It’s funny what you remember from your childhood years. Particularly when you go back and think about how confident you used to be.
I have memories of being 5 years old in the school playground, always assuming a leadership role in whatever game we had chosen to play. And feeling very comfortable doing so. I was also very good at making friends wherever I went. A little scared they might reject me of course. But always somehow managing to overcome that fear.
I think I was around 7 when I experienced my first real ‘confidence knock’. I had just changed schools. On the first day I went up to a boy called Archie and said “hi”. At first he stared at me blankly. And then he gave me this weird look as if I had just said the most offensive thing in the world, and left the room. Leaving me all alone while he went to play with the other kids. I actually remember thinking, “What did I do? Is there something wrong with me?”.
As we all do, I experienced various events which continued to knock my confidence. I was bullied for being ugly at my 2nd and 3rd schools. At public school, I was one of two girls whose parents were divorced in a year of 90 girls. My family was middle class. The other families were upper class. I felt like a complete social misfit. Funnily enough when I got to university, I had the opposite problem and was the only public school girl in my entire halls. Again, I found it really hard to fit in. It seemed, everywhere I went I didn’t belong. And by the time I left university, my confidence was on the floor.
The issue is once you lose your self-confidence – you become fearful. Fearful of rejection. Failure. Ridicule. Fearful you’re not, nor ever will be, good enough. And once that fear sets in – that’s it. Instead of stepping up, putting yourself out there and going for what you want – you take yourself out of the game. You stop trying. Because not trying means you can avoid rejection. Ridicule. Criticism. Failure. You go with what’s easiest. What’s expected. You do your best to fit in. And all those dreams you had of living a happy and successful life fall by the wayside.
It’s important to remember that success is not a destination. It’s a journey of continuous progress. Progress that requires action. Steps – even just baby ones – towards something. If you don’t feel confident, you won’t take action. And without action you won’t achieve anything. Or change anything. Your life will remain stagnant. And you will remain stuck. If you want to succeed you must take action. And if you want to take action, confidence is crucial. The good news is even just a little bit of confidence can be enough to get momentum.
After university I took myself out of the game. I stopped trying. Every time I went to a social event, I would end up in the corner on my own. Too scared of saying anything. Instead of stepping up and using each event as an opportunity to build my social skills and my confidence, I took the ‘easy’ way out and avoided social situations altogether. I held myself back. Because of fear of failure. But it was actually my fear of failure that was causing me to fail.
In 2010 I decided enough was enough and I hired a coach. In this process, I started to let go of my fears and put myself out there more. I started to take action. And now, 7 years later, I run my own business and can deliver a talk to a room full of more than 200 people. But that came with practice, time and patience. Do I still get nervous? Sure. If it’s a brand new topic I have never spoken on before then I might not be 100% confident. But the difference is now I just do it. Knowing it will be a great learning opportunity and it will only enhance my skills and confidence even further.
If a lack of confidence is stopping you from taking action, there’s a chance you have unknowingly bought into some myths about confidence. Myths which cause us to compare ourselves to others and lead us to doubt ourselves and our confidence. Making us believe we will never measure up. Causing us to take ourselves out of the game.
I’m taking this opportunity to bust some of those myths wide open. So you can start to build upon your own confidence for greater success and happiness. Because let’s face it. It’s about time right?
Myth #1 – Confidence is a personality trait people are born with
Let’s set the record straight. People are not born with confidence. Confidence comes from doing. The more you do something – the more confident you will become at doing it. Think of driving. The first time you got into a car was pretty nerve-wracking right? But with practice and repetition, over time you became so confident at it, now it’s a breeze. Most of us can drive 120km down the highway and still be comfortably thinking about what we’re going to have for lunch that day.
It’s the same with anything else. Everything is a skill. Leadership. Management. Entrepreneurship. Networking. Socialising. Presenting. If you want to be confident in these skills, you need to practice and develop them. And be OK that at the start you will be a beginner. But eventually with time and effort, you will become a master.
Learning how to deal with failure is also a skill. If you want to be less afraid of failure – you have to put yourself in situations where you might fail. Confident people have built that confidence by facing and going through life’s challenges. It might be daunting at first, but trust me – the more you do it, the more confident you will become. Remember the 3 Ps – positivity, patience and persistence – and you’ll get there.
