, for tips on spotting genuine confidence.)
1. You only seek approval from people who matter.
You have 100,000 Twitter followers? Swell. Two hundred thousand Facebook friends? Peachy. A professional and social network of hundreds or even thousands? Great.
But those stats pale in comparison to earning the trust and respect of the few people in your life who truly matter.
When you earn their trust and respect, no matter where you go or what you try, you do it with true confidence–because you know the people who matter the most are truly behind you.
2. You listen 10x more than you speak.
Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.
So they ask open-ended questions that give other people the freedom to be thoughtful and introspective: They ask what you do, how you do it, what you like about it, what you learned from it, and what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Truly confident people realize they know a lot, but they wish they knew more, and they know the only way to learn more is to listen more.
3. You’re willing to take a stand not because you think you’re right, but because you’re not afraid to be wrong.
Cocky and conceited people tend to take a position and then proclaim, bluster, and totally disregard differing opinions or points of view. They know they’re right–and they want (actually, they need) you to know they’re right.
Their behavior isn’t a sign of confidence, though; it’s the hallmark of an intellectual bully.
Truly confident people don’t mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And when they’re wrong, they’re secure enough to back down graciously. (As Jeff Bezos says, a key indicator of intelligence is a willingness to change your mind–often.)
Truly confident people often admit they are wrong or don’t have all the answers; intellectual bullies never do.
4. You hide from the spotlight so it can shine on others.
Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high-performance team.
Truly confident people don’t care–or at least they don’t show it. (Inside, they’re proud, as well they should be.) Truly confident people don’t need the glory; they know what they’ve achieved.
They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within.
So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They stand back and let others shine–a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.
5. You’re happy to ask for help.
Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness; implicit in the request is a lack of knowledge, skill, or experience.
Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness. So they often ask others for help, not only because they are secure enough to admit they need help, but also because they know that when they seek help, they pay the person they ask a huge compliment.
Saying “Can you help me?” shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment. Otherwise, you wouldn’t ask.
6. You don’t criticize other people.
Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better.
The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday–and to the person she hopes to someday become.
7. You aren’t afraid to look less than perfect.
When you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally being in a situation where you aren’t at your best.
And, oddly enough, people tend to respect you more for it–not less.
8. You admit mistakes.
Insecurity tends to breed artificiality; confidence breeds sincerity and honesty.
That’s why truly confident people admit their mistakes. They dine out on their screw-ups. They don’t mind serving as a cautionary tale. They don’t mind being a source of laughter–for others and for themselves.
When you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally “looking bad.” You realize that when you’re genuine and unpretentious, people don’t laugh at you.
They laugh with you.
This article originally appeared in INC