Confidence

by Melanie Greene

What is confidence?

Confidence in ourselves is feeling happy about who we are, what we do and our capabilities. Some people are confident the whole time, while for others the feeling comes and goes. Most people will have varying levels of self confidence, depending on their current circumstances.

When people lack confidence, they can suffer from some or all of the following:

  • Doubting their abilities to do a task or even their whole job well
  • Undermining themselves through destructive inner dialogue about their lack of abilities or mistakes they have made
  • Constant fear of it being found out that they don’t know everything
  • Lack of self worth and self esteem – even going as far as self loathing
  • Rejecting or ignoring positive feedback, believing that the person giving it does not know the whole story as to how incapable they really are!

How do we know we are confident?

We know that when we feel confident it is a great state to be in; we trust ourselves to handle whatever is going to occur and we believe we have the abilities to handle what is ahead of us. We feel relaxed; we tend to go with the flow, and we respond naturally to those around us.

Because inner confidence tends to be reflected in how we look and sound, others can also spot when someone is truly confident and at one with themselves.

However, being confident is not enough. Just because we are confident it does not necessarily mean we will naturally connect with others. This depends on your interpersonal skills and your ability to build rapport with others. So, having confidence does not necessarily lead to charisma and an ability to influence others.

How is it related to self esteem?

People can lack confidence, but still have a sense of self worth and high self esteem. Self worth is about whether we feel worthy of happiness, success and the trust and love of others. Low self esteem can go hand in hand with a lack of confidence, but this is not always the case.

What’s the relationship between confidence and charisma?

Charisma is usually described as the ability to inspire others and to draw interest and affection from them, based on the ability to influence others through personal charm. Some politicians and business leaders are described as charismatic. True charisma is genuine, resulting from a genuine interest and liking for others, as distinct from someone who tries to manipulate the situation by turning on the charm.

Are you just born confident?

Is confidence genetic? Can it disappear? Can you develop it later in life?

It can often seem that some people are just born confident. From a very young age, they are happy to explore new environments, interact with new people and try out new activities. Those who are not like this can feel that confidence is totally down to nature and genes, and there is nothing they can do about it.

However, many people who were less than confident when young subsequently develop into confident adults. Also, people who are confident most of the time can suddenly lack confidence in certain situations. So it is not just something we inherit or that is static and about which you can’t do anything.

Therefore, although some people might start off life appearing or even being more confident than others, this does not mean that the rest of us can’t and won’t become more confident in time.

The first step is to make sure you are not undermining your own confidence. Our inner dialogue can have a huge impact on how confident we feel, so there are some exercises in this topic to help you to explore your self talk.

Developing your understanding of what helps or hinders you in feeling confident will assist you in knowing when and where to take action to boost your confidence.

There are also simple techniques that you can use to boost your confidence, especially if there are certain situations that tend to unsettle you. Using these techniques over a period of time will result in you becoming a much more confident person.

Can you become too confident?

We can probably all think of someone who is overly confident, perhaps even being unbearably arrogant or overestimating their own abilities, with resulting mistakes. You can also probably think of some individuals who are so lacking in confidence that you never get to hear what they think, so they don’t seem to contribute anything to the situation or they never stop worrying about things. It certainly appears that too much or too little confidence can have a negative impact on someone’s ability to work effectively.

It is important for us to have confidence in our ability to do tasks and undertake activities if we are to succeed. However, if we become complacent, thinking ‘I’ve done this a thousand times before and it will be fine’, we can become slipshod and not take care over what we are doing. It is therefore useful to learn how to be confident in yourself and your abilities, while still keeping on your toes and not taking it for granted that success will just happen without you making any effort or taking care.

Being appropriately confident

However, you will also know people who are very confident and wonderful to work with. They listen to others’ ideas; they support and encourage others; they celebrate other people’s successes and so on. So what is it that makes a difference and stops them from being arrogant and walking all over others? It is likely to be a mixture of many different things and will vary from individual to individual, but it might include some of the following:

  • Their personality type might mean they have an interest in other people, a natural leaning towards supporting others, building connections and relationships
  • They have a sense of humility about their own strengths and successes, which means they can celebrate these without becoming overbearing and big headed
  • They possess a genuine desire to help others realise their own potential
  • They recognise that success comes through people working together, not through competitive and uncooperative behaviour.

Can you act or seem confident even if you are not?

A lot of people get through life appearing confident, when inside they feel like a nervous wreck! However, this is not an enjoyable way of life and not the most effective way of being and working, because it can mean some or all of the following:

  • You over-prepare because you worry so much about things going wrong
  • You lose sleep the night before big presentations, meetings and so on, which means you are not on top form the next day
  • You hold back from putting forward your ideas because you think they are not valid
  • You hold back from going for promotion or a new job or your dreams because you don’t think you are good enough
  • You over-analyse situations that happen, rather than trusting your inner wisdom
  • You fail to learn from mistakes because you spend so much time beating yourself up and feeling guilty
  • You try and control things outside yourself, because you don’t feel in control of yourself
  • You are nervous of delegating as you don’t trust others and are fearful of things going wrong
  • You don’t challenge others and you doubt that your opinion counts or is right.

Therefore, although you can get away with it for some time, acting confident without feeling that way is not a comfortable or helpful place to be.

It seems that just trying to appear confident does not necessarily breed true confidence. There are plenty of people who have done lots of presentations, managed people or been driving for years, but who still worry about it and are not confident in their ability to do these activities successfully.

Confidence comes from within. It is about how you think about yourself and the world around you and the impact that this has on how you feel, which in turn affects your behaviour. However much you work on appearing confident, it is therefore not going to change unless you change what is happening on the inside – how you feel. People who lack confidence but still have successes will often discount these, so they don’t end up feeling successful or more confident in their own abilities.

The impact of personality type

People also often assume that extraversion equates with confidence and introversion with a lack of confidence, but this is not true. You may have heard of the psychometric tool known as Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI, which contains four dimensions that make up a person’s preferred personality type.

Extraverts and introverts just relate to the world in different ways and appear to others differently. People with a preference for extraversion enjoy interacting with the outside world, and that is where they get their energy. They will happily bounce ideas around with others and tend to think out loud, thereby appearing very confident.

Those with an introversion preference enjoy working through things on their own before sharing their ideas with others. They also prefer to think before they speak, and can therefore appear quieter, even more hesitant and thus not so confident. But they are just interacting with the world in a different way, though they might be very confident.