Faux amis – false friends: when confidence may not be what it seems

Faux amis – false friends: when confidence may not be what it seems


When you learn a foreign language, there comes a stage when you learn about “faux amis”


Literally translated, this means “false friends”


And in language learning, this refers to phrases or words which sound easy to translate, but are in fact not that easy


For example, many words in English and French come from the same roots, and so mean the same thing AND appear similar –


Amiable and aimable look similar and meant he same thing


However, many are similar, but mean very different things


Eg Extra means “plus” or “in addition” in English – in French the same word means “outstanding” or special….


Miserable means sad in English – but means “shabby, run down” in French


Here is a big one 9on English inhabited means someone lives there – in French inhabite means NO-ONE lives there!


What on earth does this have to do with confidence?




Well, this can happen with confidence too.


Something that LOOKS LIKE confidence, can often be mistaken for confidence – -when in fact, it is not.


This can happen when we are with friends, and we think they are confident because they act that way – when we have no odea of how they are really feeling on the inside


Or it can happen with ourselves.


We can trick ourselves.


We can trick ourselves into thinking we are better than we really are, that we know more – and that we are more confident than we really are.



Why on earth would we do this

Well our unconscious just wants us to stay safe and be happy – so it may allow us to pretend to be confident in order to be happy about ourselves.


Think about it – one of the hardest things for anyone to do is to be happy with themselves, warts and all.  We all want some positive thing to hold onto – and being unconfident can be a really negative place to be.

The appeal of finding confidence can be seductive – and so when one thing works, we tell ourselves look we are ok , we are confident now – –


And that can lead to some challenges



This blog was partly inspired by someone I recently worked with.  This person in initially worked really hard at understanding her confidence levels, and not going over a 5, and doing things in incremental steps, using approach and retreat on herself as well as her horse


Then she had a hack where she really enjoyed herself.


She emailed me to say “I’m confident again! – I don’t need to do this stuff anymore!”


What happened next?   She took the one ride confidence to mean she was fully confident, so stopped using the tools, stopped paying attention to things – and SEEMED to be hacking out just fine for a few months


Recently she got in touch again – -she now realises that she let herself be carried away by the excitement of that first confident ride – -much to her shock, after several good rides she found herself losing her confidence again, this time worse than before.


Luckily she noticed this – and worked out that in her eagerness to “be fixed” and to “be confident” she had tricked herself into thinking that one good ride meant she was all ok – and so had pushed herself through her thresholds repeatedly, leading to another loss in confidence.


She had “false confidence”.


Interestingly, the word “false friends” came into play in another way for her – -she said her friends were SO relieved she had “found her confidence” that they refused to accept she was anything less than “cured” and that had also contributed to the relapse.



I suppose this really goes back to a couple of fundamental concepts


First, Confidence isn’t an object you lose, then find.  It isn’t something that you have in your pocket and it can fall out.

Equally, confidence isn’t  “who you are” – it is not your identity.  You are not a “confident person” or an “unconfident person”

Confidence isn’t always knowing exactly what to do and how to do it…..knowing what will work and what won’t….


What IS confidence?  REAL confidence, as opposed to the false friend of confidence we often hold onto?


Confidence is a belief that whatever happens in that particular situation, you will be safe: physically, emotionally or mentally.


REAL confidence is a belief based in fact, experience and knowledge.  False confidence is based on fantasy.



In any path of spirituality that includes meditation, it is often said that the hardest thing for any human to do is to accept themselves as they truly are.


For me, to realise I am always a beginner, always learning, always imperfect – and often have to work hard to find a way to be confident in a situation – means I am accepting myself as an imperfect flawed human being


This isn’t easy.


I find when I work by myself, it is all too easy to see myself as better than I actually am, to imagine myself to be kinder, nicer, more natural, lighter.


I enjoy teaching and coaching because it helps me stay authentic, true to the reality that we can ALL see, instead of maybe drifting off into a fantasy that only I can envision….


Most of us either ignore our flaws, or spiral into a pit of despair at how terrible we are…..


We need to find the BARDO:  the space between, and play there


We need to find the place where we are not perfect, we are not right, we are not wrong – we are working on being as good a “me” as we can be right now, with our resources.


We need to find a place where we are allowed to be learners; we are allowed to be beginners


We are allowed to not know what we are doing – hopefully we know how to stay safe while we are playing around and trying to work this out….



We need to allow ourselves to be our real, authentic selves.



Only when we can see ourselves as we really are, can we start to work on becoming who we want to be.




False friends, and false confidence – watch out for them, and don’t let them take you away from who you really are.  Allow yourself to be worthy of the truth…


Yours, in Confidence










2 thoughts on “Faux amis – false friends: when confidence may not be what it seems

  1. Thank you chere amie 🙂 It is too easy to get carried away and think all is well, then my equine partner says ‘no’ you’re not the leader I need hohum

  2. Interestingly, I am reading this from my office on a Sunday AM. It strikes me how very often just the right message comes at just the right time.

    Although I am speaking thinking more about my professional life than not my horse-life, I needed these words of wisdom and encouragement to carry on with my work.

    I am in a new position; uncharted for me. I have recently made the move from administration to management. I find I scold myself for “not knowing” all I feel I “should” know. I feel unproductive because I no longer produce a measurable product at the end of the day…I feel undefined and unconfident.

    I am in my mid 50’s and so, have learned many, many, many new things over the course of my years. Intellectually, I know I can learn my new role and thrive. Emotionally, however, I feel small and anxious and undeveloped.

    I need to find that place between and remember that as Cathy so wisely points out, we are beginners…

    If we are living well and fully, we will always be beginners as there is so much to see and do and discover. I needed to be reminded that I am on an adventure, learning something new and that confidence will grow and bloom as I embrace my new beginning.

    When I leave the office today… I think I will go home and have a lovely ride.

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