When I was a child, I was incredibly shy. My mother, a primary school teacher, said I was one of the shyest children she’d ever met. It baffled her, given she is quite an outgoing, gregarious character. My shyness made primary school very difficult – I found it hard to make friends, and given I was both tall and a bit chubby, I also got teased and bullied a lot.
At about the age of 10 I decided I’d had enough of feeling left out, alone and scared of everything and everyone. So I made deliberate efforts to overcome my shyness. From the age of 4 I had been learning to play the piano, and as I became more proficient I performed in a number of concerts which started me on the path of overcoming my anxieties. I would go on to finding several ways of increasing my self-confidence and get to the point where I was easily able to make friendships and even enjoy being in the spotlight.
Today I regularly presented to small and large groups, and I have found I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. In early March this year, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Women in Leadership Summit in Adelaide for the public sector. I was asked to speak on the topic of building confidence, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share what I’d learned. The Summit’s theme was “Things I Would Tell My Younger Self”, and I thought it was the perfect theme for what I had to share.
This blog post comes from the content of my presentation to that fabulous group of trailblazing women, in the hope that you might also benefit from my personal experience and learnings from years of studying various psychology-based disciplines. This is where the 7 Keys to Confidence comes in.
Wherever you are in your journey to being your confident, authentic self, you are bring with you a number of things on the road:
- Skills and knowledge
- Experience and wisdom
- A Vision of what’s possible for your future
- Values and a sense of who you are (Identity)
- The Past – the good, the bad and the ugly
- Anxieties, doubts, worries, and fears
These things all play a part on how confident you feel about yourself and your capabilities. If you were to take a moment now to give yourself a rating out of 10 (1= not at all confident, 10=completely confident) how confident you think you are, what score would you give yourself?
Ok, now how did you come to decide on that score? What influenced your decision?
So, whatever you scored yourself in that little test, I’m guessing it probably wasn’t a 10. If you’re not totally happy with your confidence, read on to find out how you can improve it and be your best self.
Confidence Key #1 – Know Yourself, Be Yourself
How can you feel confident when you’re not being real? It’s all too common for us to become someone we’re not, just to fit in or please other people. But you know what? That’s just a recipe for dissatisfaction, resentment and even depression. Get to know who you are. Your strengths, limitations, boundaries, values, wants, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, passions, interests….the list goes on. Know who you are and BE TRUE to it. You’ll not only feel more confident (especially once you realise that being your real self feels so much better and frankly, who cares what others’ think?!), but you’ll feel HAPPIER.
Confidence Key #2 – Mindfully Manage Other’s Opinions
Do you get criticised a lot? Do you need others to give you approval or affirmation? Do you overly care what other’s think?
Leading on from Key #1, comes some simple wisdom about what other people say and think about you. Firstly, what other people think of you is none of your business AND please stop guessing and assuming what they think is bad. Even if it is, what does it matter? Confident people aren’t uncaring about others but they do care less about what others think and care more what they themselves think. Confident people give themselves approval, affirm themselves and give themselves permission to feel good no matter what others say or think.
When other people give you advice or their opinion, consider what’s been offered and take what’s useful and leave what’s not. If you’re being given feedback from someone about your behaviour, ask yourself “If I take this on board, will I become a better person?” If yes, integrate the feedback and thank the person who gave it to you. If no, thank the person anyway and let it go.
Confidence Key #3 – Be Optimistic
Research has shown that optimists (people who can see the bright side of a situation) live longer, are happier and more resilient than pessimists. And they tend to be more confident. What is the main differences between optimists and pessimists?
According to research from the field of Positive Psychology, it’s all about the 3 Ps. Pessimists see adversities as Permanent, Pervasive and Personal. When something “bad” happens, they see it as going to affect them long-term, ruin or affect everything in their life, and that it was personal (their bad luck, fault, a deliberate attack on them). Optimists, on the other hand, see “bad” things as Temporary, Specific and Coincidental. That is, they know what’s happened won’t last and that they can work through it, that it’s a small thing when compared with all of life (the big picture) and that it wasn’t personal, it simply happened. Optimists can see opportunity in any situation, and easily find the “silver lining”. Optimism is a skill, a way of thinking, a perspective. It can be learned. And by learning it, you can increase your confidence, knowing that whatever happens you can deal with it, bounce back and get on with your life.
