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The Real Key To Living With Confidence Isn't What You Think

06/06/2017 12:13 BST | Updated 06/06/2017 12:13 BST

How can I stop avoiding acting confident for fear of coming across as cocky? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Nicole Gravagna, Neuroscientist, author of MindSET Your Manners:

Confidence might be the most sought-after trait in life. Confidence is key whether you are talking about dating or job interviews. If you can't bring self-confidence to the room, you can't expect anyone else to have confidence in you.

Confidence is neither arrogant nor passive. Those who worry that confidence will make them look arrogant have confused confidence for something else. It's quite possible that you've misunderstood what confidence is, too. Many people don't have great role models for confidence.

Confidence isn't a thing unto itself. Instead, confidence is the side effect. You can't control your confidence directly. Those who try to "be confident" end up looking arrogant. There's no way to exude confidence until you are aligned with yourself. But what does that mean - aligned with yourself?

Align with yourself

When you say you'll do something, and then you do it, you align with yourself. Your actions and words match up. Another way to say this is that you are in integrity with yourself. The word integrity is used here to mean wholeness. It's not a value judgement; it's a choice. Just like a bridge or building that has integrity can support itself. When you use integrity, you will be able to support your own needs too.

You see, it really matters when you say you'll do something and then you don't follow through. You might think that you are fooling others, but really it's yourself you need to worry about. When you don't align with yourself, you stop trusting your own abilities. When you can't trust yourself, you lose confidence and have to rely on cockiness to get by.

I work with leadership groups to help people get past their own personal barriers in life. Everyone has their own glass ceiling that they created for themselves. With a few changes, everyone can break their own glass ceiling and get more out of life. I've seen some people turn their lives around in an instant as soon as they decided they were willing to focus on integrity. Developing confidence through self-alignment is one of the fastest ways to change your life for the better.

When someone commits to integrity, they find they have to make some minor everyday changes. They have to become honest with themselves and this can be very hard at first. When you stop blaming the bad things on circumstance and bad luck, you realize that you have a lot more control over your life than you thought.

Here's a few everyday examples:

Late for a meeting?

Call someone as soon as you realize you will be late. Tell them the truth. "I just realized that I will be 15 minutes late for this meeting." Listen to see if they have information to share with you.

Pitfalls: People who haven't committed to integrity will naturally make up an excuse to save face. "The traffic is terrible! I'm not sure how long this is going to take." You can either be in alignment with yourself or save face. Being in alignment with yourself results in true confidence. Saving face results in an excuse that people might not really believe anyway.

Didn't do your work?

Be straightforward about the situation. "That report is not finished. I didn't give it the attention it needed to get done by the deadline." Aim to create a solution that can work for everyone and follow through with it.

Pitfalls: People who haven't committed to integrity will come up with an excuse when they failed to meet expectations. Again, the goal of an excuse is to save face, but it comes at the cost of being in alignment with yourself. You can't have true confidence until you are willing to admit that you screwed up and didn't get the job done. Then, you need to find a way to actually come through with something that does work.

Caught in a lie?

We all lie, more than you may realize. Humans are fiction-making machines. However, there's no virtue in sticking to a lie once you realized you've told one. The moment you discover that your human mind produced a lie, you can choose to come clean. "Hey, I don't know why I did it, but I wasn't totally honest with you just now. Here's the truth." You'll be surprised at how well your truth goes over.

Pitfalls: When integrity isn't a part of your daily life, it's easy to let lies slip into your communications. If you aren't caught, you tend to think we got away with something. But the truth is that most people know you aren't telling the truth and they are just being polite about not calling you out. When you lie to others, you aren't aligned with yourself, which makes self-confidence impossible to achieve.

When you make the commitment to integrity, you'll find that your self-confidence rises in a short lag time behind your efforts toward being aligned with yourself. You see, you are actually waiting to see if you are trustworthy. If you are trustworthy, then you'll have confidence in yourself. If you keep lying, saving face, and making up excuses, then you'll know you aren't worthy of your own trust.

Your own confidence is in your hands. Start living aligned with yourself and everything starts falling into place within just a few weeks.