Hello worker bees,
These past few weeks, many situations have drawn my attention to the importance of self-confidence. Whether it be friends telling me something they had witnessed or felt or myself being placed in a particular spot - everything seemed to come back down to one thing, confidence:
The socio-psychological concept of self-confidence relates to self-assurance in one's personal judgment, ability, power, etc. Source: Wikipedia
The definition clearly states that it is a socio-psychological concept as self-confidence has a significant impact on the way an individual behaves (verbal and non verbal), thinks, decides and inevitably ripples through to the way others perceive and react to either a strong or weak display of self-confidence. Even your pets or animals will react to your self-assurance (I experienced this first hand when horseback riding). It is imperative to evaluate our self-confidence regularly and manage it. Generally speaking, Self-confidence varies from one situation to another, however, we all have a stable level of self-confidence that we come back to which reflects our comfort zone. Some have low, others average and others just can't get enough of themselves ;). It all depends on who we are and numerous critical factors which involve the famous nature/nurture debate (I hear you my fellow psychology classmates: "nooooooooooooooooo!") indeed let's not get started on that, I will not analyze in depths the other factors but to name a few:
All of these will, in the end, have played a role on the level of confidence a person possesses. Whatever the case, what is quite apparent, is that those who demonstrate confidence usually succeed. Even if shaky at first, those who give themselves a chance and even act as if they know what they are doing, increase their chances of succeeding and turning their experience into real authentic confidence which in turn will make the person believe in themselves more and in their capacity of undertaking something or completing an unfamiliar task in the future. this concept is also known as:
"Fake it 'til you make it" (also called "act as if") is a common catchphrase that means to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence. The purpose is to avoid getting stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy related to one's fear of not being confident..., e.g., by thinking, "I can't ask that girl out because she would sense my lack of confidence." The article How You Too Can Be an Optimist in Prevention points out, "In research at Wake Forest University, for example, scientists asked a group of 50 students to act like extroverts for 15 minutes in a group discussion, even if they didn’t feel like it. The more assertive and energetic the students acted, the happier they were." Source:Wikipedia
How does this work? The same way forcing a smile will most probably make you want to smile. First of all, you are forcing yourself out of your usual pattern of thinking and thus trying something new. By accomplishing the task you thought you couldn't do, you realize it wasn't so bad after all. If you take this behavior and apply it to bigger and more challenging tasks, it could require more time and more resources but in essence the outcome should be the same. I strongly believe in it and recommend to practice this when needed (including myself in there!).
Imagine knowing you have the resources and not doubting your competencies for a second. Imagine walking in a room and making everyone feel your energy, your magnetism, your vibe. Sounds good right? Imagine feeling like this before an interview, before a marathon, before a final exam or any challenge that is important to you...priceless. If you watch the Suits series, you probably are a big fan of Harvey Specter (if you're not in love with him already). His confidence overpowers anyone that he meets and continuously feeds this success cycle he has going on. Especially when things get rough and when he's faced with uncertainty. The way he walks, the way he talks and the way he looks at you says a lot about what he thinks of himself (Harvey lacks a little sensitivity though, but nobody's perfect...). This kind of strong confidence is inspiring. Why shouldn't we believe that we are capable of doing something different? Something big? Even if we haven't gotten a clue how, if we really want it, we'll find a way, period.
Big & Small Egos
True, sometimes arrogance can be linked with an overly high self-esteem. This can be a little annoying. During conversations individuals with inflated egos don't quite listen. You can tell they are just waiting to speak. Also, the conversation, per chance, has topics that the person just so happens to master so inevitably, they hog the microphone again. They ask for your opinion but cut you off as you are ending your sentence (I have to control the Italian force in my character sometimes as to prevent me to lash out or lose my cool - I hate when people cut me off again and again and again why did you bother asking a question if you won't hear the answer? ). Yep, we aaaall know these individuals. We love them but they need to work on their ego.
The Solution: I personally don't fret too much about them since the higher they are, the harder they fall...karma usually takes care of it in the long run. If you really need to silence them, the best way to make them receptive is using their big ego to your advantage: flattery. It will get you through. They will definitely stop and listen for a compliment and then you can place the message you would like for them to hear afterwards. Sometimes, the frailest of egos are hiding behind that tough front. When this is the case, such individuals are unfortunately possessed by insecurities that continuously drain their ego and that is why they need to feed it continuously (external locus of control).
