This weekend, I had the chance to meet up with some old friends, and make some new ones at a friend's ?0th birthday celebrations in Brighton.
We spent a lot of time catching up on what we'd been up to in the two or more years since we'd last met, and getting to know new friends.
My confidence coaching came up, and my work with dancers definitely intrigued the gang. The birthday girl had arranged for them to learn and perform a routine from the 2000 movie Coyote Ugly that night. For one girl, this was a particular kind of nightmare, but she got right up there and did it. I was so proud! She could easily have chickened out, but declared "the show must go on".
What I found most fascinating, though, was seeing how someone who'd told me of her morbid phobia of public speaking could get up on the bar and shimmy with reckless abandon.
Confidence comes in many shapes and sizes. When we are detached from the outcome (eg no-one in the bar knows us or cares about our performance), we can go for it, truly not caring about the result. If we are deeply attached to a successful outcome, such as presenting at a conference, nerves can really get the better of us, and our inner critic springs into overdrive.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to move from blubbering wreck to diva vamp:
- Breathe: Taking the time to breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth helps in a number of ways. It gives you much needed oxygen to the brain allowing you think more clearly, it gives you a moment for yourself, and it provides an instant feeling of calm.
- Focus on a successful outcome: When we lack confidence, our thoughts turn to everything that might go wrong. By visualising failure, we are much more likely to bring failure to the event. If instead we turn our thoughts to all the things that might go right, we give ourselves power and calm to go ahead and succeed. Keep your mind actively thinking about what's going to be great about doing the thing you fear. You might just enjoy it more.
- Remember that news isn't news for long: Now more than ever what happens today is overwritten by tomorrow's news. We might not eat our fish and chips out of newspaper any more, but there's never been a more compelling image for how transient today's events are. If it doesn't go well, you've not failed. You've just discovered a way that doesn't work. That's learning. Chances are, this time next week, no one will remember except you. Use your learnings to grow and do better next time.Decide that you want it more than you fear it:
- If you really want to ace that job interview/impress with your presentation/ask for a raise/compete in ballroom/say no to a colleague who's being unreasonable, you'll have key reasons why you want to do it. Write them down. Read your list regularly. Sooner or later, you'll have no choice but do what you want to do, no matter how great the fear. If you still need a boost, 1-1 coaching or a chat with a friend who knows how brilliant you are can help
Seeing how others hold themselves back through fear, worry and lack of self belief really saddens me.
It's a difficult thing to seek out help for your confidence. Some have even told me they wouldn't have the confidence to take a confidence class. That's tragic.
May the space between where you are and where you want to be inspire rather than frighten you.
Be awesome, my friends. You already are.