A fresh take on confidence

Casey Onder, PhD
3 min readApr 2, 2022


Photo by Natallia Nagorniak on Unsplash


You, in the last round of your dream job interview-

Making an important pitch to investors-

In the throes of a career make-or-break project-

Delivering the speech of a lifetime to a large audience…

Are you enthusiastic? Terrified? A bit of both?

Lay down the welcome mat: Fear is a totally normal and healthy response.

When we extend beyond our comfort zones (AKA, familiar territory) we are effectively exposed. The lizard part of our brains doesn’t like this, for survival reasons. In a social context like work, the possibility that others might reject us or won’t see our value basically spells our demise.

When our fears grow bigger than our joy and excitement, we put up defenses. For instance we avoid or procrastinate, we push ourselves ruthlessly to perform, or we numb ourselves using different tactics — artificial self-inflation, seeking reassurance, substances in some cases.

What we don’t do well when we’re being reactive? Learn and grow.

While being afraid or uncomfortable is normal, the flurry of activity we can fall into to reduce or avoid fear is essentially drama. We may need some positive self-affirmation, self-compassion and/or self-settling before we focus on what we’re actually setting out to do. That’s all.

I don’t love fake it til you make it, as a rule.

Because why are you trying to do something you don’t think you can actually do?

You may very well not know how to do it yet — that’s different from whether you can, as any entrepreneur and mindset psychologist Carol Dweck will attest. The fact that you’re trying means on some level, you think you can achieve success.

Your fears can and will come along. Let them scream their hearts out as you ride the rollercoaster of life.

As someone with a history of self-effacing, self-diminishing, and self sabotaging, I can say from personal experience that when fear is running your show, it’s not good.

It feels terrible, it can block or hide opportunities and even cause harm.

This is not to say that arrogance or gaping chasms in self-awareness are preferable. Know what you’re good at, or believe you could be good at, if you genuinely intend to be. It’s equally empowering and powerful to know what you’re not (yet). As is compassionate consideration of your impact on stakeholders. Failing to do so is where confidence can become toxic.

Job interviews are especially interesting because you’re usually being directly compared to other candidates. I’ve had clients hesitate to self-promote because on some level they’re not sure they’re the best one for the job.

As someone who prefers to be direct and genuine, I get it.

And the point is not that you’re better (or worse). The point is that you’re putting your best foot forward so the company can make an informed choice. The point is that you’re showing up at your best, just like you hopefully aspire to do in the work itself, and in life.

The point is… that making yourself smaller does not help anyone — even those who prefer you dim your light.

Who benefits from your “I’m just a tiny piece of poo” schtick? People who exploit it for their goals or self-image. Ultimately they and society don’t benefit either, even if they think or it looks otherwise. In colluding to make one party smaller, you’re both being jerks :)

Depending on your goals, starting point, and consciousness of self and others, confidence can lead to the most radical acts of compassion.

Be afraid, be excited, be confident — quietly if you like. Say yes to being your potential now, not hypothetically. Burn true. Shine bright.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.