Thirty years ago, when I was just eight years old, I was a happy but shy kid.
If anyone spoke to me in the street, I would often hide behind my mum and, I would avoid eye contact at all costs.
As I progressed through my teens, I still struggled with shyness and nerves, despite often finding myself the centre of attention. I would often find myself playing solo’s on my saxophone during school Christmas concerts or sprinting in front of crowds of fellow students and parents at district sports events.
Despite being shy, I found making friends relatively straightforward and had a lovely friendship group.
As time moved on, I found my confidence growing in some areas but lacking in others. I still saw myself as someone who lacked confidence.
Some years later, I found myself sitting in front of a brilliant Transformational Coach, Beth Stallwood, who asked me to list some of the things in life which made me proud of myself. From memory, the list looked something like this:
- Graduating from university
- Learning to drive
- Moving to London (on my own!)
- Jumping from an admin role to a leadership role (without any prior leadership or management experience!)
- Taking my first solo holiday
Beth turned to me and said something along the lines of “Becky, these are not the type of experiences you would put yourself through if you were someone lacking in confidence. However, I do think you may have what’s called Imposter Syndrome.”
Ahhh, my good old friend Imposter Syndrome. I’ve talked a lot about this before, so if you’re interested in finding out more, please feel free to check out the following blog posts:
Despite understanding the differences between a lack of confidence and having Imposter Syndrome, I didn’t feel any more confident.
What Does Confidence Look Like?
Fast forward to the beginning of this week. I signed up for a course through my local careers service, called Career Confidence. During the session, the tutor spoke about the signs of a confident person. She listed them as:
- They speak up and express their opinion
- They celebrate others
- They focus on their strengths
- They take the initiative
- They have open body language
- They make eye contact
- They take pride in the way they look
- They aren’t afraid to ask for help
- They never give up
- They are a positive person
Whilst some of these traits come more naturally than others, I suddenly realised that I ticked most of those boxes.
When the session came to an end, I asked myself:
When the hell did you become confident??
If I went through each trait on the list, I could probably tell you exactly where and when my confidence levels started to change.
I can split most of the traits into two categories:
- Those I have learnt through my working life; and
- Those which came about as a result of losing my best friend
I would also say that reaching an age where I stopped caring so much about other people’s perception of me helped too.
Guest Appearance on Local Radio
During the Career Confidence Course, I flashed back to my appearance on Shoreditch Radio earlier this year (click here to listen to the podcast version of my interview…you can find me from 36:18). In my mind, I convinced myself I should’ve been terrified about doing something so different and stepping out of my comfort zone.
The moment I received the request, my reaction was: “I can’t do that!” but almost immediately after, I said, ‘but I’m sure as hell not going to turn it down!“.
Even though I knew it was something I wanted to do, from the moment I agreed to the moment of the interview, I was waiting for the sleepless nights, the anxiety and my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms to kick in.
However, none of them arrived. I had this overwhelming feeling of pure excitement and happiness. I was excited to be heading into central London for the first time since lockdown. I was excited to be stepping out of my comfort zone once more and doing something new. I was also incredibly excited to talk about The Mindful Gingernut and other matters close to my heart.
As it grew closer and closer to the time I would be going on air, I kept thinking, “I’m sure the nerves will kick in any moment now“.
But they didn’t.
I’ve often looked back on this moment and asked myself why the nerves didn’t kick in. The Career Confidence course confirmed why they didn’t:
- I have found my voice
- I know my strengths and focus on them
- I take the initiative (creating The Mindful Gingernut was just one example!)
- I no longer feel the need to hide behind people and have opened up my body language
- I love to give people eye contact
- I’m no longer afraid to ask for help
- I never give up
- I am a positive person
I began to realise that for many years, I had been hiding behind a shy, nervous 8-year-old Becky. So much so that I had almost become stuck there.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to becoming a confident person. As you can see from my story, I became a more confident person without meaning to and without noticing this transformation had even taken place.
Being confident also doesn’t mean that I no longer suffer from anxious feelings and my IBS symptoms still flare up now and again.
However, I no longer let these things stop me from stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things.
Being confident also doesn’t mean that I’m the life and soul of the party. I’m more than happy to leave that to others). But I do know what I can contribute to a party.
I also think it’s important to recognise there is a difference between feeling confident and being confident. Perhaps that’s a subject I’ll come back and write about another time.
I know that I won’t go into every situation life throws at me feeling confident. But knowing I have a reasonable level of confidence within me will change how I approach certain situations, particularly within my working life, where my confidence levels have often been challenged the most. I also hope that it will stop me from waiting for the nerves and anxiety to kick in!
I’d love to get your thoughts on confidence.
Do you agree with the confidence traits listed above?
Have you been on a similar confidence journey?
Do you class yourself as a confident person or someone who lacks confidence?
Are you confident in some situations but not in others?
Do you have a toolkit that helps you to appear confident even if you’re not?
Would you like to improve your levels of confidence?
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