What do you think confidence is? Why do you want more? Who do you think has it?
Mechanical physicists have for centuries tried to figure out how birds can migrate from one part of the world to another without getting lost. Birds like the robin take off from one part of the world and end up at their destination on time every time. How do they do that? They have no map, no clock and no mobile to alert fellow travellers of turbulence ahead. All they do is spread their wings and fly. What can they tell us about confidence?
My friend George told me about a family of birds that had nested in his loft. He could hear the mother feeding the babies. One day all the birds left expect for this one bird. The mother kept coming back to the bird to feed him and give him a pep talk but in the end he gave up and died. Not even his mother could save him. At some point the babies had to fly, the mother feed them, coached them, took them to the edge of the opening in the loft and demonstrated what they should do. The babies that took a leap of faith lived and the one bird that didn’t believe, died.
Confidence is the faith that you will be OK no matter what challenges you face.
Life is tough enough, you need all the confidence you can get. Most people are simply looking for confidence in all the wrong places. They search here and there and when they don’t find it, they think that there is something wrong with them.
I want to explain confidence in three different ways. Not all of us have the same issues with confidence, for some just a booster will do. For others, they need a complete overhaul.
I’ll explain the three choices and you can take your pick, or do all three.
Confidence as an act
This type of confidence has everything to with your self-image and the way you present yourself to the world. The way you feel about yourself is attached to the way you look. Once I was working with a client who had little confidence. I was amazed that she lacked confidence. She was articulate and very successful. Every week she came for her counselling session and I must admit I struggled to find anything to offer her. Too me she had it all. At one session we were chit chatting and she told me that she had no time in her life to do anything.
She had no time to enjoy the success that she had, not even to spend time with her boyfriend. I told her that for twenty minutes a day she should sit and eat her food. She should concentrate on every morsel that entered her mouth. She should call it ‘me’ time. The next appointment was a revelation. Into my office walked this confident creature. She reported that because she had taken those twenty minutes out of her day to concentrate on just one thing she had started to think about herself and appreciate herself more. She found that she wasn’t gulping down food in order to rush to the next event. She found that she was taking her time to eat and allowing the ‘full’ signal to reach her brain. Because she was conscious of her food she was choosing lovely nutritious food. She lost weight. That was all she needed. She bought herself a complete new wardrobe (believe me she had the money to do it), a fresh new haircut and that was that!
If you want a quick confidence boost give yourself a makeover. This is not as superficial as it may sound. What I am actually suggesting is that you take a good look at your brand. What does your brand say about you?
If you were a supermarket what type of supermarket would you be? Lidl? Fortnum and Masons?
If you were a clothes shop what would you be? Bargain basement? Zara? Harrods?
Maybe it is time for an upgrade. I don’t have to tell you that first impressions are lasting impressions. Humans are like that. It’s all about survival at the end of the day. People like people who are like them because they feel safer.
Psychologist say that people make up their mind about you with in the first five seconds of meeting you. If they like what they see they will give you what is called the ‘halo effect’, which means that whatever you do and say is fine by them. They hold you in high esteem. If on the other hand they do not like what they see they give you the ‘horn effect’, which means that you will have to work like crazy to gain their respect and approval. The world will accept you based on how you accept yourself. If you say with your clothes and grooming that you think you’re special, then the world will see you that way too.
I travel a lot for work and normally I wear jeans or joggers to travel from country to country. One day I had to attend a business meeting before taking a flight and so I was in full business regalia. At the checkout desk an official appeared from nowhere and asked me for my details. Then she told me she had upgraded me to business class. When I asked her why she said that I looked the part. I don’t think she would have upgraded me if I was wearing the jeans and t-shirt that I normally do, that’s for sure.
Choose a person in the public eye that you admire and you like the way they look. Choice someone who has your body type. If you have the shape of Oprah Winfrey then choosing Lady Gaga as your fashion icon may be a little bit of a stretch. If you are a fan of the band ACDC then it may not be good career move to turn up for work dressed in full heavy metal gear. The reason why I say choose someone in the public eye is because typically these people have expert stylists who will have done the hard work so that you don’t have to.
Analyse what they wear and use them as your style guru, or adopt a small part of their style and make it your own. I am not suggesting that you go out and spend a fortune, but every time you need a new item of clothing, or whatever you can choose something that your icon would perhaps choose. In this way you are creating your brand and aligning it with a more established brand.
Body language makes an amazing amount of difference when it comes to your confidence.
Did you know that body language accounts for fifty-five percent of face to face communication?
None of us take things for granted we still have that old survival instinct and we can quickly work out whether we are in a dangerous situation or not just by accessing body language.