On the other hand, a person that suffers from apparent low self-confidence and portrays it clearly needs to address this matter to reach his or her full potential. Look for a curved back, a quiet walk and the absence of enthusiasm and/or reaching out of their comfort zone. This will, once again, affect other's perception and they will be treated differently. Beware not to confuse this with introverted individuals; two very distinct traits.
The Solution: though it should not be up to you to salvage their ego altogether, you can be a source of inspiration and a motivator. Give them opportunities to strive and to snatch those low hanging fruits. Boost their moral by noticing their efforts and complimenting them on something, sincerely of course. If you truly are concerned for them, you can pull the red flag to their family or to HR if this person is a coworker.
Hard Work Always Pays Off...
Possessing a relatively high level of confidence sets the wheels in motion and the proper kind of energy for the individual to perform at his or her best. It also protects against the surrounding negative fields of energy that others release around us. For example, I remember walking in class the day of the exam and when I wasn't ready (when I knew I hadn't mastered the topic enough), other students' behavior affected me: their whispering and frantically reviewing their notes made me nervous and their own strong confidence made me doubt my own. I knew it wasn't going to go well since I was already very much distracted by all this buzz in the classroom. This happened often in high school as I was often caught daydreaming in class. I so envied those who seemed so confident, it seems like they had a reserved spot on a lifeboat of the Titanic while I was on the sinking ship contemplating swimming to a lifeboat or staying onboard. The difference was, they knew they were going to make it while I was already preparing for failure. It was clearly because I had not developed my method of work very well. My self-confidence may have been good (especially with my Walkman playing) but easily destabilized by such situations like exams. I had a long way to go in order to build thicker skin and an impenetrable bubble of concentration when I needed it the most. How did I do this?
Sounds pretty obvious, right? you'd be surprised how many do not do this but then expect to know what solutions will fit them best. I've said this multiple times in previous posts and it remains true: know yourself before anything else. You should be your own best friend, let that inner voice speak. It is there for a reason and it gives good advice. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are you goals? If you know those, then you can capitalize on your strengths and improve on yours Achilles' heel so as to not get hit by the enemy's arrow in that spot while you fight for what you want. For me, concentration was an issue and reading was awful. It took me a very long time to get through a chapter as I would get distracted by the library's silence and at home? I would do anything else but study, I had to get out of the house.
I needed a buzzing sound to eliminate every thought, every distraction and everything. That is when studying in coffee shops became my addiction. I started per chance, going to the university's cafeteria and setting up there to study. It was perfect, not enough people to be chaotic but enough to create an ambiance and coffee was right there! I noticed others were also taking out books to advance in their studies. I felt those students were keeping an eye on me. That is when I realized I needed a crowd. An audience made me feel accountable for my work and at the same time, I wasn't missing out on the social side of things. I saw new and regular faces all the time. Before I knew it, Phil an I had discovered a Starbucks coffee shop in a chapters. It was perfect: a library ambiance but with an audience and the smell of coffee. When the crowd did get a little loud, I would take out the head phones and play music. The music would help me rehearse and memorize the theories I was rewriting over and over again.
If your objectives or goals are not clear, you will not know what direction you are going into and you will not have the motivation to fight off any obstacles that may come in your way. I knew what mine was: get my Bachelor's degree in psychology and my master's degree after that. Nothing was going to stand in the way of that.
Know that what works for others may not work for you and that's ok!
Indeed! I had many friends who weren't able to focus in a coffee shop or who didn't believe in it either. True, there were times when I too actually needed the silence, it depended on the nature of the work I had to do. So, what if I needed the audience and my friend didn't? What does that mean? It meant we would split up and meet up later for coffee break or for a walk that's all. What was important was that I had to do what worked for me regardless. That was never a problem for me. I am very comfortable being alone for long periods of time, besides, I always had my faithful music and a warm cup of coffee keeping me company. What if my friend finished studying faster than me and wanted to leave? Ciao! I'm not done yet, I'm going to stay until I finish or until I am satisfied. That's the beauty of knowing yourself, you know what works for you and you end up not quite caring for other's speed or performance.