Confidence Key #4 – Be Comfortable in the Spotlight
Ok, so people looking at you – how do you feel about it? How do you feel about a lot of people looking at you? When you have a chance to do some public speaking, do you run for the hills or grab the opportunity with glee?
Confident people are ok about being the centre of attention. It’s not that they need it to feel good, but rather they don’t mind people looking at them and listening to what they have to say. If you’re a leader in any capacity, you’ll definitely want to become comfortable in the spotlight. And even if you don’t consider yourself a leader, there are going to be times you are in the spotlight and if you can relax and be ok in that situation, you’ll benefit immensely and feel good about yourself.
So, how can you overcome the nerves of having to perform in public, or overcome your anxieties or insecurities about being in the spotlight? Well, it depends. My first piece of advice is the more you do it, the easier it gets. Find ways to put yourself in the spotlight and teach yourself to relax. Be prepared (it helps) and focus on your message. Put to the side your worries about what others are thinking of you (see Key#2) and do your best to enjoy being listened to. Oh, and remember to breathe!
Confidence Key #5 – Nurture Relationships and Rapport
Being confident is not being arrogant or isolated. I’ve come to know the value in having supportive people around me – to have those people, their love and support, I need to give it to them and nurture my relationships. Confident people know the value of networks. There’s a difference between “pleasing others” and being in a healthy, nurturing, mutually beneficial relationship. Good relationships are energising, not depleting. Having rapport with others (and knowing how to create it quickly) is an invaluable skill. This is why NLP has been so useful to me and to all those who learn it – at the core of the training is the skills to build rapport with anyone, anytime and to use effective communication to keep people on side.
Confidence Key #6 – Embrace Change
When you think about change, do you like it or find it singularly unappealing?
Just like death and taxes, change is inevitable. And because it’s inevitable, it’s better to embrace it than fight against it. Now, I’m talking about the kind of change that you have no control over. Resisting change which you cannot control is a recipe for being left behind and being resentful. Confident people see change as an opportunity. It’s a chance to grow, develop yourself and experience new things. Confident people are adaptive, which helps them be more successful and more flexible when it comes to uncertainty.
Then there’s the kind of change that you realise is necessary to be happier, healthier, more successful etc. Personal development is always a worthwhile investment. Create the life you want. Change the habits, thoughts and behaviours that hold you back. Be willing to expand and stretch your comfort zone. It’s totally worth it. Plus it reminds me of that great quote from Mahatma Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Confidence Key #7 – Seek Your Happiness
Is it any surprise that the more confident you are the more likely you are to be happy, and vice versa? So, it goes without saying that if you want to be more confident, work on being more happy.
Happiness is a state, and research has established that a more measurable, sustainable term is Wellbeing. So consider happiness and wellbeing to be very similar and relatively interchangeable concepts. So, what brings a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing?
Here’s some evidence-based ways to be happier:
- Engage in meaningful and enjoyable work
- Have a sense of Purpose (which could be a spiritual concept, or something like being the best mum possible)
- Connect with others, be socially engaged with people who make you feel good
- Set and achieve goals
- Do fun things – engage in pleasurable activities that you enjoy; laugh
- Learn new things, be a lifelong learner
- Be engaged in the present moment (mindfulness practice is excellent for this, plus many other things)
- Connect with and be in nature
- Have good self-care (regular exercise, healthy nutrition, quality sleep, hygiene etc)
Wherever you are in your confidence journey, there’s always room for improvement. My 7 Keys to Confidence are just as much about the keys to happiness, fulfilment and health. And the reason? It’s all connected.
Consider what you’ve learned and explored in this article and set yourself 1-3 key goals to help you increase your confidence. And if you have any questions or would like some extra help or support, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.