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.
Yet the fact remains that confidence is not only 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.
Humility and the readiness to learn, improve, and grow are essential to building long time confidence in people. Surprisingly many people can deceive you into believing that they are super confident by insisting that they are always right and providing logical support in its favour. But obstinacy, dominance, and riding roughshod over others is by no means a symbol of confidence. It is at best your insecurity which you are trying to camouflage. Confident people are wonderfully at ease with others and their surroundings.
Real confidence is an aspect of the soul. It is about knowingly deeply that no matter what, you will be held and supported by life. That life is conspiring to be in your favour and every challenge or setback is meant to help you learn and grow. Their energy of truly confident people is light, happy, positive and inclusive.
And even though they may be experts in their chosen fields they do not think that they are the last word on any topic. Their eyes and ears are open to learning from others.
Says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic author of Confidence: the surprising truth about how much you need and how to get it, “High confidence, can be a curse because it can stop you from improving. If you are really satisfied with your performance you will tend to ignore negative feedback, distorting reality in your favour. By the same token, lower confidence can be a blessing if it helps you pinpoint your weaknesses and motivates you to improve.” However, there are some less substantiated points. The key one being that people like working with people who are nice rather than arrogant. “Gentle, generous and modest people end up doing better,” he argues.
A confidence which is bereft of introspection can lead people to pitfalls. And confidence gained through self-knowledge and self-inquiry only takes you higher.
Abhishek Thakore’s journey of confidence came a full circle, when after achieving accolades for his intelligence, dynamism and achievements, and getting through IIT and IIM he came down with bipolar disorder. “Suddenly I was seized with a problem I had no solution for. As I grappled with it, I looked into many uncharted areas of my life. and developed greater empathy for people who were not as successful as I was. My consciousness expanded. Earlier my confidence was more about what I could do. Now it is more about how many lives I can touch positively.”
Abhishek runs an organisation that focuses on creating social leaders, by empowering youngsters to solve social issues through service.
My own confidence of being able to pull off anything emerged after I dug deep within myself to find the secret of living . Before that my faith in myself was so feeble that even if I began with something, I would lose faith and patience halfway itself and give up very fast. The gods understood my agony and mercifully someone introduced me to meditation. As I delved into it I began to find myself piece by piece. The thought that I am important to the Divine, that I mattered to Him, filled me with great self-belief, and an unshakable faith entered my life. And after that I was able to successfully coast through almost all the challenges of life and emerge a winner.
And the better part was that I became ok with making mistakes. My confidence was not depended on my perfection. I began to love my flaws. They made me beautiful and more relatable as a person. I no longer compared myself with others, because I was secure in the knowledge of my uniqueness. It was a very deep confidence that I had the necessary skill to get by in life, the ability to learn what I didn’t know, and that I all that I needed would be provided for by the universe.
Says Susan Jeffers in her book, The little book of confidence, “Confidence comes from the knowledge that within you lies an immense amount of power and love to create all that you will ever need in life.”
Therefore even though you didn’t get a supportive environment at home, have been unable to find your calling, or develop required skill and knowledge to succeed in life, don’t worry. Confidence, instead of being the outcome can also be the starting point of your journey. Focus on knowing yourself and everything else will fall into place.
Says Stephenie Zamora, life and business coach and author of Awesome life tips “I used to wonder what made some people so confident, so completely comfortable in their skin and radiating such positive, charismatic energy. And then I learnt that confidence really comes down to one incredibly simple thing, which is ‘owning it.’ It means that you’re totally at peace with who you are in every moment, interaction and experience. You make no apologies for being awkward, nervous, excited, loud, soft spoken or other... you are just you. You radiate charismatic energy whether or not you have an extroverted personality because you are genuinely content with yourself and your present experience. She shares a few tips to facilitate this process.
Get out of your head: When you stop engaging in the present moment and begin to think about how you look, sound, feel, smell, you’re creating an immediate disconnect. Whether you’re disconnecting from a conversation or general experience, the effect is the same: You immediately lose confidence.
This loss of confidence creates an energetic wave that is felt by everyone in the same room, interacting with you or listening you speak. It makes it harder for them to connect to your message or to you. When you catch yourself engaging in a viscous thought cycle rather than the present moment, use your senses to gently guide you back. Speak, take in the smells, notice the textures that you can feel. People that appear totally cool and collected, they are 100 percent engaged in the present moment.
