Recent research has shown that we can bolster our self-confidence in powerful ways through simple actions. One of those actions is to adopt a physical position that encourages confidence. A Forbes writer describes it like this: “Right now I challenge you to stand up tall, shoulders back, chin up, smile confidently and move your body into the posture of someone who is highly self-assured; someone who never buys into beliefs that diminish them. Notice a difference? That’s because when we shift our physical state, it shifts our mental and emotional state. Not only that, but as Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has found, putting ourselves in a ‘Power Pose’ literally changes our physiology releasing a hearty dose of testosterone to fuel our bravery.”
As we continue on this journey toward cultivating and sharing our stories, we will need self-confidence to push us forward. And it’s exciting to know that God designed us to grow in confidence even through things like a “Power Pose.” From a spiritual perspective, though, we also grow in self-confidence when we can see the power and providence of God in our own stories.
We see this effect in Paul’s life. He had ruminated over God’s work in his life. He had contemplated his story. And knowing God’s faithfulness to him allowed him to tackle even the most difficult situations that came his way. One such situation occurred in the Corinthian church, which had been infiltrated by “super-apostles” who proclaimed a different gospel and taught a different Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4–5). These super-apostles accused Paul of “walking according to the flesh” and were undermining his teaching and reputation (2 Corinthians 10:2). They referred to Paul as “weak” and of “no account” (v. 10).
To defend himself, Paul boldly shared his story. He pointed out that, yes, he was weak in human terms. He had suffered many setbacks in ministry, including persecution, suffering, imprisonment, physical danger, and emotional anxiety (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). He had suffered for fourteen years from a “thorn . . . in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7). And yet his weaknesses were not a liability—they allowed him to rely more wholly upon God. Paul confidently told the Corinthians, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
Further, he reminded the Corinthians of the reality of his ministry among them. The super-apostles had accused Paul of providing a ministry “of no account”. On the contrary, Paul and his coworkers had risked their lives to “come all the way to [Corinth] with the gospel of Christ.” Why? Because they were confident in their calling to “the area of influence God assigned” to them (2 Corinthians 10:14, 13). That area was the Gentile community in Corinth. Paul knew his story and his calling to the Gentiles. He had followed through in his commitment to go to Corinth and could boast that he had fulfilled his mission in establishing the church. And he was determined to visit them yet again, to continue to serve the church (2 Corinthians 13:1).
Paul combatted the super-apostles’ depiction of him with facts. He didn’t deny his human frailty. But he also didn’t back down from reminding the Corinthians of all he had done for them. Knowing his story gave him confidence. And we can gain similar self-confidence as we reflect on our own stories—the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly. This kind of reflection requires deep, intimate time with the Lord. But it results in a truer understanding of how God has faithfully worked in and through us in our lives. And, as with Paul, it allows us to rest in the fact that “[God’s] grace is sufficient for [us], for [his] power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).