I've tried many things over the years to become more confident. Someone recently said to me that I have the 'bullshit factor'. This took me aback a little for obvious reasons! Then she went on to say that I come across as very confident but underneath, there's a layer of vulnerability. I think that's true and I think, very natural given that I'm also a shy and sensitive person.
I spent many years pondering how I could be more confident. Confidence covers so many areas - we can be professionally confident but a complete mess when it comes to social confidence for example. For me, overall confidence has been more about finding self-acceptance. When you have that, even if you aren't even 50% confident in something else, it makes dealing with it a whole lot easier.
Right now at nearly 32, I'm probably feeling at my most confident - or self-assured, which is possibly due to age and I also think due to many things I've learned about confidence. There's no cheat sheet or life hack to becoming more confident though. I don't want to say it takes 'work', it's actually more about learning, growing and observing. I can go from one end of the confidence scale to the other in a heartbeat depending on many factors. You have to notice what you do in one situation compared to another. And of course, there are things you can do to build your confidence too.
Here are 3 things I've learned -:
- Some people I can meet instantly and feel like I can just be myself around them. I feel confident. Others I go to pieces, I become socially awkward, can't make eye contact, can't even speak properly sometimes! Why does this happen? Well usually it's because as people, we feel most comfortable around people who are like us. The people who we feel at ease with are probably the people we should be spending the most time around. Obviously you can't choose who you interact with on a day-to-day basis and there are many people who I also feel intimidated around. Even people I know quite well sometimes! So I think about why I feel that way. Is it because I admire them? If so, that's a positive thing and it's therefore easier to think of ways to be more confident around them, which is mostly about being mentally prepared and being very aware of things such as maintaining eye contact and keeping open body language. And also, letting go a little around them. Some people just have big personalities and as someone who is naturally shy, that can be overwhelming. Once you acknowledge that you lack confidence around specific people, or types of people, instead of it just happening, falling to pieces and then forgetting about it until the next time, if you observe why all these things happened, you'll probably realise that there are different ways you can choose to behave around them and different conversations you can make with them. Be prepared. And also, acknowledge that it's mostly your own mind chatter that's making you feel that way! It's likely that you're falling into the comparison trap, which can be so easy and a serious confidence killer – especially when we’re around people we look up to. Again, it’s about noticing how you feel, relaxing and thinking of better ways you can interact with them. It's also important to remember that feeling more comfortable and therefore confident around some people and not others is very natural!
- Constantly push yourself. There's that saying that you should do something every day that scares you and I think it's a good one to live by. If there's something that you're not confident with, challenge yourself little by little to do more of it. Or just do something that scares you a tiny bit, even if it isn't directly related to what you want be more confident in. The act of pushing small boundaries will make you see that you can get yourself out of your comfort zone, which will equal greater confidence in yourself all round!
- Get good at what you want to be confident in. For me a big one is public speaking. I think this is one that many people lack confidence in. I've actually never done a public speaking gig and it's something I passionately want to do - but the thought terrifies me! Although I know I have something valuable and meaningful to say, the idea of just getting up there and doing it, I instinctively know will not be the way for me to tackle it. I'll probably need to get lessons, practice to friends, practice 1000s of times over and be very prepared! At least until I get into my groove with it! But even though I know I'll still lack confidence when I get up in front of people, if I'm prepared, that will be half the battle. People who give amazing talks and who seem naturally confident in their ability to do so probably put a look of work into honing that craft! So when it comes to confidence in a skill, that type of confidence can definitely be learned.
- Go easy on yourself. This is the most important lesson I've learned. Going back to the self-acceptance side of confidence now, I spent most of my twenties really not liking myself much at all and so my confidence was rock bottom. I really had to spend a lot of time rebuilding the essence of who I was. I wasn’t confident because I didn’t know who I was. The confidence I have now really comes from taking care of myself, doing the things I love to do, making the leap to do what I love when it comes to my career, spending time with people who have my best interests at heart, not worrying so much about what other people think, challenging myself in the most positive ways possible and taking responsibility for myself. Oh yeah, and having fun! Being silly! All of these self-nurturing habits make me feel good and when I feel good I feel like 'me' and when I can be me, I feel at my most confident. Even if I'm not the loudest person in the room that doesn't matter because confidence is really, an inner self-acceptance. And even that layer of vulnerability isn't a bad thing because it just makes me - me. I’m sensitive and also, vulnerability makes us human and helps us grow. I think we all have to wear many hats and with that comes having to 'put on' confidence in some situations. And that's fine, it's normal. But ultimately, I think that having that real authentic inner confidence is the foundation of what we need to be able to build all the other parts of confidence that can be applied to other situations.
Confidence is an ongoing process. The more we learn about ourselves, the more experiences we have, the more we interact with different types of people…the more you can throw yourself into these situations and scenarios the more you'll learn about where and when you feel most confident. But it all starts with taking care of you. Nurture yourself, take time to acknowledge all the amazing qualities and strengths about you and what you have to offer. Be good to yourself, sleep well, eat well and have fun. Know who you are, what you want and surround yourself with people who make you feel incredible.
So they are just a few of my thoughts I have on the topic of confidence. There are plenty more, which I'll delve into more in future posts! I'd love to hear what you feel about confidence and any tips that you have?