Q 1. What exactly is confidence, because when I see some ‘confident’ people strutting around, I certainly don’t want to be like that?
A 1. Confident people aren’t worried about being confident, they are more concerned with what the situation demands from them, so unless they are natural ‘strutters’, I wouldn’t assume that the people who are strutting, talking louder or who are more obvious than anyone else in the room, are the confident ones.
Confident people often:
- listen more than they speak
- are not afraid to be wrong or look stupid
- don’t assume they have all the answers
- don’t hog the limelight
- are prepared to learn something new
- don’t assume they are right
- don’t put others down
- own their mistakes and work to correct them
- don’t take things personally
Confident people show up as themselves knowing that all parts of a team or group are important. You’ll often find that the ‘strutters’ are people who are hiding their insecurities under an arrogant façade.
Q 2. Any quick emergency tips for being more confident if you are in a tough situation?
A 2. On our journey to becoming more confident, there will always be times when we have a wobble. In these situations, here are a couple of easy things to use to help settle your nerves.
The first one is as simple as taking three slow deep breaths. The reason this is helpful is that when we are feeling stressed, the fight or flight response in the primitive part of our brain gets triggered and starts to prepare our body to react in case we are about to meet a tiger. This makes our breathing short and shallow, pumps adrenalin around our body to get our heart beating faster and directs blood flow to our muscles. While there are occasions in modern life when this response is appropriate, usually it’s unhelpful.
What the deep breaths do is send a signal to the primitive brain to step down, which then allows the cortex or thinking part of the brain to engage again, so you can be calm and think more clearly. It’s a simple and very effective strategy.
The second tip involves using your posture. If you think that every cell in your body is connected via nerves to your brain, it makes sense that moving your body into different positions and postures can effect how you feel. If you are anxious, find a quiet spot and stand with your legs slightly apart in a stable grounded stance. Put your hands on your hips with your shoulders back and look up. Hold this position for at least two minutes, and experience how differently you feel after doing this. Taking up this stance actually makes your body release positive chemicals into your blood stream, which shifts how you are feeling. Try it out before you need it, then it will feel more comfortable to use in an emergency.
Q 3. How can I appear confident when I’m not?
A 3. In some situations you can’t beat the old ‘fake it till you make it’ routine. You probably do not look as nervous as you feel, so it may be useful to film yourself so you can see what other people are seeing, not some distorted versions you may be running in your imagination. Remember also that nobody can read your mind so if you can pretend to be confident in a situation, in a short while this will very likely become how you are.
Q 4. It’s all very well me trying to stay confident, but what if other people are being unreasonable and start raising their voice, how can you stay confident then?
A 4. Obviously it depends on how unreasonable people are being, because if someone is actually shouting at you or you are feeling threatened by their behaviour, it’s important to have the confidence to walk away from that situation.
Even in less extreme circumstances, it’s important to realise that your confidence does not depend on other people and their reactions. If someone is being unreasonable and you stay calmly assertive, after a while they start to look ridiculous if they persevere, so you maintaining your confident state will actually help them to calm down and speak to you properly. On the other hand, you becoming equally angry or looking scared can only make the situation worse.
Q 5. I’ve got an important interview next week, any tips for being more confident there?
A 5. Nothing gives confidence for something like an interview like being prepared. Find out about the organisation and people who’s interview you are attending. Think about which bits of your experience would be most interesting and relevant for this interview, then practise speaking about those, either into a tape recorder or just into the mirror. Get friends to ask you interview questions so you can practise talking about yourself. Remind yourself of all the great things you have done and can do so that you feel good about yourself. Then spend some time imagining the interview going well, knowing that there will be other opportunities and that everything does not depend on the outcome of this one.
Then using some of the other suggestions from the answers above, go in confident that you are giving it your best shot, regardless of the outcome.
Q 6. I sometimes look at other people and think I’ll never be as confident as them, how do they manage it?
A 6. There are some truly confident people out there. However, just as no-one knows what you are thinking, don’t presume to know what is going on in someone else’s mind. All you can see is what they are presenting, which may be a very convincing front. As the saying goes, “All comparisons are odious.” So, don’t get hung up on where anyone else but focus instead on how far you have come. If you take time to think about how much you have learned and developed in the last six months, year or decade, that is a much more useful comparison that allows you to reflect on just how well you are progressing.
Q 7. I attended an audition last month and the casting director was so rude to me, told me he didn’t like anything about me. I feel like my confidence has taken a huge knock. I’m not sure how to get back up to where I was, any suggestions?
A 7. It is really horrible when someone who is in a position of power like this is so unprofessional. Unfortunately it is an occupational hazard. There are people who will not like you or your work and may even tell you this. The trick is learning not to take it personally, even when it is delivered in such a personal way. Easier said than done I know.
The first thing I would do in a situation like this is to recognise just how outrageous that response was. They didn’t have to hire you, but there was no need to insult you. Whether they were having a bad day, or are just naturally toxic, there was no need. It’s important here to learn to leave the responsibility for that outrage with the person who was so insulting. If you take that away with you asking how you may have provoked it, that’s when the damage gets done to you. You may not have been right for that role, but you deserved more consideration and respect than that and it is important to acknowledge that to yourself.
Of course, it is important to accept and consider feedback, but taking anything on board from situations like this have no constructive value for you other than to realise that there are some completely unreasonable people in this world.
Q 8. I’ve had a bit of a career break and I’m trying to get back into the business. However, every time I think of launching a new project, a little voice in my head says, ‘it’s not good enough’, or ‘I’m not good enough’. I’ve had successes in the past but just seem to have lost all confidence in myself.
A 8. Many of us take a career break for all sorts of reasons, then when we get back, because there has been a bit of time passed between now and when we last got positive feedback (or paid) for what we do, we behave as if we have somehow lost all that great experience, skill and ability. When all we have done is temporarily lost touch with it. To reconnect you need to dig out old diaries, old work files or cuttings folders, and start to remember just what you have achieved in the past. Talk about things you did that you are proud of to family and friends, You will probably be surprised with how impressed they are.
Your experience has not been lost, just buried. Dig it up, dust it off and start to remind yourself of where you should be starting from and who you should be contacting to say you are back in circulation.
Also, you will not have spent that career break in a cupboard somewhere, you will have been involved in something interesting. How could you use the experience, skills and knowledge you have gained then to take you into new areas?
The important thing is to get out there, once you make a start, things will start to move again and your confidence will return.
Q 9. What is the most important thing to consider when trying to build more confidence?
A 9. We all speak about confidence as if it is a concrete thing we can acquire, like a chair. In fact, it is more about how you are being, and I don’t just mean a way of behaving, I’m talking about being fully present, focused and engaged with whatever situation you may be in.
When people are not confident, their attention goes inside their own heads, worrying about what they are doing badly, or forgetting, they may even be shouting at themselves.
When this happens, that person is no longer fully in the room, they no longer have enough attention left to deal with what is happening in front of them, or even hear what other people are saying. This is what I mean by not being fully present. Lets be honest - who hasn’t been having a conversation with someone when they’ve asked a question and realised they weren’t really listening?
If you can get your attention out of your head and into the room to deal with whatever is going on around you, you will be well on the way to being more confident.