I would like to start writing about self-confidence, but I’m lacking confidence in it. Who am I to share my thoughts and experience when there are so many experts who have studied this field their whole life. I have to feel more confident before I can do it, I should postpone it for now.
This is how I felt when considering to focus on the self-confidence topic – to research it more, to share my findings and experiences in our blog and newsletter. Quite a paradox, isn’t it? Especially when our last focus here in the Habits Mastery blog was on procrastination.
Maybe you also have felt a lack of confidence and procrastinated because of this? It seems that it happens quite often. People who don’t feel confident in social situations, public speaking, driving the car, going to the gym and so on, tend to avoid these circumstances.
We are waiting to feel self-confidence
We are waiting for the motivation, inspiration, confidence and other good feelings to appear and then to start taking action. We don’t want to start doing something that we don’t feel confident about. It feels scary, unsure, others might start laughing at us and we could fail.
But here is the problem. If we wait for the feelings of confidence to show up before we start doing the things that are truly important to us, the chances are we’re going to be waiting forever. These feelings are not going to appear out of nothing. We can get a temporary confidence boost from some motivational books, seminars, movies or someone can say something that makes us feel upbeat. But those feelings don’t last.
The definition of confidence tells us to take action first
If we want to do anything with confidence – speak, drive, socialize – then we have to do the work. We have to practise the necessary skills over and over, until they come naturally. If we don’t have the skills to do something, we can’t expect to feel confident.
“The feeling of confidence will start to appear once you have taken action, over and over, so that you have the skills to get the results you want.” – Dr. Russ Harris
Dr. Russ Harris writes in his book “The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt” about the different definitions of confidence:
1) It is a feeling of certainty or assurance
2) It is an act of trust or reliance
The first definition is the most common. We tend to think about confidence as a feeling of certainty, a belief that you will perform well and achieve a positive outcome, an absence of fear, a lack of self-doubt, an absence of negative thoughts and failure.
The second definition is used far less commonly. Here confidence is not a feeling, but an action – an act of trust or reliance. When we trust or rely on someone – whether ourselves or others – we often don’t have feelings of absolute certainty or assurance. In fact, generally, the more there is at stake, the more we tend to have feelings of fear and anxiety, and thoughts about what might possibly go wrong.
Both definitions are perfectly valid, but they represent different concepts. When we focus on the second one we become clear what we have to do to start getting confidence. We have to act – to take action on these scary and uncertain situations and tasks. We have to trust ourselves, rely on ourselves and start practicing our skills to become better, even when this means to feel uncertain, a bit afraid and unconfident.
Lacking confidence in public speaking
Since a child I have lacked confidence in public speaking. I remember from school times how difficult it was for me to even answer the questions that the teacher was asking. Despite usually knowing the answers perfectly. Being in the middle of the attention made me blush, I felt the blood rushing inside of me, I got sweaty and anxious.
With time it got better. I even accepted acting roles in the school Christmas performances and was on the stage in front of hundreds of people. It was a big self-transcendence, but it helped me to get experience and develop my skills. Although it didn’t fix my lack of self-confidence, I learnt to go into a role, and I have been using this method later as well when on the stage as a trainer.
The habit of acting before feeling self-confidence
During my studies in the university I started to knowingly put myself in situations where I had to speak publicly – I made it my habit. When there were some groupworks that ended with presentations then I was volunteering to be the presenter. Usually others didn’t mind this at all and were even relieved (I was studying IT and I think that IT guys and girls tend to be more introverted and prefer not to perform). I remember that for the first time I finally started to get some confidence in public speaking and I saw that I’m not a lost case.
Later during different self-development seminars and workshops that I participated in I used the same tactic. I used the possibility to share in front of hundreds of people and I was telling them my situation as well. I got tremendous support and built my self-confidence a lot. Since I had decided on this tactic before and it had become my habit, I didn’t even have to think about it, I did it automatically and this also helped to reduce the stress and anxiety.
Now I’m working as a coach and trainer, speaking on stages (recently more online) and doing okay. Of course I’m not a born speaker and I’m not as good at it as I would like to be, but considering my background and the total lack of self-confidence I had when I was younger, it feels even unbelievable to me.
Developing the skills to boost confidence
When I hadn’t had trust in myself, when I hadn’t taken any action even when it felt uncomfortable and scary, I would still be this little boy blushing, sweating, feeling anxious and lacking confidence whenever I have to speak up. Luckily I was developing my skills and with this also building my self-confidence.
To develop and practise the skills requires time and effort. My public speaking confidence has taken tens of years to build up. Our minds usually give us all sorts of reasons not to take this time and not to attempt to put us in these uncomfortable situations. But this is the only way.
We already have practiced to become confident in many things, let’s continue
There are many things that we are actually so incredibly confident at doing, we simply take them for granted. We don’t even notice them anymore and we don’t feel that we should wait for confidence to appear.
We are confident walking up and down the stairs – once we were not. We are confident using a knife and a fork – once we were not. We are confident riding the bike – once we were not. And so on and so on.
We’ve been doing these things for so long that we now have the necessary skills. We were practicing a lot to achieve this state. This is what we should do in every area that we feel a lack of confidence in. Take action, practice, get the skills and then feel confident. Not the other way around.
In what area of your life do you lack confidence? What actions could you take and what skills could you practice to become more confident? Which habits could help you?
In the next few weeks we will be focusing on the topic of self-confidence in the Be A Bit Better newsletter as well. If you haven’t yet, sign up now ↓