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Well that’s a bit of a mouthful. And why would I refer to confidence as a conundrum? Well, every day I meet people who want to be more confident. Of course, it’s a no brainer. Who wouldn’t want more of that elusive X factor? I mean, think about that person you know who walks into a room full of strangers effortlessly, and without appearing nervous or self-conscious; who can stand up in a room full of people and talk without getting tongue-tied; who can strike up a conversation with anyone; who other people are eager to speak to; and, who commands the attention of people without even trying.
And many of my clients will refer to people they know who can do these things and they say, “I wish I could be like that, but it’s just not me.”
And that’s where I have to stop them. Because if you really want to succeed at a higher level then confidence is absolutely key. But, the biggest problem with confidence, is that in order to get it, you have to consistently do things that make you feel uncomfortable. And, surely that’s the opposite of confidence, right?
Well actually no, it’s not. So, allow me to explain.
Those people that you look at, who appear outwardly confident, very often are not so perfectly composed on the inside and, even if they are, they probably didn’t start out that way. Because confidence is not the absence of fear, confidence is simply the knowledge that you can handle the worst if it happens. So, for example, instead of worrying that they’ll forget what they’re going to say, they know that even if they do forget their words, it won’t be a disaster. Or, instead of worrying that people won’t want to talk to them, they simply push ahead and make conversation and know that, even if it’s a struggle, they will still be ok.
And, with consistent effort, putting themselves in similar, less comfortable situations, on a regular basis, they become far more capable of handling things which used to be difficult and, as competence grows… confidence flows!
So, here’s a little secret for you, and one that you might find hard to believe, given that I make a living from coaching, public speaking, networking, and so on. I am an introvert, and always have been. In my younger years, it was quite a debilitating issue. In school and college, I had few proper friends, and spent a lot of my time alone. In my early career, I struggled to deepen friendships with colleagues into friendships that would go on to serve me in real life. I found that making conversation with strangers was impossible. And I always longed for people to just leave me alone.
When I met the man I went on to marry, I grabbed the opportunity to stop worrying about having friends, and instead spent all of my time with him and our children. And, while it was good to focus on them, I isolated myself from all else. Until, in my late-twenties, I realised that if I was going to be successful, I really was going to have to start pushing outside of my comfort zone.
And, if I had known about coaches back then, I definitely would have hired myself one. Because it took me many years to pluck up the courage to be consistent in my efforts. I would often make excuses and let myself off the hook, because I didn’t feel like going out and meeting people, or because I was having a bad day and couldn’t face whatever event I’d planned to attend. So, while I managed to create the outwardly confident appearance by the time I reached my early 30s, I still felt like an imposter on the inside, which meant that it was always difficult to keep up appearances, and therefore even if I managed to look confident, I certainly didn’t feel it. It was only when I really dedicated myself to pushing outside of my comfort zone, every single day, that I truly started to cultivate the inner confidence that comes from competence.
So, if I can do it, then you can too. But it starts by you realising that you have to be uncomfortable, in order to become comfortable. That you have to be consistent, in order to achieve. And that you have to keep going to make sure you don’t lose it. Because, confidence is a fickle thing, so you need to be continually nurturing and growing, or else you will find that it just begins to recede again.