As I wrote in a post last week, I used to be so shy I was scared to speak to anyone – even my friends. And yet, last week I gave a talk to a room of strangers, and I’m currently planning a workshop, more presentations and one-to-one training. What changed? Well, it didn’t happen over night, and it’s still happening. Building my confidence is something that I work on every day. Here are a few tips…
1. Find Out Where Your Comfort Zone Ends… and then step just outside of it!
If something makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, and there’s no actual danger to your safety – DO IT!
I am scared of heights. Here is a photo of me in May 2002, abseiling off the top of the local college. I barely slept for two weeks before I did this abseil, and climbing out of a skylight onto that roof on a cloudy Saturday morning, I was nearly sick. But how fantastic and confident do you think I felt, when my feet hit the floor afterwards? For months, possibly years afterwards, I was telling people I had done this – and more importantly, telling myself: you abseiled off the top of the college; of course you can do this thing that’s tiny in comparison!
2. Remember Your High Points.
I was given a certificate for this abseil. It was just something printed off that morning, with my name written on in marker – but I had it in a frame on my wall for ages. I have the photos on Facebook. They remind me that even when you’re so scared you can’t keep your legs still, you can still achieve amazing things. And if I can do that, what else can I do? I am a single mother; I have survived a near-fatal mental breakdown, an abusive relationship, premature labour and almost three years of raising a child alone. Reminding myself of these things tends to elicit a certain amount of “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!”
When I did my first radio appearance for 5 Things, Simon texted me afterwards: “could you do me a favour and try not to do so many ums? They’re difficult to edit out!” The second week, I made sure I knew my topic better. A few weeks later, he suggested I not write out a script, but instead make a bullet-pointed list. I went with that, and hopefully now that I’ve had a couple of months of practise, people can hear a difference. With my podcast, I talk to myself as I wander around the house during the day, deciding what to say and how to say it. Then, by the time I come to record it, I’ve already said it a few times and know what comes next. When I did my presentation last week, I only practised a few times to avoid it sounding too rehearsed, but I did my practise in the couple of hours before the presentation, so that it was all still fresh in my mind. Whether you’re scared of talking in public or talking to your child’s teacher, practise what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it. Looking in a mirror helps, but is not necessary. The first time you do it, you get that sicky, shaky feeling and you worry you’re going to burst into tears or pass out or something. If you keep pushing yourself into positions where you can practise it, it will get easier. And eventually, you’ll be able to go on live TV and chat to Philip Schofield about your nervous breakdown.
4. Fake It Til You Make It.
Watch this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. Then watch it again. And again, and again, and again. What is so inspirational about this talk is that Cuddy has lived it – she knows that feeling of “I’m not supposed to be here.” But she faked it, and she made it. These techniques really work – from putting a pen in your mouth to make yourself feel happy, to putting your arms out in a “power pose” before a job interview or presentation. I’ve tried it myself, and so have several friends and family members.
5. Be Yourself.
If you’re nervous, you’re nervous. You can conquer that over time. But it is a hundred times easier to be confident as yourself than to try and be confident while pretending to be someone else. It’s one thing to “fake it til you make it” but quite another to pretend to be an entirely different person. That might feel like an easier option in the short term, but longer term, it’s harder to pull off. I wore fake hair for years because I felt I could hide behind it and be someone else but as it turned out, fake hair was not who I was. When I first removed it, I felt like I didn’t know how to be the “real” me but now, I wonder how I ever pretended to be that person for so long.
6. Tell Yourself You Can!
We all have that negative self-talk, that voice in our heads going but what if… Tell it to get lost! Talk over it with I can definitely do this, this is happening, everything will go brilliantly. You don’t need to say it out loud if you don’t want to (not a great idea on a crowded train), but consciously thinking positive responses to your negative self talk will eventually shut it up – or at least reduce it to 3am apearances once a month. Think of it as a mantra that you think to yourself on the way to anything you’re a bit nervous of: this will go great; everything is fine; I’ve got this covered. Try not to include any negative, such as not or won’t in your positive thinking though; instead of this won’t go wrong change it to this will go really well. It helps, I promise
Lucy @ bottlefor2 · 07/03/2015 at 07:52
Good for you. You are absolutely right, you have to remember those small things we achieve each day, like looking after our families.
I go through confidence phases, depending on my mood and whats happening around me. Its awful when suddenly one day you don’t feel capable of doing something you did fine once before. Or even all the time in the past. I think that old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” really comes into play when you are a mum as you just concentrate so much on your baby, that it is easy to ‘lose’ all those other skills you had, and the confidence that went with them.
Vicky Charles · 07/03/2015 at 09:19
Yes, it’s definitely true – if you don’t keep up with it you can easily go right back to square one! I think it’s easier for me now S is a toddler, and people are more inclined to stop in the street and chat to her. When she was a baby we could walk all around town without anyone really paying much attention.
Anna busby · 07/03/2015 at 08:44
i really struggle with self confidence i agree with all your suggestions. practice 4 me is the most important if I get out of the habit of making conversation its easy just to revert back to quiet old me , but practice makes perfect 4 sure! #weekendbloghop
Vicky Charles · 07/03/2015 at 09:15
Exactly! I saw this great video the other day where this 17 year old kid suggested you should go for a walk and whenever you see a dog just say to the owner, “nice dog!” then the dog owner feels good because you complimented theirdog, and you feel good because you managed to speak to a stranger/made them happy.
Helena Clarke · 07/03/2015 at 19:58
Lovely post with some really great advice. I am a teacher so people (including my close friends) always assume I am super-confident, but actually every new situation makes my stomach churn and I will avoid seemingly simple tasks like asking for directions when lost (as I was today for 20 minutes, when I could have just pulled over and asked someone for help!) or having to ask for things in shops, makes me anxious. A lot of the time you really wouldn’t know this as I will often speak up in situations where others wouldn’t and I volunteer for things that involve talking to new people or being in new situations all the time. I guess I have trained myself (from very young) to just swallow my anxiety and do things anyway, especially if I think it is important. As for directions…..well, I got myself there eventually right?!
Safia @ myGriffinway · 07/03/2015 at 23:01
Great points and some sound advice! I’m a definite advocate of ‘fake it till you make it’. I fully admit to creating a ‘character’ a while ago imaging who it was I wanted to be i.e. a confident and independent woman. I’m still rehearsing, but the role is getting easier all the time.
Funnily enough hubby and I were out for walkies today and I decided I’d like to try climbing a tree. Unlike many other people I know, this was not common occurrence of my childhood. It literally took my 20 minutes to climb up a couple of feet. My legs were shaking and I thought I would fall or my feet would lose their footing or my arms wouldn’t support me. When I finally got up though it felt amazing!! I even went up again and came back down on the other side.
I think it’s fear of the unknown that causes us build our little comfort zone barriers, but once they’re broken it’s amazing how free you an feel.
Vicky Charles · 08/03/2015 at 12:31
Wow, I’m super impressed with your tree climbing abilities! Well done you!
Mom Kat · 07/03/2015 at 23:38
Thanks for these wonderful tips. It takes a lot of courage too to overcome this fear. I am sure a lot of your readers will find you inspiring.
Sending love from #WeekendBlogHop!