Courage and Confidence

To me courage and confidence are two of the most wholly misunderstood words in our vocabulary.


When you think of courage what comes to mind? Soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to protect their compatriots, people who jump into icy waters to save someone from drowning, first responders who run into the very risks most of us flee?

Obviously these are all courageous people, but it’s not only these extraordinary acts that define courage. Someone who stands up to a bully, who tells her boss what he doesn’t want to hear, who lives her values despite being mocked and chided for doing so, are also courageous.

What few people realize is that each of us typically performs courageous acts multiple times a day. You perform a courageous act every time you try to help another. For, in reality, courage is simply caring for others enough to do what’s uncomfortable.

Soldiers and marines tell us that they fight less for an ideal than the welfare of those in their units. People who risk their jobs, friendships, family relationships, reputations trying to help others are expressing the same ideal. It’s the caring that makes these acts courageous.

True, some acts carry significantly more risks than others, but that simply means that courage (like many things in life) is a spectrum. That spectrum runs from potential loss of life and limb to  being chided or ridiculed. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, you exhibit courage when you risk something for the benefit of others.


When you say that someone is confident, what do your really mean? Do you mean that they are confident in their abilities? Most of us would fit that bill. Indeed, each of us has skills and abilities that enable us to accomplish things without thinking about what we need to do. Our actions are automatic…we know what needs to be done and we do it.

Like courage, confidence is a spectrum. The spectrum ranges from things we do automatically because we possess the know how all the way to things that we tackle even when we have no background or experience. Some consider this latter part of the spectrum to be courageous.

While it can be, it isn’t necessarily courageous. It is, however, an expression of confidence. If I tackle something with which I have no previous background or experience, I’m trusting my ability to learn and adapt. That’s confidence. It only becomes courageous when I put the welfare of others ahead of my own.

So what does this mean for us and our kids?

For you

It’s important that you realize that every time you put something at risk to benefit another that you’re being courageous. Why? Because this lack of understanding is perpetuated in our kids. When we, and our kids, don’t feel courageous even when we are, we minimize our own self-worth and, consequently, our confidence in ourselves.

The way to avoid these effects is to take a few minutes at the end of the day to think about the times when you risked something, no matter how small, to help another. You’ll find that you not only feel better about yourself; you’ll feel more courageous, more competent and more confident. These feelings will manifest themselves in more positive dealings with others, which will earn you greater respect and appreciation.

Then you can teach your kids to live the same way.

For our kids

Each day ask your kids what they did to help another. When it involved a risk, congratulate them for being courageous. Then remind them that one of the reasons it’s courageous is that they did it to help another, not for the recognition they’re receiving.

You’ll find that the confidence your kids gain will enable them to perform more courageous acts each day and feel good about themselves for having done so. 

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