I once ran an experiment, which you can easily do too. I walked to my friend’s house, which is about twenty minutes away. For the first part of the experiment, I walked as if I was depressed, shuffling with my shoulders hunched, and it was as if I were invisible. Mothers drove their pushchairs into my ankles, people cut across me as if I wasn’t there and I felt myself getting very angry. However, for the final ten minutes of my journey I put my shoulders back. I walked like a super model, or how I think a super model walks down the street. I looked straight ahead at people with a ready smile, and people began to move out of my way. I was walking with confidence. Think how you walk into a room. How do you command attention? Think about how you sit at the table. If you sit as if you have a right to be there people will ‘lean in’ to you.
Never cross your legs or arms at a meeting. This gives the impression of being defensive and closed. If you demonstrate open body language people will see you as confident and they will be more open to your ideas. Since our minds are connected to our bodies, if you want to train your mind to be more confident them work on your body language.
Confidence as a skill
This is second level confidence. If you want to go a little deeper into gaining confidence then you can go down the skills route. Imagine that you decide to learn to dance. You attend your first dance class and the teacher tells the class to go to the centre of the room. She demonstrates the steps that you are going to learn and leaves everyone aghast. You go into an altered state of consciousness and wish that the ground would open up and swallow you whole.
You are unconsciously incompetent. This is the first stage of learning anything! You don’t know what you don’t know. You develop two left feet and you shuffle around looking more like Nelly the elephant than a dancer.
You persevere and move to the next stage of acquiring a skill. This is called consciously incompetent. You know what you don’t know. Here you discover that there is more to the skill than meets the eye. You are aware that there is a lot to learn. This is the stage where fear creeps in. The fear of looking stupid, being conspicuous, a failure or being ridiculed is overwhelming. It is at this point that most people give in or give up.
Back to my dancing analogy. You still have two left feet. Yet you persevere to the next level, which is called consciously competent. At this stage you know what you know. You know that if you put one foot in front of the other something happens. You know that if you concentrate with all your might, you and the beat can stay together. You persevere and practice and suddenly you are moving and smiling at the same time. This stage is called unconsciously competent. This means you don’t know what you know. At this stage you don’t have to think about what you are doing. You dance with anyone at any time. You have learnt how to dance. It is the same for every single skill that you learn and will ever learn. Once you have mastered a skill you don’t have to think about doing it you just do it. Continuous learning and learning many things increases your confidence. Take a class in a random subject can activate your confidence even more. Why? Because there is no pressure to perform or get things right.
One thing that destroys confidence is when you is compare yourself to others. If you do this stop it now! It is eating your confidence. Everyone is unique and special. You can never be the person you are comparing yourself to and they can never be you.
No one can approach your life like you do you do. No one thinks like you do. And no one does it like you do. Isn’t it time to start working on your brand!
Confidence as the absence of self.
The law of correspondence decrees ‘so above so below’ or ‘so within so without.’ As we know the universe is made up of patterns. For example if you look into the patterns of the mighty solar system you would see that it has similar patterns as the tiny atom. They are connected by their similarities and they are different because of their differences. When you see someone with confidence, their behaviour is a pattern behaviour. The only way you recognise the pattern behaviour of confidence in front of you is because you have the same confidence potential inside you. Confidence is within you waiting for you to show up and turn it on. It rests within you and if it didn’t you would not recognise it in others.
This takes us back to the migrating bird. How is it that a bird weighing just a few grams can make it half way across the world? You must agree that takes a lot guts.
The methods that birds use to get across the world are complex. Some say that they migrate because of food but this has been found not to be the case. Birds fly long before their food supply runs out. When birds fly they seize every opportunities available. They exploit the winds to their advantage. They sometimes switch lanes to get the best wind. Some birds soar up high and other birds stay low. Some fly none stop and some make several stops. One thing that they all do is that they all prepare for the trip. Sorry for these horrible puns but ‘Birds do not fly by the seat of their pants’ and ‘birds do not wing it’.
They prepare for their trip. They lie down fat reserves and make sure that their feathers are in tip top condition.
Preparation is the key to confidence!
Studies suggest that birds orientate themselves to the compass points using the position of the sun during the day and the stars in the night. They can sense magnetic north. Some have a sort of built in GPS called magnetite which connect them to the earth magnetic field. In addition they use clues such as visual layouts of the land, smell of the sea, sound of the waves and the sound of the wind through the mountain range. All of this is pretty awesome when you stop to think there is no map. The journey unfolds as the bird flies.
Now what has all of this got to do with confidence? Everything! Birds do not have a manuals entitled “How to fly half way around the world for dummies. How come, a bird weighing less than the protein on your dinner plate has enough confidence to do what it has to do? The answer is that the bird doesn’t think about it. The bird puts its focus on the task at hand and not on itself and its ability to do the task.
Supreme confidence is the absence of second guessing, over thinking and self-doubt. The only things to consider are these. Do you have the skills? Yes, then do the skills. If you don’t have the skills, then go and get the skills. Do you have opportunities in your work, then grab those opportunities with both hands. If you do not have opportunities then go out and find them.
Don’t for a minute think that it isn’t scary. In fact being confident is being afraid most of the time. Confidence is knowing that when you spread your wings to fly that you cannot fail… because you also got GPS!