I am of course talking about confidence here – what else?! When it comes to confidence, there are many books, articles and speakers that will tell you to “fake it till you make it”. And I totally see where they’re coming from, because confidence is something that grows with taking action, and so you have to get started to grow it. The issue I have with this advice is that faking confidence can feel really “icky” because it doesn’t feel authentic when we do it. We know we’re faking it, and that will limit us from being present and enjoying being ourselves in the moment.
Before I learned how to tap into my authentic confidence, I used to fake it in meetings, at networking events, even at parties with friends. I behaved how I thought I was meant to behave and said the things I thought were expected of me, all whilst being acutely aware of how unnatural it all sounded coming out of my mouth. And that was because those actions weren’t aligned in any way with how I felt inside. It was an act, and quite an exhausting one to be honest.
How about you? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel authentically confident being you? Imagine what you could do, achieve and believe was possible from a place of true confidence.
How much more fun would you have as yourself, and how many new opportunities would surface if you could show up as the person you really wanted to be each day?
Now you might be thinking “I’ve never been confident in those situations, it’s just what I’m like”. But I don’t believe confidence is an innate personality trait or a fixed characteristic. I believe it is a feeling and state of mind that can be developed by:
- releasing what’s blocking it
- tapping into past experiences of confidence as a resource
- building new experiences of what it means to be confident being you
In my experience as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, low confidence can be a result of all sorts of things, such as your perspective about previous experiences; a concern about being judged; a fear of the unknown and so on. We aren’t born without confidence, we make judgements about experiences we’ve had that manifest themselves in a lack of confident feelings and behaviour later down the line.
Our unconscious mind exists to protect us, so if it made a conclusion from a previous experience that talking in front of a large group is a threat it will encourage behaviours that steer us away from similar situations in the future.
Often with my clients there will have been an event in the past which triggered a belief that sits at the root of the lack of confidence. I wasn’t yet a teenager when my confidence was totally knocked by my drama school teacher. I had been lucky as a child actor/singer to have had some brilliant experiences in theatre shows and a few TV ads.
One drama class, my friends asked me to tell them what it was like and so I proudly explained that with ballets and operas there is a TV in the wings that shows the orchestra conductor, which enables singers to take their cues and know when to come in. I excitedly told them what it was like back stage, about the lights around the mirrors in the dressing room, and what it was like going on tour. There was nothing I loved more than the theatre and they’d asked me to tell them, so I saw no harm in what I was doing. Until my drama teacher overheard, accused me of showing off to the class and sent me out. She called my parents in to tell them about my unacceptable behaviour, how I was making others feel bad about themselves by bragging about my experience. I went home absolutely mortified that I had become a “show off”.
As an adult I can now see that was the catalyst for the many, many times I unconsciously held myself back because I was scared of putting myself out there and being seen as a “show off”.
The little voice in my mind would tell me to be careful, that it was bad to make myself centre of attention, that I shouldn’t share my talents because that meant I was putting myself above everyone else.
I don’t blame my drama teacher for this. She was dealing with the situation as she saw it in front of her and would never have intended to create such a ripple effect. It’s so often something said or done that is seemingly minor or harmless to one person that takes on a whole new meaning for the other, especially if it’s a child doing the interpreting.
What’s so interesting is the amount of similar stories I hear in my online therapy sessions. They are often either stories where people have been told off for being seen and so concluded unconsciously that they shouldn’t be in the spotlight again. Or an experience of being made to be in the spotlight, such as standing up to read or say the times tables in class, and being laughed at for doing it wrong. If these events happened in the more formative years, often my clients don’t even consciously recall them as significant until we let the unconscious mind guide us to the event that we need to work on.
The beauty of Cognitive Hypnotherapy is that we have a wealth of techniques in our toolkit that enable us to revisit past events safely and release the intensity, reframe it in some way or pass on learning to our younger selves that means the event no longer has the same meaning it used to. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see the change on a client’s face (and often in their whole body) when they alter their perception of their significant event and suddenly things that never seemed possible before become possible.
That’s when the icky feeling can drop away. It existed because we were forcing ourselves to act in a way that contradicted what we’d learned was important to keep us safe all those years ago.
Without that old belief, it is possible to be far more authentic as we lean into experiences. That’s when you can start taking actions to fuel a real feeling of confidence, rather than just forcing it and faking it.
And for those who tell me they’ve never ever felt confident, I tend to stroke my virtual therapist beard and say “really, never?”. Because even if it’s way, way back in a completely different context, or simply being confident that Saturday is the day that follows Friday, that’s an experience of confidence we can use. I share with my clients some amazing techniques founded in Neuro-linguistic programming that enable them to tap into that past confidence, and use it to feed positive feelings and actions in the present.
Now that I know my drama teacher got it wrong, that I wasn’t showing off because my friends had asked me to share my experience….Now that I believe sharing my experiences and talents doesn’t mean I am putting myself above everyone else, I can use the old feeling I used to have of being on stage to help me step into confidence when I need it as an adult. I can physically feel myself grow as I remember being on stage. I feel the warmth on my cheeks as I stand in the spotlight, and I feel the joy rise in my belly as I connect with others and share what I know. Now, giving talks and running workshops is one of my favourite parts of being a therapist and coach.
In my therapy sessions we do amazing breakthrough work, and there’s nothing I love more than hearing from a client further down the line when they tell me what life is like for them now living with their new authentic confidence.
If you’d like to stop faking it and start feeling it, check out my Authentic Confidence Programme and book in a virtual coffee to get the ball rolling.