The Confidence Code

Summary Written by Carol-Ann Hamilton
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

- Winston Churchill, The Confidence Code, page 43

The Big Idea

Confidence Is Not Hard-Wired

"Confidence becomes less about what you were born with, and more about what you make of yourself."- The Confidence Code, page 129

One of the most vital and unexpected conclusions they reached is that confidence isn’t even close to being in your head. Indeed, you have to get out of your head to create and use it. Confidence occurs when the insidious self-perception that you aren’t able is trumped by the stark reality of your achievements.

Via breakthroughs in our understanding of brain plasticity, we learn it’s not a fixed psychological state after all. Yes, what you see as your “lacks” may have come from patterns created in childhood (based on how your parents treated you or others perceived you). Your neural tracks laid down memories in response that even today generate knee-jerk reactions.

But if you can layer those over with new memory networks, you can re-route the highway. For example, you can build metaphorical bridges or otherwise work around it. Though you may never entirely get rid of the highway because it was established so early, you can literally lay down new roads.

This is also a remarkably effective way to eliminate a key confidence destroyer: negative habitual thought. Speaking of which…

Insight #1

Kill NAT’s

"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a certain way."- Aristotle, The Confidence Code, page 164

As pesky as their phonetically similar mates, in this case the term stands for “negative automatic thoughts”.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply wipe them out with a can of spray! However, you can challenge and wrestle these inner monsters with logic plus alternatives. The first step is recognition. Though potentially tedious, keep a journal by your side and write them down.

Do not beat up on yourself for having them. Rather, look for an alternative point of view. Just one different interpretation (perhaps positive or even neutral) – a reframe – can open the door to confidence.

In this way, “I’m not efficient and what’s wrong with me” becomes “Maybe I’m doing a good job balancing so much”. The second thought doesn’t even have to prove the first wrong. Simply, the mental exercise of taking time to create another explanation lessens the potency of the first.

Join our newsletter

Sign up for the very best book summaries right to your inbox.
We care about your data in our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Insight #2

Star in Our Own Production

"Our confident behavior cannot be apologetic or mumbling or retiring."- The Confidence Code, page 196

Another aspect of using our attention (i.e., what we focus upon) as a positive force is to reverse the spotlight… Instead of concentrating upon faults or insecurities, we ought to take credit and enjoy our achievements.

While being self-deprecating seems more appealing than boasting, it can backfire. By trying to downplay in front of others, we’re essentially telling ourselves a damaging story. This includes feeling undeserving of our accomplishments plus how others see us. Devaluing ourselves further makes it less likely that we’ll attempt to clear future hurdles.

When praised, reply, “Thank you. I appreciate that.” It’s surprising how uplifting saying those five words feels.

Fascinatingly, Kay and Shipman conclude by dispelling common myths. One to avoid is “fake it till you make it”. The very notion of straying far from our real selves is at odds with their central premise.

Confidence isn’t about pretending or putting on an act; knowingly masquerading as something we’re not increases anxiety. Likewise, the workplace “gold standards” of bravado, driving to win at any cost, too-quick decisions and high-decibel communications don’t define confidence. Expressing some vulnerability can actually prove a benefit.

In the end, true confidence springs from taking action via an optimal blend between so-called male and female qualities. We need not jettison the natural advantages men and women each possess but instead celebrate our individual uniqueness.

Authenticity is the linchpin. When we interact with the world from our core, we’re at our most powerful.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling more confident already!

Read the book

Get The Confidence Code on Amazon.

Claire Shipman

Claire Shipman is a regular contributor to “Good Morning America” and other national broadcasts for ABC News. She joined the morning broadcast in May of 2001 and is based in the network’s Washington, D.C., bureau. Shipman regularly interviews influential newsmakers for the network. Over the years she has conducted in-depth interviews with Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Al Gore, Queen Rania of Jordan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and numerous others. She spent 5 years reporting from Moscow for CNN, and will never forget the sight of Boris Yeltsin on a tank, and citizens tearing down statues of Vladimir Lenin.Shipman began her broadcasting career as a production assistant and intern at CNN’s bureau in New York City. She holds a graduate degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelors of Arts in Russian studies from Columbia University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is currently a Columbia University Trustee. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Shipman resides in Washington, D.C., with husband Jay Carney and their two children, Hugo and Della.

Subscribe to digest
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.