One situation I remember that marked me was when I took the second statistics class. The one that was a prerequisite to access graduate studies. I was determined to do well in that class, there was no way I was letting statistics stand in my way. I remember going to class and finding that the teacher was good, but I needed to practice the stats formulas more before moving on to the next. So what I did was, I would go to class for the first part, pay attention and take my notes and when there was break time, I would leave and walk to the library to practice the formulas in the exercises of the book and then I would go home pretty much at the same time as the class would have ended. I continued studying in between classes as well since what I was doing took longer. Guess what happened? it worked. I came to class and was the one raising my hand to answer the teacher's examples in the class I dreaded the most. Whatever it was I was doing paid off. Yet, I didn't see anyone else doing what I did. That is, cutting class to study on my own and apply the theory that was just explained.
That is when I discovered that I learn by doing. I was never a theoretical person after all but I ended up selecting the most theoretical field of them all: psychology. That didn't stop me did it? I simply arranged my perspective and changed MY way of studying to my learning style (internal locus of control). I also trusted myself enough at that point to know that in this case cutting class was actually an investment, not a loss. I was never really like the rest of my fellow classmates, I always felt like the black sheep anyway so I might as well behave like one, especially if it generates the wanted results.
Break Off The Beaten Path: Do Your Own Thing!
It was in university that I finally created and mastered my own way of studying and my grades sky-rocketed. I'd stroll in class the day of the exam, headphones on and placed my backpack on my seat, take out my pens and impatiently waited for the exam. I was strong, solid, I didn't doubt my skills for one second because I knew I had covered the material inside and out, I had paid attention in class, I was passionate about the theories...I was in my element. Even the outfits I selected expressed how I felt. I always wore brightly colored garments and my favorite cargo pants, yep, those boosted my immunity. My aura screamed self-confidence. This time, when my classmates would frantically try and quiz themselves before the exam or review their notes, I felt this didn't apply to me. I was ready. So, I would either turn my music up in my headphones and wait for the exam or walk out and treat myself to a coffee. This was quite the 180 degree switch from high school where I would let other's behavior affect mine. I was the strong one this time. I was the one making unprepared students doubt themselves with my calm and composed look.
Humans are social creatures, we cannot help but compare to others to ascertain ourselves that we are okay. This is of course very normal. The important difference is recognizing that feeling or behaving differently from the rest is more than okay, it's you! I mean, just because they are nervous, doesn't mean I should be as well, should it? No. Knowing yourself and possessing strong self-confidence will allow you to make that distinction.
A friend of mine, Vicky, once explained that before his karate competitions, he was able to tell right away if he was most likely to win or lose simply by looking at the adversary's nonverbal behavior. When the person looked solid and won the staring contest, he already felt weaker and that consequently affected his performance.
Same goes with doing something you've never done before. I used to be a bit of a sissy with my Vespa...riding it like the Vespa was actually driving me. I ended up running into walls and cars or dropping it on the ground. The truth was, it was a heavy thing and it scared me a little. At one point I had enough, who is the driver here??? I drive the Vespa it does not drive me. At that very moment, my perspective changed and everything changed. I drove my Vespa confidently and honked the horn more often to let others know I was there. I keep my chin up when other cars try to cut me. I know how much gas to give for the speed I want and when to break with one or both hands. The difference is remarkable and I find myself driving right up there in the big streets like everyone else. I will not hesitate to say something or honk it out if I feel the need to. When you are on a scooter, you are quite exposed and you need to stand by your behavior even more so than in a car, where at least, you have some kind of protection when you lock your doors.
Believing In Yourself No Matter What
Yes! do it! Trust your abilities to adapt and if you don't know how to do something in particular, then you will learn it on your way there. As human beings, we often underestimate our resilience to hardships. Each time we succeed through difficult times, we set the bar higher for the next time. Meanwhile, we have all this experience and still manage to doubt ourselves when the going gets rough. How many have I met that have extraordinary CVs and achievements and yet feel as though they have accomplished nothing or that it is simply not good enough. If you are willing to work hard, go the distance and face the obstacles that come with chasing a certain dream or goal, don't let anyone tell you that you don't deserve what you want.
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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