Updated: May 20, 2020
"She is so beautiful! Wearing that turquoise dress, her deep brown eyes are looking in the distance as she waits for the bus. The subtle smile on her face makes her mysterious and it makes me curious.
I liked her from the moment I saw her.
The elegance and beauty she radiates allow me to escape the reality of my day.
The truth is I am tired and frustrated. Meeting everyone's expectations at work all the time. Presentation for Bill, financial statements for Tom, etc. I don’t even know why I continue to work for them.
But I have forgotten all of it all thanks to the beauty I witnessed at the bus stop.
What would it be like to have a glass of wine together?
Talking about the world, about what we share. About music, travelling, adventures and experiences.
God only knows what this date would end up like.
I am imagining approaching her.
I am starting to feel anxiety.
What will I tell her?
My heart starts racing.
I am nervous and insecure.
The image of a romantic date is still alive though.
Time is running out as my internal tension grows.
Her bus just came..."
Born confidence is a coincidence
“Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed.”
-Daniel Friday Danzor
Masculine confidence is very often presented as something mysterious and complicated.
It seems as if some people are simply born with it while others are not.
Is this true?
Social Learning Theory, theorized by Albert Bandura, posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation. According to Bandura, born confidence is present in children who had powerful role models that were present in their lives during their upbringing be it in their family, schooling, or general environment. Children model the behaviors, patterns, and beliefs of their role models, which allows them to enter early adulthood with great confidence.
On the other hand, children with low self-confidence modeled unhealthy behaviors and toxic patterns of the people who were influential in their upbringing. Fortunately, any adult with low confidence can overcome their current behaviors through self-development and undoing the patterns that they learned earlier in their lives.
What is the essence of masculine confidence then?
Confidence is the ability to handle tension
It is really that simple.
Confidence is the ability to handle tension.
Numerous other authors share the same understanding of masculine confidence in their work. David Deida, the well-known author of the book The Way of the Superior Man, calls it living on the edge and Dr. Robert Glover, best-selling author of the book No More Mr. Nice Guy, calls it thriving under P.E.T. - Positive Emotional Tension. Brian Begin, CEO of The Fearless Man, said:
"Man's ability to handle tension determines the level of success he will achieve in life."
Let´s break down masculine confidence into its component parts:
1. Understanding Tension
2. Handling Tension
3. Improving Your Ability to Handle Tension
1. Understanding Tension
"Maturity is achieved when man accepts life full of tension." -Joshua Liebman
Tension is the most natural thing in the human psyche and the Universe.
Tension is stress.
It emerges outside one’s comfort zone and is present literally everywhere in the world.
Tension is present in nature.
A planted seed is under the weight and tension of the soil. If you water the seed, it will start to sprout and create tension back on the soil as it pushes its roots further down into the ground. Later, the wind blows and creates further tension in the flexion of the trunk and branches. The tree does not collapse thanks to the roots creating tension on the surrounding soil. The higher the tree, the more grounded it needs to be and the more tension it can handle.
Tension is in the human body.
The body is comprised of muscles and bones, which create mutual tension in order to stay in balance. The pull (tension) of the muscle on the bones allows your body to move. In order to move faster or grow stronger, muscles require exercise, which is a form of tension. The more powerful the muscles are, the more powerful the bones need to become, which then allows the body to handle more tension as a unit.
The same tension exists in subtle moments of everyday life.
Holding eye contact one second longer than usual creates tension.
Not giving a high tip when you’re extremely dissatisfied with the service at a restaurant creates tension.
Giving an honest compliment creates tension.
Tension is in everyday decision making.
Being honest in vulnerable situations creates more tension than closing others off from the truth of what you are feeling.
Going for a workout creates more tension than watching Netflix at home.
Asking for a salary raise creates more tension than complaining about the company privately and doing nothing about it.
Avoiding eye contact, smiling when you are angry and falsely complimenting someone are all forms of avoiding tension.
Deciding to quit your current job and launching your own business is stepping into a massive amount of tension.
Accepting mediocrity, resigning on life and arguing that everything sucks is avoiding tension.
Suicide is an extreme form of avoiding tension.
Tension is always present in the world; it is impossible to avoid.
Avoiding tension creates more tension.
Endless avoiding tension creates a never-ending cycle, which can lead to both psychological and physiological diseases.
2. Handling Tension = Staying Proactive
"Reactive people are influenced by the weather. If the weather is good, they feel well. If not, their mood and performance worsen. Proactive people carry their own weather with them." -Stephen Covey
According to Stephen Covey, author of the international bestseller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, humans function in two modes: the proactive mode and the reactive mode.
