Self-confidence isn’t a unicorn. And you don’t have to be a showy extrovert to be – and feel – confident. So let’s bust a few of the myths that can hold us back from unleashing our personal power.
Myth 1: Maybe she’s born with it…
…Maybe it’s bullshit.
Here’s the truth: confidence is a skill anyone can master. No one enters the world bathed in badassery.
As we develop, life experience and influences shape us – knocking our confidence or building it up. If you’ve been battered by people telling you you’re not good enough (and believing it about yourself), it may seem like you’re a million miles away from feeling good in your skin and creating an incredible life on your terms. But with some awareness and practice, you can develop greater confidence in all areas of your life.
I know because I did it.
I grew up sensitive, anxious and awkward. I was bullied relentlessly, believing the taunts that I was fat, ugly, worthless. I judged everything I said and did as utter rubbish. I looked to others for guidance on how to look, act and even think. Everyone else knew how to do this thing called life…and I was a lost cause. To cope, I turned my attention to my academic achievements and career (I started working in a newsroom at 15). And the only place I felt truly comfortable and confident? On stage. When I performed, I could be anyone I wanted – I could hide behind the character. That was safe.
The reason I became a coach is because I’ve witnessed first-hand what happens when we step out of our old story. When we start looking inward for guidance, and realise everyone else is trapped in their narrative, in their hurt, in their past pains.
I’ve learned how to be more confident, while still shining in my sensitive way. And it’s a skill I work on constantly. Each day, I strip away a layer of that old truth and write a new one. Each day I grow into confidence.
It’s OK if you don’t believe it for yourself just yet. Allow me to hold the belief for you.
And for now, close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths, and repeat this mantra to yourself until you feel a shift:
I can learn how to be confident. And where I’m starting from is totally OK.
Myth 2: You can fake it ‘til you make it
You can try. But chances are, you’ll feel fake…which breeds more uncertainty and self-consciousness. When the gap between who you feel you are and who you project to the world is wide, you’re likely to feel like a fraud.
Gandhi said happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Any time you pretend to project self-assertion, that critical voice inside will pipe up: “You’re not really calm, confident and unstoppable. You’re a wreck!”
Reality is key here. Awareness of what feelings arise in your body – and why – is key to understanding who you are…and really owning all the parts.
One of my favourite tools for being authentic and brave at once, is to first acknowledge the feeling – and then tell myself I love it for being there:
“I feel nervous, and that’s OK.”
“I’m unsure about this, and I like that.”
“I’m angry at him, and I allow it.”
Give it a try. Notice the next uncomfortable feeling that comes up, and follow it up with acceptance:
I’m nervous, and that’s cool. / I feel anxiety, and I’m OK with that. / I think I might screw this up, and I can handle it.
Myth 3: Confidence = arrogance
Smile, honey. Many of us grew up thinking we had to play nice and be sweet. Being confident is arrogant, snobbish. Being humble and meek means you don’t rock the boat or upset anyone. And goodness me, the last thing we want to do is upset people! (she says sarcastically)
So we grow up thinking confidence = arrogance. A equals B.
But they are two very different personality traits.
Self-confidence is…“a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgement. Being certain you can manage any situation.”
Arrogance is… “being unpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important that other people.”
Do you see how they’re mutually exclusive?
You can trust yourself and NOT act like you’re better than someone else.
You can trust yourself AND act like you’re better than someone else.
You can NOT trust yourself and NOT act like you’re better than someone else.
You can NOT trust yourself AND act like you’re better than someone else.
A does not equal B.
Think of someone you know who handles things well, and is also fun and kind and loving. Can this person be your model? Someone who serves as an inspiring example of life as a confident and compassionate person?
Myth 4: You’re 100% confident…or not at all
News alert: you already are confident. I bet there’s an area of your life that you’ve mastered – or at least feel more than 50% good about.
Maybe you’re a strong swimmer.
Or you make the best macramé plant hangers this side of the city.
Does everyone always rave about your delicious sugar-free cupcakes?
Or are your spreadsheet formulas the envy of your company’s CFO?
What’s one area of your life – one activity, skill, personality trait, or topic – you have certainty about?
Everyone has one. So if your brain is shouting “No, you’re useless at everything!” thank it for its attempts to protect you, and tell it to take a nap. Then spend some time brainstorming your zone of genius. You don’t have to necessarily be the best at it, compared to others. You just have to pick something you feel fairly strong on…something you could teach a total beginner to do, or even have a short five-minute conversation about.
Write it down:
I definitely know this…. / I’m pretty good at this…
Now you can see you already hold the key to confidence. You embody it.
It’s just a matter of syncing that certainty with an area of life you feel less sure about.
Let’s take the example of being a strong swimmer. You used to scoop the prize pool at school, and the lifeguards at the leisure centre often comment on your strong stroke. When you get in the water, you don’t even have to think about it. You know you swim well, so you just slide in and do it. No doubt. You can swim.
So how can you bring that confidence into, say, the meeting room at work?
Maybe you say to yourself, “There was a time I couldn’t swim. And it felt awkward and embarrassing to fumble in the pool, mess up my tumbleturns, and have people watch me accidentally swim into the lane ropes. But each time I got in the pool, I got better. I felt better. And my stroke improved. Now I can swim without even thinking about it.”
Then you ask, “How can I bring that into work meetings? I can accept that it feels awkward and embarrassing to speak up in front of my colleagues. Sometimes I mess up my words, or don’t know what to say that’s useful. But each time I get in the meeting room and speak, I’ll get better. I’ll feel better. And my speaking will improve. Soon, I’ll see meetings as neutral and something I can totally do without any doubts.”
Myth 5: Confidence = being a big personality
This ties in with the arrogance piece, but I want to pull it out because it’s a common myth: that you have to be a showy extrovert to be confident.
Nup. Nope. No way.
Remember, self-confidence is a feeling that you can handle things. That you can figure it out.
It doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room. Or being the first person to speak. Or jumping up on stage and presenting to 10,000 people.
You can be confident and quiet.
You can be confident and speak last.
You can be confident and not speak at all!
You can be confident, sure of your personal power, and go about your business in a gentle, even introverted way.
The truer your outer self reflects your inner self, the happier and more self-confident you’ll be. And the more confident you’ll appear to others.
So if you’re quiet, own it!
If you’re more of a team player than a leader, show it!
If you like to observe more than instigate, love that!
Now, grab yourself a sheet of paper or your journal. Write at the top:
I can be confident and…
Go wild writing a long list of things you can be AS WELL AS feeling self-confident.
Because you already are confident. It’s within you. Time to channel it!