Monday, 3 January 2011

From Shy to Fly: Growing and improving your self confidence

Self confidence was not something that ever came naturally to me. It's taken a lot of personal work, commitment and almost constant maintenance. I want to take you through the 3 different processes that took me from a painfully shy child (who didn't eat lunch if she forgot her lunch money) to well.... a bit 'RAAA here i am :-D' What i detail below takes a lot of work - but, if you stick at it, you will have some amazing 'spurts' within a longer term commitment.

1. Get the moves - techniques and tools
People who lack confidence often don't know: when to be confident, why you need confidence, what to pick a fight about or what confidence looks and feels like. In the same way that you might not know how caviar tastes if you've never had any.

Once i was working on an HR project, exploring a huge gender pay gap that had been identified in a department, biased against women. I talked with the women, who were all confident, highly qualified and professional. When i asked them whether they negotiated their starting salaries, the answer was 'no'. When i probed a little further, these women told me that they thought they should probably negotiate their pay, but didn't have the confidence to do so. Even confident, qualified professionals need to summon extra confidence sometimes.

To figure out what confidence is about - watch confident people. There are a lot role models out there, especially on TV. I love Oprah Winfrey's confidence - she just holds herself so beautifully.
When i need quick confidence boost I watch Kelly Clarkson on Idol. She just embodies confidence on stage in this video and i love it.

There are so many tools and techniques out there for improving your confidence. For example: speaking in front of the mirror if you get all flustered in social situations. If you have trouble asking girls out - just start approaching attractive women and asking them the time/or directions. For a women to get her point across in a room full of men - she should lower her voice (just a little bit to sound serious). If you want to engage someone, gain eye contact, mirror their body language, nod while they speak and smile when you speak back. These are all tickbox exercises that will deliver some solid results for you very quickly.

There are so many books, tips, ideas, methods, techniques that i just can't list them here. But if you've been wondering where to start - it's here. You just need to make some small changes to get some big wins!

2) I'm actually a decent person aren't i?
Once you have some great tools and some practice under your belt. Delve a little deeper into what was at the core of your lack of confidence. This may be very obvious to you or might be a little more difficult to figure out. To be honest, i'm still not really sure what was at the bottom of mine, or perhaps it was a blend of my clusterfuck childhood :-) but the whole issue is somewhat academic, therefore it would not be overly helpful to conduct a fingertip search of all the things that could have possibly knocked my self confidence.

For that depth (some may call it 'spiritual') i took up occasional and sporadic meditation, which i didn't really do much. Meditation is like riding a bike or losing weight - a small effort, every now and then, just isn't going to get the results you're angling for. So, i starting doing it a few times a week for about 15 minutesish and i made some progress on 'my oneness with the universe and all that is in it'. I listened to hypnosis CDs - i would recommend Glenn Howard. I picked up his CD on self confidence at Waterstones in Piccadilly during a business trip to London. I continue to listen to this every couple of weeks or so.

But... let me share with you two massive breakthroughs i had. The first is - You have a duty to the world to be confident! When you're lacking in confidence, you often focus on your deficit at a micro level. 'I didn't get the job because i feel apart at the interview' or 'i didn't get the date because i went red, stumbled on my words and looked like an idiot'.

If we turn up the dial a little bit and see where personal insecurities leave us on a macro scale - it's incredibly depressing. Wars between countries start because of a diplomatic 'YOU LOOKING AT ME?' that we might encounter outside a bar. Famines and other atrocities have occurred because someone who
knew with every essence of their existence that what they were witnessing (or even being part of) was wrong... but the were too engulfed in fear and they did not have the courage or the confidence to speak up and be heard.

Secondly, being confident is not just about 'your career' and 'your date'. By being confident you become part of the Mexican Wave that disperses these tools around the world. People will see you in action, marvel quietly at your confidence and then be empowered to make a change in their life. This may be say 'no' to someone who has been abusing them, say 'screw you guys 'i'm going home' to exploitation or give people the confidence to start again when things haven't worked out.

Thinking about confidence as a 'duty to humanity' rather than a 'tool for me' clicked in a way they had never done so before. By being confident, you are literally the change you want to see in the world and you touch other people without even noticing.

I was once getting a flight from Ciampino, Rome. My husband and I were checking in at a desk, however, the desk next to us (for a different flight) had just closed. Whilst we were there, a young couple came with their luggage hoping to check in to the closed flight. They were late. Drastically late... and the desk was most definitely closed. The late couple tried to argue their way onto the flight by being aggressive, rude and shouting, but the lady at the check in desk was having none their crap. Nuh uh! She was utterly fierce and stood every millimeter of her ground. She was assertive, pragmatic, clear, concise, calm, consistent and never wavered. These guys were not getting on the flight! The couple gave up pretty quickly.

Even after many years i remember this woman very fondly, she was: beautiful, smart, elegant, graceful and exuded such confidence in the face of a difficult situation. But, the more amazing thing to me was - i'm not sure if she even saw me! She touched my life so much and empowerment me, yet i do not know if she even acknowledged my existence - despite the fact that she unconsciously handed me the baton of confidence.

3. Erm... so just do it
You have some well-practiced tools, you understand that your confidence is making a positive change to you, your environment and the world as a whole. You love yourself as a human being, you were made in the image of god - what is there not to adore?

So, what next, how can you top that? Well, here's how...

Recently, i boarded a 11 hour flight. The first... say... 10 hours and 15 minutes were great! Then things went wrong and we got caught in the outskirts of a storm. The storm was spellbinding (yet terrifying). Purple lightening flashed almost every second and lit up the night sky. I played it cool, carried on what my movie, we had a little turbulence - but nothing to write home about for someone who flies regularly. Then, there was an urgent 'cabin crew back to stations' or something like that. Two seconds later, we're loosing altitude in 'free fall'. Everyone in the cabin screams. Storm is fully visible, right there ---------->


The lady behind me is crying/whimpering, the man to the side of me is praying under his breath with his eyes closed, the cabin crew lady is holding her seatbelt and staring into her lap. I went to jelly - full body jelly. I prayed to god - but all i was able to articulate was 'I'm so scared, I'm so scared' over and over again. I thought, this is it! I suddenly mourned the great business idea i had never taken forward, i despaired about the things i had
meant to do and the places i wanted to go. I was so scared and so frustrated - surely this was the end? I mean, there's a storm right there, surely we're going to get hit by lightening and nose drive into the sea.

If you asked me on any normal day, i'd say 'i've already done so much with my life, i've lived my life full out, if i died tomorrow - i'd have no regrets'. But... when it came to the crunch that wasn't what i was thinking. It was:

'Why didn't i just fucking do all that stuff? For fuck's sake. WHY DIDN'T I?'

My final message, after you've got the tools and world-inspiring confidence: Your dreams - just fucking do them. No ifs, no but, no maybes, no 'might do', no 'in a few years' - if this is the shit you dream about. SERIOUSLY, JUST DO IT. Approach your dreams like you have a gun to you head! All we have is our dreams - i've learned that this is the only thing that really separates us as human beings.

I'm not sure if anything would have actually made that plane journey easier. But perhaps 'regret' is the easiest to prevent.

I made it through the flight from hell - you may not, don't die with regret! Please don't!

Thank you for letting me share xx