In proactive mode, I am consciously acting on my intent. I know what I am doing.
In reactive mode, I am losing conscious control over my intent and I become a victim to my circumstances and environment.
Covey further says: "Reactive people are influenced by their emotions, circumstances and their environment." According to the psychoanalytic theory of Carl G. Jung, the reactive mind acts on the subconscious beliefs and patterns based on our childhood and past experiences.
Imagine you need to talk to your boss about increasing your salary.
If you are proactive, you listen to his arguments, evaluate them and then respond with yours. You enter the conversation with your goal in mind and something will change as a result - whether it is your salary, your opinion on your current situation or your other work conditions, etc.
The moment you get reactive, your brain will switch to autopilot and you will later evaluate your actions as inadequate. You might start feeling ashamed for asking for a raise and just leave the conversation in frustration. Or you will release your suppressed anger and do something you will later regret. Or you will start feeling like a victim and start to talk about the past and feel sorry for yourself in front of him.
In the story above, there is a clear distinction:
In a proactive mode, you are holding the steering wheel of your ship.
In a reactive mode, the steering wheel of your ship is being turned freely according to the situation on the sea.
To enter conversation like this requires stepping into a certain amount of tension right from the beginning.
When tension increases there comes a critical moment when tension becomes unbearable and your behavior changes from proactive to reactive.
When that happens, you let go of the steering wheel, your subconscious autopilot takes over and you start to react to your environment.
Does this sound familiar?
At the restaurant, the cheese you ordered is hard as a brick and tastes terrible. You feel like telling the waitress that the food is disgusting. She comes over and asks: "How do you like it?" To stay polite, you say you love it.
At work, you want your colleague to do something for you, but you are afraid that he will be unwilling or resistant. As a result, you end up doing the task yourself and blame the company for the internal processes that do not work.
Both situations create tension.
If you stay proactive with tension, you step into it and act with integrity.
If you get reactive to the tension, you overreact or try to avoid it completely.
The confident man does what he considers right (acts proactively) even if the circumstances are tough (high tension).
The unconfident man does not do what he considers right (acts reactively) because of the circumstances (high tension).
"Confidence is the ability to handle tension."
The right amount of tension
Tension is a highly subjective measure. We are all different. Everyone can handle different amounts of tension in different areas of life.
The best way to evaluate tension is on the 1-10 scale.
1 = almost no tension, comfort zone
10 = extreme tension, unbearable level of tension
Tension intensity in the same situation varies for different people:
Disagreeing with your boss during the meeting is a common occurrence for one person (2), but it is adrenaline-inducing for someone else (9).
Telling a waitress that she has a beautiful smile is unimaginable for one person (9), while it is pleasurable and playful for someone else (3).
Giving a low tip for bad lunch is normal for one person (3) while it is absolutely off-limits for someone else (9).
Tension on the level of 1-2 is barely detectable.
Tension on the level of 3-7 is challenging enough for you to need to grow, it can be still fun and it does not make you reactive. It can be handled by your body while your subconscious mind slowly adapts and you grow.
Tension on the level of 8-10 is overwhelming for the body and will automatically kick you in the reactive mode.
Optimal growth and joy from stepping into tension happen on the level of 3-7.
It is good to step into 8-10 level of tension occasionally to test your boundaries and recalibrate your scale.
It is the same as muscle stretching.
Stretch within the 1-2 range, and you will not get much results.
Stretch within the 3-7 range, and you get optimal growth.
Stretch within the 8-10 range, and you risk muscle injury.
Every once in a while, though, it is good to test your boundaries and stretch the muscle to its maximum in order to see your growth and recalibrate the scale.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the well-known concept of flow, says: “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times... The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Flow is the result of proactive stepping into tension, that is challenging, but still not threatening.
Tension is one of the key elements of the flow state.
Why do so many people avoid it then?
Tension is the activator of emotions
Hans Selye became a recognized scientist as a result of his research on the influence of stress and tension on the organism. He called the bodily reaction to stress the General Adaptation Syndrome. According to his work, the stress stimuli in the organism (real or perceived) causes a biochemical change in the organism. This is reflected in the activity of the pituitary gland, adrenal medulla, and thyroid. Hormones are infused in the bloodstream, launching the physical aspect of the emotional reaction.
Put simply - tension in the human body activates emotions.
When I am deciding to take on risk, I feel fear.
When I am deciding to express my vulnerability, I am risking failure and might potentially feel shame.
When I am confronting my fear, I might feel courage or anger.
