Over 14 years ago, on March of 2005, my family and I left everything we had in Iran and came to the United States. I remember how difficult it was to leave everything we knew as a family behind; our relatives, friends, school, jobs and our house. My Mother and Father had to make a difficult decision to leave all the securities of “home” and everything they had built for us in Iran, just to give my Brother, Sister, and myself a chance to live our dreams in the United States. There was so much uncertainty involved in leaving everything and starting a life in a place we’d never seen or visited. But it was a decision that we made as a family and we stood by it, despite all the uncertainty we felt at that time. I ask myself often, was it a confidence within us as a family unit that we believed we would succeed in this move; or rather, was it a collective courage within each one of us, despite all the fear of things going wrong that we were going to do this together and flourish anyway. The answer that keeps returning to me internally is that it was our courage that got us to start this new venture and make a breakthrough that has positively impacted all our lives to this day.
Now, I’m writing this article because I truly believe that a confidence not built on a foundation of courage is often not effective in making a difference in one’s life or community for that matter. Confidence and courage often get clumped into a single meaning, when they are actually very different. Let’s consider this more closely, because both these are distinct but reliant on one another to help someone accomplish things in their lives, or for an entire family to move from the only country they know to another land to start a completely new life.
So what is the difference between confidence and courage?
Confidence is an idea, a faith in oneself that they will succeed regardless of what the circumstance may be.
Courage is a willingness for someone to proceed to take action even in the face of fear due to some uncertain outcome.
We often talk a lot about gaining confidence these days, but how to do so is not really explained well. Let’s start by focusing on gaining more COURAGE first, because that is the foundation in gaining confidence.
How does courage really work? I can start with examples of how I tapped into courage in my own life to get a sense of its potential power to impact us. For example, it took a deep courage within me to take the first step towards moving to the United States, then learn a whole new language so I could communicate with people, and then approach them in school without letting their judgment of my broken English discourage me. It was also courage that drove me to apply and get into one of the best architecture schools in the West Coast, and then advance in a dream job after finishing school. It took a lot of courage in me to pursue my license in Architecture and obtain it within 5 years out of school. It was courage that helped me to take the first step towards starting a new venture of life coaching people, writing poetry and articles for an audience that could relate to my stories, so that in some way it could help them in their own lives.
It’s not confidence that got me to do any of the above things, but rather courage because my initial instinct was fear of taking action. I was completely afraid of the unknown, or more particularly, an uncertain outcome if I did any of the above. But I choose to Act; despite all my premonitions! I’m so grateful I did act, because I gained experiences, and learned new things about myself that have helped me evolve as a person tenfold!
What’s beautiful about courage is that it’s something that we all have inside us. You see courage “in action” throughout history, like 64 years ago in Montgomery, Alabama, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus for a “white” person. There is a lot of courage in our country daily with an estimated 160,000 kids that miss school every day because they are being bullied, but I know a lot more who decide to go back to school the next day. It is a courage within us that makes it all possible.
So how do you find courage within yourself? Is it easy? The answer is no, but the process is actually very simple: You have to be able to tap within yourself and ask the question WHY?
WHY is it important to show up to school even if you are getting bullied?
WHY is it crucial for you to step out of your comfort zone and start a new venture?
WHY is it important to stand up for yourself and a cause for the greater good of your community?
Once you have a solid answer to the WHY, that is when the break through happens. Now that we know the importance of courage, let’s get into the other steps towards gaining confidence:
Step 1: Seek COURAGE and find your “WHY”, then you’ll find the reason to act upon something because you’ll be driven to find an answer that will have meaning for you. In other words, taking action is possible when a true purpose is recognized.
Step 2: “COMMIT” to continue on your journey once you take the first step. If you want to get from point A to point B, then you must commit to keep going till you get to point B no matter what.
Step 3: Now it’s time to gain “KNOWLEDGE”. Once you commit to make the necessary changes or take the right action, then it’s time to gain knowledge. Do your research and find the road map from point A to point B. It’s very important to get into the right mindset, therefore it is essential to surround yourself with books, and people who can guide you through your journey.
Once you have found your Why and Courage, Committed to taking action upon it, and gained the Knowledge of how to do it, then you have built a solid framework to tap into your inner confidence, You are indirectly fueling your confidence, the faith that you will succeed irrespective of circumstances you may face.
The steps and process that I described above could be applied to achieving anything in life. Courage is the first step to start anything in your life. Once you start something, it’s the continuation and repetition that helps you master a skill or develop a new approach to achieving things in your life. There might be roadblocks on the way but by educating yourself and learning how to pass those obstacles, you can continue pursuing your goals. Then, the next time you want to start a similar task, you know that you can complete the task successfully because you’ve done it once before. As you see, we can practice the steps of gaining confidence in our daily life and only by repetition is when we master this quality. As the Dalai Lama says, “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”