Lying awake this morning at some ridiculously early hour I was pondering what being confident really means and why do I have seem to naturally feel a sense of inner confidence. Not the unabashed arrogance that is often mistaken for confidence, but the sense that I can handle whatever is thrown my way, mixed with an acceptance that even if I can’t handle something that I have the resilience to bounce back and be fine.
Now I am no great intellect, my accomplishments probably seem minor compared to those that are more successful and I get anxious and worry as much as the next person. My genetically and socially learnt anxiety response has been something I have worked at overcoming and has given me a deep sense of empathy for people who are challenged by depression and anxiety disorders.
Yet beneath these sometimes-neurotic tendencies I have always felt a deep and internally generated sense of confidence and this is something that has been the case for as long as I remember, even as a small child I felt it. What I have also come to realise is that inner confidence is not something that everyone feels and in fact many clients or friends struggle with finding the grounding that comes from self confidence.
Why is this so? What are the requirements for confidence? Not the type of confidence that comes from external sources, because that can be taken away in the blink of an eye and then you are left feeling unworthy. How does one build an internally fueled sense of confidence that you can rely on at all times – during success and during failure?
There are a number of psychological theories that would explain personality development based on socialization, external/internal locus of control or inherent predispositions and I love theories yet my morning thoughts provided three key ingredients that I think have worked for me.
- Faith – I use the term faith in two senses. The first is a sense that there is something bigger than you and more powerful than you that has everything under control. I am more comfortable with the word God these days, but back then it was more of a connection to an energy source and to nature that seems so reliable that I knew I would be okay. The second meaning I place on Faith is about cultivating a strong relationship with yourself so that you build faith in you. Faith that you can and will do whatever it takes. Faith that you have survived before and will do so again. Faith that you are valued just by being you, that your self worth is not tied to what you achieve but by simply being who you are.
- Feeling – Confidence comes from spending time connecting and listening to your gut, your intuition, to your feelings. Do you spend time just with yourself, getting to know yourself and tapping into what your true values and desires are? It is easy to be so busy and create so much noise in your heads that your quiet inner voice can’t be heard. So you spend time following the advice and direction of everyone else and your internal locus of control is diminished. Stop letting everyone else influence you. Start letting your internal feelings and knowing be your biggest influencer.
- Freedom – I think there is a misconception that confidence is about feeling in control of a situation or in control of yourself. In fact it is exactly the opposite. People who are always trying to be in control are often living in fear and use control as a way to manage their fears. When you cultivate deep confidence you actually are free to go with the flow and there is no need to control because you know that you are in charge – which is a very different perspective to being in control. I am in charge of my response to events and people so I don’t need to waste energy on trying to control situations (this is something that I am still working on, but honestly the sooner you can let go of control the more confident you will become).
“True confidence is an inside job. It doesn’t come from accomplishments or the opinion of others.
It comes from an inner knowing that you are worthy no matter what”.