You can’t have confidence without risking looking like a fool

I was asked to speak at an event yesterday on “self confidence”. When asked to speak on the subject, I confess my heart sank somewhat. I don’t believe I possess such a luxury as natural born confidence and I’m always loathe, if not vehemently against speaking, or writing, on topics I know nothing about. Besides how does one speak on the subject without sounding like some pseudo preachy Percy or arrogant Ashleigh.

It did however prompt me to ask myself exactly what self confidence is? And when I explored things a little more deeply, as is true with many aspects of life, I came to a new understanding and found myself to be in possession of this “thing” that’s always felt like it’s eluded me.

For those of you who know my life and my work, I’ve lived a very eventful life to say the least. I’ve mountain biked across Vietnam and Laos, I’ve started and NGO and lost all my money to it, I’ve lived in London and Spain, I’ve worked as an executive coach and marketer more formally and an English teacher whilst on sabbatical. I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve climbed literal mountains in Peru and figurative ones in the face of illness. It’s been real.

I would imagine when you look back on your life, you have your own set of chapters that make up your story interwoven by love, loss, joy and heartbreak. C’est la vie, no?

So how does this relate to self confidence?

Well I think in the age of social media, we’ve got the definition of self confidence all wrong. I don’t think scantily clad women posting airbrushed selfies or “living my best life” (vomit) travel diaries necessarily display self confidence as I originally thought. Perhaps indeed this is quite the opposite. In a time where we’re more connected than ever before, many of us are reeling from disconnection and begging for worth through followers on Instagram in feigned self confidence that actually masks either arrogance or complete lack of self confidence.

No, I think self confidence quite simply comes down to three things; trying, self awareness and being real.

By trying I mean attempting to create a life for yourself, despite the sometimes terrifying obstacles that life seems to present us with. I saw evidence of this at yesterday’s Park Run, where a guy with only one arm came first. I looked at this with absolute incredulity. That’s confidence! But no more so than trying to learn a new language, starting a new job, leaving your old one, reading a new book, entering a race, taking time to connect with a friend or family, having a difficult conversation even though you’d prefer eating hundred year old quail’s eggs for breakfast… these are all displays of trying. I think we’ve mistaken winning with self confidence.

Winning is not self confidence. Winning is as a result of many attempts at trying intertwined with luck and timing.

Given the argument I’m hoping you may agree on my classification of self confidence thus far although please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below.

As for self awareness and being real, how do these elements bring self confidence?

Hopefully as we invest in understanding and knowing ‘thyself’ as much as we do others, we’re less prone to suffering at our own expense. I mean we all, in the same and different ways, undermine our self confidence. For example when we don’t want to do something but say yes and then hold resentment against another we undermine our self confidence. When we promise something to another but fail to keep our word, we undermine our own self confidence. When we place others below or higher than ourselves, we undermine our self confidence, and theirs. I feel I should emphasise this is NOT about being the perfect human being. This is about understanding oneself and how one’s actions affect self confidence. More so it’s about how we actually all possess self confidence in varying degrees and also at varying degrees in different areas of our lives and how relatively easy it is to ‘get back’ if the tank has dipped.

Simple acts of self kindness, self forgiveness, self accountability and self nurturing can bring one’s sense of self confidence back into equilibrium. This may take some assistance through the form of therapy, coaching or the likes but to my surprise, it’s not as unattainable as I originally thought.

I must however, on the basis of my above substantiation, end of with this quote I thought of in the bath the other day and that is;

“You can’t have confidence without risking looking (and maybe even feeling) like a fool”

Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts.

PS I included this image of myself for this post as I felt bloody foolish in my bright yellow booties (which were over another pair of booties). I also wasn’t overly impressed with life as it was %!^#$^ cold that day. I was determined to ride but after 10 icy kilometers opted for a coffee and cake instead. This picture was taken just over a year ago when I lived in London. I look back at that girl and wonder would she have done it if she knew what life had in store for her but none of us really know do we? At least she tried.