Confidence is not something we're born with, it's something we learn as we mature. My personal story is one of a shy boy transformed into a confident man. How did I do it? How can you do it? Let's talk about how I eventually learned to embrace my confidence.
"Confidence isn't walking into a room with your nose in the air, thinking you are better than everyone else; it's walking into a room and not having to compare yourself to anyone in the first place." -Anonymous
The other day I was asked, "Have you always had this confidence?" I was somewhat taken aback by the question as I don't typically think of myself as having confidence. My current life activities consist of family, life coaching, writing, teaching at a university and college, hosting a podcast, giving lectures, and speaking at conferences. I keep myself active, but I enjoy all that I do. Is my enjoyment in what I do the confidence people see in me?
Confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one's abilities and talents. Yet, this definition presupposes that I have an awareness of my skills and talents. I feel this is the reason why many people lack confidence; they don't recognize their own abilities and, therefore, wrongly assume they are unable or incapable of performing a task. Pull the word, confidence, apart, and you'll find the Latin words of "con" and "fide." When translated, we get "with trust/faith."
Trusting in oneself, which is what confidence describes, means I have to believe in myself and my message. What message, you ask. Our beliefs, morals, and values are the messages we send to others. Your level of trust in yourself with your message equates to your level of confidence. How much do you believe about yourself to be true? Is the message you're sending different from your belief about self?
Trusting in oneself, or, having confidence, also involves a sense and personal understnading of one's conviction. How strongly you believe in yourself and your message is this conviction. A firm conviction, coupled with a desire to spread your message, is the confidence for which many desire.
Conviction, historically, evolves from the word for "opinion." Our conviction is our opinion on self. The Latin parts of the word are again "con," or with, and "vicere," meaning to win or conquer. Since "con" is part of this word, then with what do we win or conquer? The word literally means "to win with."
The answer, as I see it, is confidence. We win with confidence. We have beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, our convictions. These convictions, or beliefs, are what we trust in our confidence. Therefore, to "win," we need a conviction and the confidence to make it happen.
While growing up, I was extremely shy and unaware of my abilities and talents. This lack of self-awareness, coupled with my shyness, reinforced in me a belief that I wasn't capable of much in the way of outward achievement. As a child, and even though my early adulthood, I enjoyed the solitary pursuits of reading, studying, and writing. Sure, I had friends with whom I enjoyed doing things, but my friends were few and not among what was known as the" in-crowd." For me and my shyness, they were "safe."
A lack of confidence is typically coupled with a person's self-esteem or sense of self-worth. In my experience, though, that assumption wasn't right. Although I lacked insight into my gifts and talents, I did feel positive about myself. I enjoyed my hobbies and the people I chose to be close to; ultimately, life was good. My sense of self-worth was high, while at the same time, my confidence was low.
How can this be? In my early life, it meant that I did well in school, for when I was given a task of importance to complete or asked to give a speech, my mind would immediately jump to the thought "Me?! I don't have the skill to do this? There have to be people better at this than me!" At the time, I failed to realize that I was asked because someone else saw the talent and ability in me. I was unable to take into account the perspective of the asker because I failed to recognize my own confidence. If I couldn't see it in myself, I was never going to accept that someone else saw what I could not.
So, what changed in me, given my history of lack of confidence and shyness, that now I can speak to large crowds, teach university classes, and train groups of peers? There's no one event, moment, or "aha experience," which made all the difference. For me, it was a progressive shift, and practicing meditation, where I became more self-aware of my giftedness as well as my weaknesses. It's in accepting both aspects of oneself that lead to one's sense of confidence.
Here are some reflections I have learned in my adult years, which have impacted my ability to have conviction and confidence:
- I'm not responsible for another's happiness. I am responsible for my feelings and my actions toward others. This helps my confidence in that I don't seek nor need the approval of others to know that I am good at what I do. The constructive opinions of family and close friends I respect but needing to be liked by everyone is no longer a goal of mine.
- Not knowing is ok. Early in my career, I stifled myself as I felt that if I didn't know everything, there was to know in my field than I was a fraud. I now recognize how wrong I was. Still, it was in me eventually realizing that even the "experts" in my field didn't know everything for me to gain confidence in my own knowledge and experience of my field. What I don't know, I will learn from others and so continue to grow.
- I became empowered in my confidence every time I stepped out of my comfort zone only to realize that I did well. The more times I gave something a try and ended with positive results, the more I became confident in my abilities. Yes, those times when it didn't go well seemed to set me back more than the positive times moved me forward, but regardless, I kept on keeping on. I'm not perfect when it comes to public speaking or teaching, etc., but I do my best, and more times than not, there is positive feedback from the audience. Had I not moved out of my comfort zone, my self-confidence would still be quite low.
- As I mentioned above, confidence is not to be equated with always being right or knowing everything. Confidence grows from an understanding of who you are, the positives and negatives. We all have growth opportunities, so don't let the fact that you are not "perfect" stop you from feeling confident. Feel confident knowing that you are both talented and flawed, perfect in some aspects yet need to grow in others.
- Take time for yourself. Self-care is vitally important to physical and mental health. Spending time nurturing yourself and meditating provides you the opportunity to know yourself better. In this self-knowledge, you will find your confidence and your growth opportunities. Work on both!
In my continuing journey of confidence, I realize that I don't need to be perfect in all knowledge or skill. Still, I do need to be self-reflective with a willingness to grow. Take the time to learn about yourself, then step out of your comfort zone and give it a try! If it works well, fantastic, do it again! If it doesn't work well, excellent, learn from it, then do it again!
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