All of these situations are an expression of stepping into tension, which creates an emotional reaction.
Why do people resist tension?
Because the powerful emotions arising in the moments of high tension have a subconscious charge of a life threat.
Why is that?
Children cannot distinguish their emotions from reality. They cannot distinguish themselves from the perceived reality, and they begin their lives building their egos from a state of oneness where reality is perceived as one unit. They see themselves as a cause of everything happening around them. Only "here and now" exists. The child’s ego develops based on its core driver: want for survival. All emotions are new, and therefore absolute and therefore the negative ones are perceived as life-threatening. Gradually, children learn what is acceptable in society through social conditioning. They start becoming aware of their behavior and emotions. It is a natural human development. Even according to Charles Darwin and his Evolutionary Psychology, the first emotions in human species were developed to solve adaptive problems - secure its survival.
The conclusion is clear: negative emotions feel life-threatening at first. Memories of these moments are stored in a part of the brain called the amygdala and we carry the memories all the way to adulthood. When we hit an intensive emotion, we subconsciously remember what it felt like early in our lives and we feel a life threat.
However, the truth is that your emotions are not life-threatening anymore.
They are just emotions.
An adult man is able to handle all of his emotions.
The only reason why adult men avoid tension (and suffer from low confidence) is avoiding emotions hidden behind that tension because they perceive them as life-threatening.
How can this radically change your life?
By internalizing that the worst possible outcome of stepping into tension is an emotion.
Think about it.
The worst-case scenario of stepping into tension is a feeling.
You will feel bad.
Rejection, awkwardness, shame, sadness.
And then it is gone.
You can handle that.
Emotions are not life threatening and as an adult man you can handle all your emotions.
Now, how can you use this to improve your life?
"Repetition is the mother of skill (and the father of a serial production)."
-Eastern European saying
Confidence and tension skills can be improved in the same way as any other skill - with practice.
There is a way to radically increase the amount of tension you can handle proactively.
You will improve your confidence, emotional intelligence, ability to stay calm under pressure and you will expand your comfort zone.
The problem with building confidence for most people is the urgency of the problem itself.
The more people feel its lack, the harder they want it.
Ideally, they want it immediately and therefore they have a tendency to search for quick fixes.
That is why the internet is so full of these quick fixes. Some of the quick fixes even work - temporarily. People watch a motivational video on youtube and get their state pumped up into believing that they are almost a superhero. However, the pumped-up state dissolves after a while, returning them to their old beliefs, patterns, and tendency to avoid tension. This returns them to their original levels of confidence and they begin anew the search for quick fixes to their lack of confidence as the cycle repeats.
How to increase your natural and healthy confidence long-term: Tension journal
5 minutes a day for 3 months.
The goal is to increase your ability to handle tension.
How does it work?
Step 1. Find yourself a fancy journal.
Step 2. Every day find three situations in which you feel the tension and step into them proactively.
Step 3. Before you go to sleep, note in your tension journal:
- description of the situation in detail
- the intensity of the perceived tension on the 1-10 scale
- what went well OR what you have learned.
Make sure you step into tension on the levels between 3-7 on the 1-10 scale. Remember? The optimal growth happens at levels of 3-7. Levels of 1-2 are barely noticeable and 8-10 makes you reactive.
Stay consistent for 3 weeks and you will see massive results.
Why does this exercise give you a permanent growth of your confidence?
1. Your mind has no other choice than growth. Why? Nature has a tendency to balance tension. When I stretch a rubber band, tension will be balanced either by my hands relaxing and releasing the rubber band OR the rubber band will be stretched permanently. Both of us cannot last forever. Something must adapt. When you step into tension regularly and you are consistent, your body and subconscious mind must start to adapt and your ability to handle tension simply must grow.
2. The Winner Effect multiplies your growth over time. Ian Robertson studied success in his neuroscientific research. He described a phenomenon he called the Winner Effect: multiple successes in a row create a momentum that increases the likelihood of subsequent successes. Consistent writing of the successes and growths in the journal creates the Winner Effect, speeds up change in your mental mindset and your results will grow faster.
3. You transform your reality into one of growth and success. You teach your subconscious that no matter what discomfort you might feel, there is always an opportunity for growth in that situation. You will begin to learn that whatever happens in the moment of tension, growth or success will result. You will embrace a belief, that failure does not really exist and is just a misinterpretation. You will learn to stay proactive, unlearn being a victim and you will speed up your growth massively.
4. You will witness an obvious growth over time. By noticing the intensity of tension, after just a few weeks you can compare in your journal how much you grew. Situations that used to register