courage or confidence

Why Courage is More Important than Confidence

Do you think courage is more important than confidence?

Do you know people who seem to be ridiculously confident for no apparent reason? Even when they don’t have all the information or answers at hand, they are confident they’ll get a great outcome?

I wonder if they are courageous or ignorant. Mark Twain said, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”

Perhaps it’s easy to be confident when you don’t know what you don’t know, but for most people, it’s a different matter. We lack confidence because we’re afraid of the outcome.

It’s normal to be afraid

Our human brains are hardwired to be afraid. It’s part of our survival mechanism. Our ancestors would never have survived if they’d wandered past predators without fear. The fight or flight mechanism has been the key to human survival.

It’s rare today that we have to worry about predators, but fear mechanism still works. Today it’s more likely to focus on the things that could go wrong for us. You know what I mean; that voice in your head which points out all the downsides of what you’re about to do.

We humans are also programmed to react more strongly to the idea of loss than gain. Loss aversion means we put more emotional weight on the negative than the positive. For example, when thinking about public speaking, we spend more time worrying about making fools of ourselves than we do thinking of the applause we will achieve at the end.

With the odds stacked against us, it’s remarkable we choose to take a risk at all.

The essence of courage

I think most of us would agree that courage and confidence are two qualities we’d love to have. Of the two, I believe courage is the most important, and without it, we may never develop true confidence.

Confidence comes from believing we can do it; courage is giving it a go despite our fear. Without courage, we may never develop confidence.

Do you remember a time at school where the teacher asked a question, and no-one put their hand up to answer? You waited for what seemed like an hour, but no-one spoke. So, because you knew she was waiting, you dared to put up your hand with an answer you weren’t sure of, just so the class could move on.  It took courage to do that and, even if your answer was incorrect, you gained from it. You learnt the right answer, but you also learnt the world wouldn’t end if you were wrong. It was easier to put your hand up next time, wasn’t it?

The scenario might be different today, but the courage you need to take a risk is just the same.

You don’t grow without taking risks

If you never take a risk, you never grow. You never learn what you’re capable of; never discover the limits you see aren’t real.

Stephen King says, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

It takes courage to start something new. It takes courage to take a risk. But until you have the courage to try something new, you’ll never develop the confidence that comes with experience.


Courage and confidence – which would I rather have? Without doubt, I’d choose courage. Confidence helps you repeat the success experience you’ve had, but courage makes you unstoppable.

So, which would you choose? Do you think courage is more important than confidence too?

The Empowering Ambitious Women community is all about finding your courage and building your confidence. To see other recent articles and podcast interviews from our inspiring contributors and mentors, click here.

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I am a Mum, business founder, author and accomplished CEO with over 20 years’ experience in the corporate world. My childhood dream was to become a fighter pilot, but when that didn’t materialise, I found my place in the corporate world, climbing the sales and marketing ladder to my role as CEO of Cox & Kings Australia.

I'm the founder of Empowering Ambitious Women, I've led start-ups to companies with annual revenues from $55 million to more than $250 million. My role as CEO of Australia’s leading franchise network of professional builders saw me as a pioneer in the industry; as a female CEO leading a large franchise home building company.

I was formally recognised twice by the Telstra Business Women's Awards my achievements in business.

As a woman who became one of the 16% of female CEOs, and who has led in male-dominated industries, I’m passionate about creating pathways for women leaders to step up, take a seat at the table and own it.

I love; French champagne, socialising, dining out and having an impact...

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