Own it. Whatever ‘it’ is: The second way to create instant and unshakable confidence is to totally own it. Whether it’s your opinions, emotions, feelings, words or choice of dessert, just own it. Don’t give a single thought to what anyone else would think of what you’re doing.You’re you, you want what you want and you do what you do.
If you’re feeling sad or moody, just own it. Be sad, be moody. Are you nervous ? Own it. Tell everyone that you’re nervous. It stops the process of entering your head dead in it’s tracks. Earlier, I used to get extremely nervous going to networking events, especially the ones where you have to introduce yourself. There were so many times when, I honestly couldn’t remember if I said my name right. So instead of pretending that I was anything less than I was in that moment, I just told people, “I’m not very good at speaking in front of people so just bear with me!”
You know what I got? Smiles, applause and real connection with everyone in the room instead of the typical glazed over stares and uninterested faces. People felt that they were connecting with someone who was as human as they were. Being totally okay with whatever emotions, sensations or feelings you’re experiencing in any given moment results in the appearance of total confidence.
Just be you:This is similar to what is mentioned above. When you honour who you really are, you will do things like wear the clothes that you really love and pursue hobbies that you truly love. this in turn makes you feel comfortable, and that produces confidence. By honouring who you are and what you truly prefer in life, you are allowing yourself to be comfortable and express yourself. In turn, you attract the right people, opportunities and more into your life. When the right people and opportunities come along, you feel confident because things are easy. They work for you and your personality.
And if you find these tips difficult to follow there are step by step methods by which you can climb the ladder of confidence. The higher self within each one of us is a reservoir of unlimited confidence. It is a place filled with joy, creativity, intuition, peace, power, and love. Whenever you are in this place your confidence soars and all seems right with the world. And there are multiple ways to touch base with with space
Affirmations: Just saying, thinking or writing positive thoughts make us stronger in body, mind and spirit. An affirmation is a strong, positive statement telling you that all is well. With constant repetition, affirmations help you drown out the negative messages of your mind.
Repeat this affirmation over and over again “Even if things are not going the way I want them to go, I will simply trust that all things happen for a reason and I will learn and grow from it all.”
When you repeat affirmations, subtle changes occur within you, altering you for the better, the way you act and feel, and the world reacts more positively to you. As you become more powerful and loving, you draw healthier people into your life.
Let go of the outcome: There is nothing wrong with creating clear, detailed pictures of how you want your life to be. but do not forget to add the element of letting go. If whatever you visualise happens, so be it. If it doesn’t happen, so be it. When you are able to think in this higher self way, you have discovered the true meaning of freedom.
Say yes to life: Lack of confidence is nothing but not having enough faith in the process of life. The fear of failing confines us to our limited ways of being and functioning. It makes us refuse opportunities and challenges that can stretch our abilities,skyrocketing our achievements and subsequently confidence. The more risk you are willing to take, the more chances you have of boosting your confidence. The readiness to face the consequence of failure and learning from it is very fundamental to gaining confidence.
Affirm to yourself, “I am open to welcome new changes and opportunities in life. No matter what happens I’ll make something wonderful out of my life.”
Think positive: Choosing positive thoughts over negative, self-sabotaging ones, have the power of transform your life. Coach yourself to think in a positive manner. Read inspirational books by motivational authors and great achievers who share their stories and mantras on self-belief. But this does not mean that you deny to yourself your fear and pain. Acknowledge them and heal their root causes at source. The more your energies clear up, the more your confidence will shoot up. Let go of your victimhood. It traps you in a low vibrational mode and nibbles away confidence.
Prepare in advance: Do your homework before making a decision. establish your priorities, find your alternatives and learn as much as you can.
Trust your instincts: Once you have done this, pay attention to the gut feeling. You will be surprised at the good advice your subconscious can give, when you listen to it. Your instinct is the knowing that arises from your gut. It is a knowing within yourself which never goes wrong and can safely be trusted. Act upon it without fear or hesitation.
Take action: Give up your fear of taking action. Forge ahead and strike the iron. However we are not talking about foolish actions like jumping down a cliff on a dare. Taking action is about taking calculated risk for something you deeply feel committed or passionate about. Taking action unleashes many latent creative, problem solving abilities within you and your confidence takes an aerial route.
Wishing you all the very best in your journey to finding confidence and subsequently yourself. May you shine wherever you go.
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