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Are You Confident You're Not Confident?

Confidence, like resilience and peace of mind, are always available, but just like everything else that comes built-in, confidence gets covered up by layers of thought.


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Elaine Hilides

a year ago | 5 min read

I grew up believing I was shy. I didn’t like being shy; the irony is that when people think you’re shy, they make a fuss of you, which is exactly what you don’t want.So I learned to pretend to be confident, and then people left me alone.

I stepped into confidence in the same way I stepped into my shoes. Some days I still slopped about in slippers and wanted to hide in the corner, but most days, I filled those shoes.

I can remember when I worked with Paul McKenna, a well-known hypnotherapist, on his, ‘I Can Make You Thin’ days; I would take a deep breath, stand up straight and pretend to be confident as I opened the doors to the public areas. I was ‘on’; I had a part to play.

But was I playing a part? Or just feeling confident?

For all the years I thought I was pretending to be confident, in a ‘fake it til you make it’ type of way, I didn’t see that I wasn’t faking it at all. I had let go of my shy and nervous thoughts to pretend confidence.

I had confident thoughts, and so that’s the way I felt.

What makes you confident?I always thought other people had confidence. I envied them. Maybe they were confident because of their job or the money they had in the bank.

You, like me, may have been led to believe that confidence is ‘out there’; it’s something that you can learn, build or practice, but this isn’t true; confidence is built-in. It comes as default. You can’t lose confidence and don’t need to strengthen it; all you need to do is uncover it.

Years ago, when I worked with NLP, I had various strategies to build confidence. Just as I stepped into my ‘confident’ shoes, I wore a wardrobe of metaphorically confident clothes, modelled confident people and tried to act like them.

And you might have tried different modalities that offer techniques to build confidence, trick yourself into acting confident or dress for confidence. And these might work for a while, but are you only confident when you’re employing the techniques?

What do you do if you’re just not in the mood to go through the techniques, tap, visualise, or stand like a superhero?

You can always decline to go to a party, but your boss might not appreciate you refusing to do a presentation because you’re not in the mood.

When I thought about situations where I might feel nervous or shy, I would think about the situation and then minimise the picture, take the colour out of the film, and speed up the sound, so the voices were more Mickey Mouse than menacing. And sometimes, this made me feel good.

But not as good as realising that I was creating the image and film. It wasn’t that I lacked confidence; I just lacked the insight to see what was creating the shy feeling. And to notice that I was preparing to be shy in the future.

I’d forgotten that the feeling of fear and nervousness were coming from my thoughts about the upcoming situation. This is like drawing a picture of a monster and then hiding behind the sofa.

Feeling confident is always availableConfidence, like resilience and peace of mind, are always available, but just like everything else that comes built-in, confidence gets covered up by layers of thought. It’s like hanging a bag on a coat hook, and then someone comes along and hangs a coat over the bag. And then maybe another coat gets put on top of that coat. The bag hasn’t disappeared; it just got covered up and needs to be uncovered. Once you take the layers of coats off the hook, you’ll find the bag again.

Babies don’t lack confidence. When I was a baby, I was confident enough to know when it was time to walk and I didn’t lose confidence when I fell over, I just got up and tried again. I was confident enough to try out my voice and then learn to talk.

So, where did I think that confidence had gone?

Why is it that some situations make you feel less confident? In my first job in the workplace, I could sit in an office with colleagues and enjoy laughing and joking with them all day as we worked.

But, if these same colleagues were gathered in a meeting room and I needed to deliver a message to one of them, I would get hot and cold and feel faint at the thought of walking into the room.

What was the variable?

The people were the same, after all? The variable was that when I was one of the group, no one looked at me as an individual, but when I walked into the meeting room, all eyes turned to the door to see what the interruption was. I knew this would happen, and before I’d opened the door, I had imagined that everyone would judge me.

And isn’t that the root of a lack of confidence? A fear of being judged.

Fear of being judged makes you less confidentImagining that we know what other people are thinking about us, and, let’s face it, we never imagine that they’ll say or think about how amazing we are.

This fear of being judged is why some people don’t like public speaking. I used to be terrified of public speaking; it was the same fear as walking into a meeting room. I hated the thought of everyone looking at me and judging me.

But if you know your subject, why are you frightened to share what you know? Because, just as I did, you might get into a heap of thought about what people will think about the way you look, what you say, and how you say it. It’s these self-judgemental thoughts that cover your natural confidence.

Understanding that everyone in the audience is in their own separate reality bubble and that every single person might have a different idea of what is said freed me from fear. I could say whatever I was there to say and let go of worrying about how it might be received.

And, if you think this can’t be true, say, ‘the cat sat on the mat’ to a group of people and then ask each one of them what colour their cat is and what their mat looks like. Each version will be different even though they all heard the same words.

Clients tell me they’re confident in some situations but not others. But confidence doesn’t come in bite-sized pieces. Confidence ‘is’, so it’s impossible to feel confident in one situation and not in another unless you consider your thoughts at the time.

Why are you confident with a group of old friends but nervous about meeting new people? Is it anything to do with confidence or everything to do with the thinking you’re in when you meet new people?

So next time you feel less confident than you’d like, notice what type of thinking you’re in. If you’re feeling nervous, you must have nervous thoughts. If you’re feeling shy, you must have shy thoughts.

You can be confident of that.

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Elaine Hilides

Life coach from the inside out, a Three Principles Trainer, International Speaker, Author and Online Course creator. elainehilides.com


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