Self-confidence is that elusive quality that can take you places, but not everyone seems to be blessed with it. Shivi Verma tries to demystify the secret behind it and lay bare its governing principles
Confidence. A word which baffled me the most during my adolescent years. I used to gape and gawk at those who seemed full of it. I wondered at the ease with which they handled themselves and their surroundings. They had a grasp over things, people and situation, knew their field and subject well, and never seemed overwhelmed and overawed by anything.
They had excellent social skills and could get away with anything during a conversation. Everybody seemed to understand them and agree with them. I also used to be amazed by people who could give public speeches with elan and without fumbling for words or groping for ideas. Almost invincible, it was difficult to defeat them at games, arguments or social skills. They shone like a silver dollar and were smoothly effortless at anything they did.
To me, they seemed specially gifted with knowledge, power, charm, and skill by the Divine. I also felt that their confidence stemmed from the belief that they could never go wrong and this was something which I could never master. My mind was always doing permutation and combination of various possibilities, therefore finding a firm ground was difficult for me.
I yearned to have what they had and wanted to possess the magic key that unlocked the door to confidence. I wanted some success to enter my life in order to feel confident, but that too was beyond my grasp. It took me a long struggle to discover the key to confidence. And it all happened after I found spirituality.
Which brings us to the question: What actually is confidence?
Says Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, “Confidence is nothing but a sense of certainty that you can do something, a belief that you will succeed in your undertakings and an absolute trust in your abilities.”
Clarifies Suma Varughese, former editor of Life Positive, “Confidence is the innate belief that you can cope with life and all its challenges. That you will do well in your exams, execute your duties well, and handle any responsibility given to you. That you have a pretty good chance at succeeding in all that you set yourself out to do. It is closely linked with self-esteem but not fully so. Self-esteem consists of two aspects. One is a sense of worth or okayness, and the other is of self-efficacy, the sense of competence. Confidence is closely linked to the second aspect of self-efficacy.”
So is it a quality which has to be cultivated or are we born with it? Since there are varying levels of confidence in people. Some people breeze through life, while many struggle with it.
Says Bhaavin Shah, a life coach living in Mumbai, “It does appear that we are born confident. As young children and babies we have no difficulty accepting ourselves. But, I guess, along with development of the sense of self, our self-consciousness goes up and confidence takes a hit. Sometimes achieving success can build it it up once again, but it is something which can be worked upon as well in order to master it.”
I remember my father to be a very confident person. He was dynamic, charismatic, articulate and a high performer at his job. ‘Impossible’ was not a word in his dictionary. And though he had had several setbacks in his life, his confident self would flare up at the touch of a motivational matchstick. It was very difficult to keep him down.
Explains Suma, “All, or most of us, have lived many lives before this present one and, therefore, come into the present world with varying levels of confidence. The ones who have coped successfully with many challenges in previous lives probably enter this life with an added edge in confidence.”
Difference between extroversion and confidence
And while there are many who struggle with confidence, there are others who are naturally blessed with it. Especially, those with a proclivity for extroversion. They can steal the show anywhere they go and are universally loved and acknowledged. On the face of it, extroversion and confidence appear to be the same, but according to experts there is a difference.
Says Bhaavin, “Though extroversion and confidence come across as same, they may not actually be so. In the history of the world, introverts like Rosa Parks, Gandhi and Obama seem to have displayed more conviction than others. Conviction is a special form of confidence.”
Agrees Suma, “At first glance, extroverts do appear to be more confident than introverts, particularly in social situations, but it is an individual thing. Many extroverts could be deeply diffident behind the mask of extroversion, and I have known many introverts to have an innate and centred confidence that rarely gets thrown over even in challenging situation.”
And while confidence may function differently in different types of people, certain factors help in gaining confidence. They are as below.
A lot depends upon the family environment a child is born in. If the parents are sensitive and supportive, and the child is appreciated and encouraged for his good qualities, he will grow up to have faith in himself. Such children taste success in their formative years, like learning to swim, cycle, get good grades, gain approval of teachers, friends and family, and being precocious. But if the family environment is judgmental, discouraging, discordant or depressive, it is very likely that the offsprings would struggle with confidence in their later years.