Myth #2 – You can’t fake confidence
In a professional and social setting, people will judge you on how you hold yourself. But how you hold yourself can be completely different to how you feel on the inside. When I first started to present – I was a beginner. And I wasn’t 100% confident. But of course, I didn’t want my audience to know that. I focused on being strong in my posture, and my voice. And managed to blag my confidence to a good enough level that people bought into me and what I was teaching them. The advice “fake it until you make it” definitely works. The more you fake it, the more subconscious the behaviour will become and eventually you won’t have to fake it anymore.
Myth #3 – All confident people are extroverts and all extroverts are confident
Extroversion and introversion are personality preferences. Some people like to lead a conversation. Others like to listen and observe. Others like to chop and change between the two. You can still be confident in who you are and what you do and be an introvert. Bill Gates and Barak Obama are natural introverts. But they still had confidence in who they were to achieve what they achieved. The only difference is, compared to an extrovert, an introvert might just not go around shouting about it.
And you can still be an extrovert and be wracked with insecurities. Extroverts might be confident in a social setting. Through repeated exposure to social situations and development of their social skills. But that doesn’t mean they are not insecure elsewhere in their lives. And quite often extroverts do all the talking because they like to control the conversation. Making sure it doesn’t go in a direction that might expose their insecurities….
Note here too, that if someone has had social outgoing parents, then they might develop social skills at a faster rate. We learn from modeling. So if you’re not confident in a social situation – or in anything in that matter – go out and find a good role model.
Myth #4 – Confident people are fearless
Wrong. Confident people still have fear. They still have self-doubt. The only difference is they’re willing to go through the pain of failure and/or rejection. Because they know that without pain, there is no growth. Nobody ever grew as a person by avoiding all of life’s challenges. Confident people know it might hurt, but they also know they will get through it. And their skills and confidence will continue to soar as a result.
Remember – we’ve all gotten through something at some point in our lives. Most of us coming out stronger and wiser. And if we can do it once – we can sure as hell do it again.
Myth #5 – Only extroverts make good leaders and entrepreneurs
False. Some of the most successful leaders, entrepreneurs and influential people in the world are natural introverts: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/15/famous-introverts_n_3733400.html
And introverts often, in many circumstances, make better leaders:
Don’t let your preference for being a considered thinker make you doubt your ability to be a good leader. It could make you a great one.
Myth #6 – Being confident means you “should” be able to take big risks
This isn’t true at all. People take risks based on how they feel about that risk. How they feel will be based on previous experience and perceived loss. Richard Branson has taken many risks – but he’s also NOT taken many. Based on his previous experience and educated assessment of upsides Vs downsides of that risk.
However, I will say this. If you want to create significant change in your life – that will involve taking a risk. Not necessarily a big one. But a risk nonetheless. Confidence in risk-taking is the same with anything. The only way you will get confident at taking risks is by actually taking risks. Until you experience taking a risk and still living to tale the tale – your fear will keep you paralysed. You will stay stuck. Base your self-esteem not on the results you achieve, but on the action you take. The stepping up and taking the risk. Do that and you’ll always feel successful.
Myth #7 – Confident people are confident in everything they do
Nope. I have friends who are socially very confident. But when it came to doing a charity skydive with me last year, they totally chickened out. And these were male friends in case you were wondering.
Upon further conversation – there were many other things they wouldn’t dream of doing. A major one being public speaking. Something you might you might assume any ‘confident’ person would do.
Remember – confidence comes from doing. If someone is confident in one area, it simply means they have practiced and developed that skill to a point of comfort. Someone might be very confident in a group of three or four people talking about everyday life. Because they’ve done it enough times. But that doesn’t mean they are automatically confident in speaking to a room of 200 people, about a topic they might not be the world’s leading expert in.
The point is – if you continue to assess your confidence levels by comparing yourself to others, you could end up feeling ‘less than’. Remember – you don’t have the whole story. Everyone has their insecurities. EVERYONE.
Assess your confidence within yourself. Knowing that your lack of confidence is simply a sign you are still in the learning/developing phase of that skill. You are still making progress. You are still succeeding. And the more you practice and repeat – the more confident you will become.
As Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy”.
If you’d like to find out more about how to build your confidence for greater happiness and success, please visit www.zetayarwood.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the Author
Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.