By definition confidence is: ‘Belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance’.
Most people are great at giving advice to others about having more confidence, seizing the moment and being brave in a situation. When it comes to taking that advice ourselves we get nervous and shy away. Why is that?
Now, I am not absolving myself in this situation. I get nervous in all sorts of situations and constantly doubt myself, but one thing I don’t do is allow that fear to get the better of me. Why is this? Because I know I can do it, and the end result is never as bad as the fear of ‘what if’. Plus, I teach this stuff so I had better be good at taking my own advice!
Going off course slightly, I want to tell you a story. When I was around 15 or 16, I spilt tea all over our lovely white sofa while my parents were out for the afternoon. I was mortified and worked myself into a state of hysteria at the thought of telling my parents what I had done. So much so that I thought about hiding the stain with a blanket and denying the whole thing, rearranging the living room and even, for a brief moment, running away. But when they got home I took a deep breath and told them what had happened. As tears of shame rolled down my face my mum said casually, “Oh don’t worry, it will come out in the wash”. What a relief!
The reason I tell you this story is because it is an example of a time when I worked myself up at the thought of doing something, and then, when it came to it, the reality really wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
I believe so much of our lack of confidence comes down to the ‘what ifs’. What if I forget my words during the presentation? What if they can’t understand me during the interview? What if I go up to that person in the bar and they reject me? What if, what if, what if?
But, what if you put some time and rehearsal into your presentation and it goes without a hitch and is really well received? What if you take a couple of elocution or accent reduction classes in preparation for a job interview and you’re offered the job? What if you take a deep breath, go over to the person in the bar, and walk away moments later with their number and a prospective date.
Come on. What’s the worst that can happen?
Ok, so you mess up your lines in the presentation. Oh well. You take a second to collect your thoughts, put a smile on your face and carry on. Afterwards ask yourself why you forgot your lines. Were you ill prepared? Did you not practice enough? Did you let your nerves get the better of you? If the answer is yes to the latter, then there are exercises and techniques to help you gain control of your nerves and channel your energies in a more positive way.
You didn’t get the job you really wanted. Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be. Put the whole thing down to experience, ask the company for feedback and take that advice with you to your next interview.
We can all get very despondent when we have a knock back like not getting the job we wanted, or not getting into the university we wanted or breaking up with someone. In these situations, I say think about something or someone great in your life right now and then think back to the situation where you missed out and ask, “Would I be where I am today and would I have what I have today if I hadn’t had that knock back?”. The answer usually is no. So keep telling yourself that everything will be alright, and I guarantee it will be.
What if the person at the bar rejects you? The worst scenario is the person says, ‘Sod off, why would I be interested in you?”. Let me tell you, THAT IS VERY UNLIKELY TO HAPPEN! If for some reason it does, then would you want to be with a person like that anyway? Hell no! What is more likely to happen, if they are not interested, is that they say, “Thank you but I already have a partner.”, or “I am just not interested.” This has happened to me on a few occasions and when it does I remember the advice my cousin once gave me and that’s to not take it personally. How can I not, I hear you ask. Well, as my cousin said, the person at the bar has no idea who you are, so if they don’t want to sit and talk to you on this occasion it could be for a number of reasons. They may be having a bad day, they may not be in the mood to talk, they may be shy, they may just have broken up with someone, or they simply may not be interested. This doesn’t mean you are unattractive in any way, you just may not be their type. If the shoe was on the other foot I’m sure there are plenty of people you don’t find attractive. That doesn’t mean they are ugly or you are a bad person, it just means you’re not attracted. And that’s ok!!
My point to all this is: Take a deep breath and give it a go. Because the longer you leave it, the worse the anxiety of ‘what if’ becomes , and as you retreat further into your comfort zone it becomes harder and harder to find a way out.
And remember, if you feel a certain way about a situation, then you can be sure that hundreds if not thousands of other people feel the same, which means there will be people out there who can offer solutions and services that can help.