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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why you don’t need confidence or courage to create your authentic career [Wise Wednesdays]

I know what I want. I just need more confidence to take action. Can you help me?

Yes. And, no.

The first thing is to agree on what the real issue is.

It’s not helpful that people are told on their annual assessments that they need more ‘confidence’.


Because it doesn’t mean anything.

It’s like telling someone they should be more in love. Or be more angry.

But how do you manufacture an emotion or state of mind?

Well, the easy answer I’m going to tell you is what an acting coach might say:

Use your imagination. Pretend. Fake it until you make it, etc.

But the truth is that will only get you part of the way.

The next thing I’m going to tell you is to do the opposite:

Stop using your imagination. Stop imagining the worst case scenario or all the bad things that could happen if you follow your inner-voice.

The word confidence comes from the Latin ‘with trust’.

So the real question becomes: what do you trust (or not)?

Well, you can trust that life will have its ups and downs. And, you can trust that you can face them. Or not.

If you think about it, what is it that got you through the toughest times and to your greatest achievements in the past?

I’m going to guess that you somehow found a way to deal with whatever curve balls came your way.

You faced what life threw at you and did your best.

Either you managed easily or you didn’t but you got through.

From the outside, it may look to others like you showed confidence or courage.

On the inside it’s something different.

It’s a kind of even-mindedness in the face of life events.

Yes, there are ups and downs and unexpected turns. But you weather them.

That quality or attitude is something we don’t talk about very much.

It’s not very fashionable…

Yet sages through the ages have told us about its merits. The father of modern medicine and co-founder of Johns Hopkins, William Osler, became famous for it.

You know it…

It’s the quality called equanimity.

Having equanimity is a deep knowing that nothing can rattle you too much for too long. And that’s something you already have proof of, right?

How do you know you have equanimity? Here are a few signs:

1) You’re amused by other people’s tantrums

Whether someone is shouting or quietly passive aggressive, you have some compassion while seeing that it’s not necessarily helpful. If you’re an introvert you might wonder why people are talking so much about a small thing. If you’re an extrovert you might wonder why people can’t just speak up and say what they want. The point it seems like interesting ripples on a majestic ocean.

2) You see situations not problems

You make lemonade if you’ve got lemons. You agree with Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

You deal with what’s in front of you, leverage the opportunities and let go of the rest.

3) You experience emotions not drama

You experience a wide range of feelings – you can feel happy or sad or neutral. It all moves through you without a sticky story to amplify the emotion. You know that this too shall pass and that the symphony of emotions – and the insights they open us up to - is what makes life so interesting and what helps us connect to each other.

4) You know what you want AND go with the flow

You know what’s important to you but you’re open about how to get there. E, one of my clients was absolutely clear that she wanted more fulfilment in her work and thought she might have to give up on her career and run away. She realised she didn’t. She just needed a different organisation, reconnecting to loving equanimity and a passion project building towards her long term aspiration of creating the next generation of diverse leaders. Her adventure has just begun.

You may not feel equanimity all the time. But you know you have access to it and that it will always come online eventually.

The longer I work with people on career and personal transformation, the more I realise that taking bold steps is one side of the coin. The other is equanimity. They go hand in hand.

But I believe it’s easier to remember that you can face whatever comes – a sense of equanimity - than to huff and puff and make yourself big against some imaginary danger that requires magic confidence powder.

In any case, would you rather see life as dangerous? Or as a great adventure you’re beautifully built for?

Have a great week, Amina

p.s. Upcoming FREE events on careers and work culture that you might like to join me at:

  1. Work Cultures that Liberate Conversation (RSA Coaching Network): why do we thrive in one work environment and wither in another? Join me for this exploratory conversation and connect with other social impact driven professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders in guided breakout room discussions. 18th May 6pm UK. Book here:

  1. Badass Career Summit for Women (She Has No Limits): access recorded sessions + live Q&A with a range of speakers. I’ll be there on Thursday May 20th 9.30-10.30am UK for the session on “What’s holding you back: 30 minutes to break through to your dream career and life”. Full programme and registration here:

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