Says Abhishek Thakore, founder of the Blue Ribbon movement, who always comes across as a supremely confident person, “I was a student of Rishi Valley School in Hyderabad, a school founded by Jiddoo Krishnamoorthy. I got a lot of encouragement from my teachers, and parents and was hosting, dancing, public speaking and doing stage shows from a very young age of eight years. At that time, the threshold of success was not too high. I was able to succeed at most of the things and my self-confidence began to build. It kept on growing and taking on bigger tasks. I realised that I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. Later, I cracked the IIT and the IIM and became known for my oratorical skills.”
Bhaavin Shah: We are born confident but as we develop our sense of self, our self-consciousness goes up and confidence takes a hit
Finding your calling
If we are unable to discover our true calling, and waste time and effort in pursuing things which do not motivate us, we will eventually lose faith and confidence in ourselves. Some people find their calling without much effort while others find it after considerable inner churning. But once you find your footing in life, your confidence soars.
Bhaavin’s family expected him to join the family business of manufacturing nuts and bolts. And though he felt obligated to participate in it, internally he wasn’t happy doing it. He struggled to find his footing, calling and self-esteem. This turmoil led him to the late Guru Rishi Prabhakar of Siddha Samadhi Yoga ashram in Mumbai. He realised that his heart lay in the study of self and spirituality. Today, he is a successful life-coach who teaches people the mantra of gaining happiness, success, and peace of mind.
It is a delight to see him confidently share his knowledge and experience with others.
Developing skill and expertise
“Practice makes perfect,” goes the popular adage.
It goes without saying that the more you study your chosen subject, the more you will know about it, and the more confidence you will gain. All the experts in any field, be it finance, science, agriculture, art or sports, are people who have dedicatedly and passionately pursued it. They worked hard, practised, disciplined themselves and gained tremendous insights in their chosen fields. No wonder their confidence levels are quite high.
Says Rahul Srivastava, an avid photographer and an environmentalist based in Delhi. “Every year, a global photography event happens in my organisation in which all the photographers participate. This year I did not get the opportunity to click as many wild-life images as I would have wanted. So I sent only one entry which was the best that I had. And I wasn’t surprised when my solo entry won the first prize. Having worked for years to develop the skill of clicking excellent images, I was confident that my entry would do well.”
Success has an uncanny ability to to feed your self-confidence. The more success you achieve, the more confident you become. But it is better to pursue excellence than chase success alone. Once you have polished your skills, and gained considerable expertise in it, you may start looking for avenues to project them better. While the pursuit of excellence makes you concentrate on one thing, the pursuit of success make you more aware of your environment. It makes you take responsibility, find your strength and limitations and delegate work accordingly. Anil Bhatnagar, a Delhi based corporate coach, has a very practical approach towards building confidence.
For him, confidence is about clarity and self-awareness, which need to be developed over time. “Authentic confidence is evidence based, accurate self- assessment of what one can do alone and what one would need someone’s help for, and authentic trust in one's ability to choose the right person for that help. For example, I may be very good at teaching but not so good at changing a car tyre. And therefore, instead of expending energy in trying to succeed at it, it is wiser to take the help of someone who is better at it than me.”
Life has a knack for pulling you down several times before it takes you up to the top. Therefore, if you give up too soon you will be plagued with lack of self-confidence. But if you are a determined soul who continues to fight to achieve what he deeply desires or believes in, you will experience the glow of inner confidence radiating from within you after you have reached your destination.
Yet the fact remains that confidence is not only a destination but also a journey. Because confidence gained solely on the basis of skill and success is an incomplete one. Several successful and confident people have had to bite dust because they grew over-confident or arrogant over time. The 26 year old founder and CEO of hugely successful enterprise called Housing.com was unceremoniously removed by his shareholders from his position because he had become high-handed and obnoxious. A loud mouthed Editor-in-chief of a prominent English news channel too had to meet a similar fate because his confidence had turned into conceit.
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