What is confidence? The word comes from the Latin for “with trust or faith” in a person or thing.
There are various myths about confidence. Here are a few of them:
“Either you have it or you don’t” – actually confidence is a set of skills which can be learned. Any difficulty is because you haven’t learned how to do it yet. As a human being, you are a learning organism which can co-ordinate movements, understand and communicate, read and write, and do a thousand other complex things.
“If your confidence has been shaken once, you can never get it back” – it may take a greater leap of faith to start building it back, but once there, you will be much stronger than before and less likely to have it shaken again.
“I’ll know I’m confident when I can be sure I’ll succeed” – confidence is much more about tolerating uncertainty and being relaxed and ok with not knowing what is going to happen (apart from knowing that you will be doing your best).
Where does a lack of confidence come from?
A lack of confidence in a particular situation comes from anxiety. For our emotional brain, a fear in the imagination is just as real as an actual physical threat. This stimulates our emotional brain to believe that there is a real threat to our safety which is happening right now. An overactive emotional brain limits us because we can’t access our full thinking brain and stops us making the best of ourselves. Once confidence is learned, you can just get on with whatever it is without thinking about confidence levels. You will already be doing this in many areas of your life: at a very basic level even such as getting up, getting dressed, cleaning your teeth, etc. as well as other more complex tasks. The same skills just need to be translated over into the areas you want.
Three typical confidence barriers
- Forgetting that self-confidence is attached to specific situations. Allowing the thought “I’m not a confident person” suggests something unchangeable about you. It is more accurate to say something along the lines of “I sometimes feel less confident in [a certain situation] than I would like.”
- Focussing on how you don’t want to feel. This may be a natural way to think, but it is negative and drives the emotional brain towards achieving a negative outcome. We need to instead to focus on what we want. How do you want to feel? How do you want to look? Where do you behave/feel/look like this or similarly? What will others notice about you? How will you feel afterwards?
- Increased focus on self. We need to forget about ourselves and focus outwards, trusting experience instead of what we tell ourselves. All experiences are learning experiences which teach us something.
Strategies to build confidence
To feel confident about things we need to know what we’re talking about specifically.
- What do you want to be able to do?
- In what situations do you need more confidence?
- In what situations do you already have confidence?
- What additional skills do you need to have more confidence?
- What evidence do you need which will indicate to you that you are increasing your confidence levels?
Armed with this information, we can build a detailed picture of confidence, creating a template for the brain to trigger the resources needed to instil a sense of confidence in that particular situation in the future which we can refine with time as we learn more.