Improving Confidence: State Dependence & Phenomenology

Confidence is fundamentally about trusting our abilities and potential to handle various situations without compromising our self-integrity.

He likens the fear of failure to “dissolving into a puddle of our own tears,” illustrating the deep-seated anxiety many people have about not measuring up in stressful moments.

Confidence is not a facade of invincibility; rather, it’s an honest assessment of one’s capabilities.

Huberman distinguishes confidence from narcissism, which is an inflated sense of self that can lead to an unhealthy ego.

True confidence balances self-assurance with humility, allowing individuals to recognize their strengths and weaknesses without overestimation.

Crucially, confidence is also state-dependent, varying across circumstances and areas of life. It’s quite common for individuals to exhibit confidence in certain domains while feeling inadequate in others.

For instance, someone might be assertive and self-assured in their professional life but hesitant and self-doubting in romantic endeavors.

This dichotomy indicates that they possess the internal “machinery of confidence” but are unable to apply it universally.

Understanding why this happens often requires delving into personal psychology—identifying whether the issue lies within the conscious or unconscious mind.

For those who lack confidence across the board, it may be necessary to explore deeper issues, such as the impact of childhood or early life traumas, which can undermine the development of self-confidence.

The subjective experience of confidence, or phenomenology, is equally important. It’s one thing to feel confident because you trust your abilities and can adapt to challenges; it’s quite another to derive confidence from a sense of superiority over others.

The latter may reveal underlying vulnerabilities masked by an overt display of high self-regard, a protective mechanism known as a reaction formation.

By exploring the dynamics of confidence in people’s lives, we can better understand how to nurture it healthily and sustainably.

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Dr. Paul Conti

Paul Conti, M.D., is a Stanford and Harvard-trained psychiatrist currently running a clinical practice, the Pacific Premier Group.

Andrew Huberman:

Huberman’s sponsors

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