For many of us, it’s hovering in the lower figures, perhaps threatening to drop right off the scale unless something drastic happens to raise our level of self-possession and faith in our ability to succeed in — well, anything really. How can we find our way to having True Confidence in ourselves?
Some people have feelings of inadequacy that are fuelled by comparisons with other people who are showily confident.
We can find ourselves envying those whose behaviour proclaims their absolute confidence in themselves and in their inalienable right to whatever they see as theirs to claim.
You probably don’t like the way this kind of person behaves, and they wouldn’t be your first or even last choice of workmate or friend, but they seem to have what it takes to get on in life.
The trouble is that our view of what constitutes confidence has become coloured and distorted by our noisy, attention-seeking environment. We are impressed by the loud, the brash and the showy, and mistake arrogance and self-importance for true confidence.
Even in regard to more attractive behaviour, we tend to overvalue the confident auras of our gregarious and socially accomplished friends and colleagues.
But we don’t know what these beacons of confidence feel like inside. They could be unsure and uncertain, and they could be compensating for inner timidity with an outward display of certainty.
What we actually see is confident behaviour of a type which is not appealing to us but which seems to ensure success, and when we feel that such behaviour is alien to our own personality, we become entrenched in feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth.
But you don’t have to be the shouty, look-at-me person whose voice resonates like clanging metal or crashing cymbals, or the one who always has an opinion and is always right, or the one who marches around as if they own the place (oh, they do? Well, they should know better).
Being confident doesn’t mean acting like an oaf or oafess.
True to oneself
True confidence, of the kind that goes beyond the instant success of making an impression and getting one’s way, is of a different nature, and its effects are long-lasting, positive, and life-enhancing in every sphere.
It is true that confidence is a most valuable asset. Feeling secure in yourself means you are open to a wide variety of experiences, that you can take risks and not hold back from challenges.
We are drawn to people who are nicely confident, sometimes without realising that the behaviour we like emanates from this quality.
At its centre is the kind of self-assurance which, paradoxically, stems from an awareness that we are all fallible and we all make mistakes.
Real confidence, as shown by those we like, admire and trust, comes from humility and a recognition of our shared, flawed humanity. The kind of confidence that draws people and inspires them comes from a solid core of authenticity, where values are aligned with behaviour.
We can recalibrate our definition of confidence, and honour the wider range of qualities which may be associated with self-assured behaviour.
The Route to Real Confidence
Here are some things which likeable, confident people can do:
Make themselves heard without shouting or interrupting
- You can learn to project your voice and your presence without being overbearing.
Refuse to be interrupted
- You can learn techniques (such as refusing to make eye contact, maintaining momentum) which let people know they cannot talk over you or take over. You can learn to say: ‘I haven’t finished speaking yet.’
Acknowledge successes without diminishment, comparison, embarrassment or creepiness
- You can learn how to give and receive compliments appropriately and confidently
Accept and give criticism
- You can learn how to listen to criticism without fighting back or bursting into tears, and you can learn how to say something negative without being hurtful or over-apologetic.
- Sometimes it’s good to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’. Of course, sometimes it’s good to bluff….Confident people can choose how to behave.
- Admitting that you were mistaken or have done something wrong is a mark of self-confidence: ‘I was wrong about that…’ ‘That was a mistake…’ ‘I’ve changed my mind about…’
Refuse to give an instant response
- Making an immediate decision is sometimes a sign of over-confidence, recklessness or thoughtlessness. You can learn how to ask for time: ‘I need to think about that’; ‘I’m not going to give an answer right now.’
Feel nervous and unsure
- It’s all right, in fact it’s absolutely natural, to feel like this. You can explore a range of ways to deal with feelings of uncertainty.
Talk to anyone
- You can learn skills and techniques to help you to become a confident conversationalist in any situation. And if the thought of speaking to people fills you with dread (really, it needn’t), all you have to do is to consider the next point….
- The most important thing about talking is listening. You may think that confident people do all the talking, whereas the truly assured person is a great listener, secure enough to give full attention to someone else and not feel the need to impress. Again, you can learn skills and techniques to increase your confidence in this area.
Dear quieter, unassuming friends, as your mother may have told you, no one’s looking at you. It’s said that the one thing worse than making a fool of yourself is the realisation that you are so unimportant that no one noticed. Some of us actually find that a comforting thought.