Killer confidence. We all want it. On good days, it manifests itself as the feeling that we’re invincible. On more challenging days, we’d be thrilled with good enough. When we’re feeling confident, we perform. When we aren’t feeling confident, some of us perform anyway, getting confidence as we go (if we’re lucky). The rest of us hide.
Many of us oscillate wildly between the two: we hide. We perform. We hide some more, never really knowing where our confidence comes from, what it is, how we can get more or even sustain the amount we have.
We make guesses about where our confidence comes from: For the longest time, I believed that I was not confident because I was fat. That belief insisted that confidence came in a pants size that, over the years, varied. Anyone who has ever been a size 2 or 4 or 6 or 8 or…(you get the point, it’s all relative) and still lacked confidence will tell you that your confidence has little, if anything, to do with the size of your pants.
Then I believed that if I was smarter, more educated, older, more experienced I would be more confident. Until, I got older, earned multiple degrees, and learned that confidence doesn’t come in a degree, a magic age or at a pre-determined level of experience and while experience often leads to an increase in confidence on the one hand, on the other, we raise our stakes and feel as if we’re at the drawing board again.
Which may be the perfect place to begin to understand that confidence needs us to create it again and again. It’s a practice, like writing, designing, painting or running our own businesses. If we want to increase our chances of calling on confidence and getting the response we want when it counts, we need to increase the awareness around our practice.
A few well-placed questions can help you get started: The last time you felt really confident, what got you there? Were you prepared? Well rested? Did you have the support of your partner? Your family? Your best friend? Your team?
What about the last time you lacked confidence? Had you spent too much time with that critical friend? Were you worried about threatening the status quo? Afraid Daddy would disown you if he saw you share your vulnerable side with business associates the way you often do? C’mon, what gives?
Two of my signature speechwriting clients recently showed signs of an internal crisis of confidence. Writers block, fear, and lack of commitment to their writing time were keeping them from writing their truth. When we talked about it, I helped them locate their voices of judgment and asked them to actively remove these “people” from the “front row” of their audience. Then, I asked them to actively replace the people they’d just removed with three people with whom they feel most self-expressed. Their faces lit up at the prospect of such a simple power. In front of “people” with whom they felt free to express themselves, their confidence soared. Within 24 hours, their thoughts and words were markedly more prolific and more authentically self-expressed.
Recently, I was hanging around in The Summit Mastermind, a wonderful business support group run by my friends, Ann Sheybani and Walt Hampton, when I noticed that participant comments were remarkably confident for a private Facebook group. It got me thinking about the relationship between safety and self-expression. Ah, yes, I thought. When people feel safe, they feel confident to express themselves. I let this observation percolate whilst I contemplated how I would distill my experience with confidence down to an essence that you could easily consume in this post.
It’s the supportive relationships in my life that give me confidence.
That’s what I was thinking when I consulted the dictionary. Here’s the first definition of confidence: “the feeling or belief” that you “can rely on someone or something; firm trust.” I was blown away. Here I thought I had a revolutionary idea—that my confidence comes from my healthy relationships—and it is right there in the definition of the word. Confidence comes in believing you can trust someone.
And, yet, we beat ourselves up, chase the next validating credential, settle for relationships that don’t work, starve ourselves into a smaller size, and when we feel duped that the ever-elusive confidence can’t be found there either we stuff down our feelings of lack with food. We get bigger but we don’t feel bigger. If only we could just be more confident…
We believe that we must change ourselves once and for all. Fiercely independent creatures that we are, we set out to do it alone. And when that lonely feeling comes, instead of asking it what it needs, we banish it to the ranks of the weak. That lonely feeling has a message for us. When we listen and act accordingly it will make us stronger and more confident. That lonely feeling is prompting us to reach out, connect, and cultivate relationships with the people who make us feel great about ourselves so we can do the next right thing with confidence, even when we’re scared.
This post will also appear as an article in Healthy Intent Magazine.