Three ways to get more confidence

This week my friend Sophie posted a link to this article about women and why we don't have as much confidence as men. I found it an intriguing read. 

The authors found no gap between men and women in their competence. Both genders performed equally well at the same tasks. Where they differed, however, was in their confidence. Women don't ask for as much, don't put themselves forward as much, and simply don't have such a ready supply of 'honest overconfidence' as men.

In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality.

Interestingly, the authors also found that confidence is not necessarily based on competence. You don't have to be good at what you do to think you're good at what you do. In fact, sometimes the less competent you are, the more confidence you have. It also found that people with confidence tend to take the role of the social leader, even if they aren't as competent as others around them.

Confidence means a lot.

Now, I'm generally considered a pretty confident person. I don't mind speaking up in a room full of people and asking a question, even if it seems fairly obvious. I'm a public speaker. I've written books. I can do stuff.

What people don't know is that under my appearance of confidence is a great deal of shaky self-doubt and insecurity. One part of me thinks I'm rubbish at everything. Another part blithely attempts to start websites, apply for government grants and speak on any given topic under the sun.

Let me show you how it works.

"I know," I thought, after reading the article and feeling some ideas go *ping* in my brain. "I'll write a blog post on how to be confident."

No you won't! shouted the other voices in my head. You're hardly confident at all. Anyway, who would believe you? It's not like you've got some kind of degree in psycho-social relationships.  You're no expert. Plus you're the least confident person you know. Everyone will see through it and laugh at you. OR they'll dismiss you for even trying.

The fact that I'm actually writing this post even while I'm having the ongoing debate in my head is probably illustrative of the way you actually do get more confidence. 

Basically, confidence boils down to three things. And they're pretty simple.

1. You Choose Who to Listen To

2. You Take a Leap.

3. You Keep Going.

girl in forest 2.jpg

You Choose Who To Listen To

In writing this post, I'm ignoring all the reasons why I shouldn't write it, all the reasons I'm ill equipped to do it, all the things people can throw at me to prove that I'm not confident. I'm putting them aside.

Not listening. 

Why listen to the voices of fear? Yes, they’re loud and persistent and they crowd in quickly. Often they’re so much part of the environment you don’t even realise they are speaking. I grew up in a country in which women have practically zero confidence. Society structures them to be quiet, invisible, small. They literally aren't seen. I know how it feels to have that kind of restriction put on you. I also know how it feels to be able to be alive and creative. To have a voice.

Let me tell you, I like it a lot more. 

I am lucky enough to have a father who doesn't have any lack of 'honest overconfidence'. As a young man, he would give pretty much anything a go. I saw him start a recording studio, build a conference centre, drive incredible mountain roads and explore his environment. Whatever it was, my dad had the confidence to at least try.

Now I know that my dad was not the most competent builder, recording technician or mountaineer in the world. He simply didn't have the education or the expertise to take most of it on. But often there was no one else to do it so he put up his hand.

As a Christian, I choose to listen to the voice of God that tells me that I’m uniquely and wonderfully made, that I have gifts and abilities and talents given to me, and that my voice is valued and worthy of being heard.

So choose who you listen to and block the rest out.

 

You take a leap 

Sadly, no one took my photo so I have no proof that I did it. But this is my son about to let go.

Sadly, no one took my photo so I have no proof that I did it. But this is my son about to let go.

The river is a bit of an attraction in our little tourist town. A weir, a small pebbly beach and a large, deep, open area of very swimmable water makes it a wonderful place to spend a Saturday afternoon. This year it was even better. Someone attached a long rope to the overhead bridge so that brave souls could swing out over the water and drop in from a height.

I did it.

Yes. Me.

First, I watched. A lot. I figured out how the kids were doing it. I worked out that the best time and place to let go of the rope was right at the end of the swing, that you had to go in straight (or get a bit slap from the water), that a good run down the hill was essential.

Then I stood in line behind the 10 and 12 year olds, waited my turn and grabbed the rope. The run down the hill was a little awkward but when I hung on to the rope and let myself swing, it felt amazing. It was pretty obvious when I had to let go so I let out a yelp and dropped into the water.

And then did it all over again. Eight more times.

If I’d stood on the edge, debating with myself, I never would have flown through the air and felt myself as high as the cliffs around me. If I’d believed the voices that said, “40 is just too old for this sort of thing,” I never would have had a grin a mile wide plastered on my face for about two hours. If I’d sat back and said, “this is for the kids,” I never would have earned a hundred million Awesome Mum points with my kids.

The women in the article didn’t succeed because they never actually tried. You can’t do what you’re dreaming of if you don’t ever give it a go.

Take the leap. Just try.  Set up your life to do stuff. Attempt. Take steps. Run down the hill. Fly through the air. Let go of the rope.

 

You Keep Going

Everyone knows that you don’t succeed immediately. And if you don’t know that, you should probably go back to Life Lessons 101 and learn to walk all over again because that’s the big lesson the vast majority of babies learn in their second year.

You fall over. You wipe your hands, have a little cry and then you get going again.

Failure doesn’t have to dent confidence. Yes, it can do. We’ve all felt that deflation as our best attempts fall flat, we don’t reach our goals or our ideas don’t come to fruition. But rather than let it affect our confidence, we could associate it with knowledge instead.

Instead of this:

‘I’ll give up because clearly I’m a failure.’

‘I’ll never be any good at it.’

‘I’m too old/fat/uncoordinated to jump into the water from a rope.’

Try this:

‘I didn’t succeed this time because I let go too early.’

‘When I set it up again, I’ll tweak this or that and change it slightly.’

‘Perhaps I’ll go back and read more about the topic so I can take some more knowledge into it.’

One of the fruits of the Spirit is perseverance and patience. You need both of these when you’re building confidence. As we gain competence, we build confidence. We just have to continue on and not give up too soon.


Do you agree that women suffer from a lack of confidence? Which is hardest for you: to choose who to listen to? To take a leap? Or to keep going?



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