Confidence is a topic that is written about hugely – in fact I’ve done my fair share of that over recent years. The ‘top tips’ type of advice have a valuable place, but I think that to achieve a deep seated, inner confidence, you need a different type of approach.
True confidence is about deep inner confidence. I think it’s about a sense of belonging, and this impacts our identity.
Last year we went to see Nick Cave in concert and I was struck by how at home he looked on the stage. He belonged there – and it showed. He was a true craftsman, delivering an amazing performance. The stage was his home, and it showed.
In what ways do we belong? I think firstly, we have aspects of ourselves that belong to us, and part of being confident is accepting those.
So we might say, ‘This aspect of me belongs to myself and I’m comfortable with all of who I am – every bit of me’. The things I love about myself, and the things that sometimes I wish weren’t there, but they are. Confidence comes from getting comfortable with who we are – all of us. When we can be like this, it makes us strong and able to withhold censure from others. It gives us that confidence to stand out, speak up, take a risk, feel vulnerable. Particularly as women, we sometimes let those opinions of others take up too much space – they belong in a way they shouldn’t, at the expense of recognising our own value.
All of these aspects of me, belong to me and I’m comfortable with all of who I am…
My impatience, for example, my heavy-handedness. I don’t hate those things about me – I accept them with curiosity and kindness, a smile – a bemused smile sometimes as I notice them there again, and in doing so, it allows me to them deal with them. I can be the objective observer who is at choice.
I recognise those things about me when they surface, and I can acknowledge them and resolve to do something about them. I can notice them, and make a choice to choose a different way of behaving. Maybe be more patient, take a softer tone, breathe, say something more gently, say nothing at all, let things unfold without the need to jump and take over.
But I don’t have to hate myself, or beat myself up about things, or spend ages ruminating over past mistakes and offences. When I am comfortable with all the parts of me that belong, I can accept those things about myself without diminishing my sense of who I am.
I don’t need to submit myself to a character assassination every time I make a mistake.
In mindfulness, we ask, ‘Can I be with this?’
I can – I am learning to be with all those different parts of me, and there is never a point at which we are complete. And then I can make a choice about how I decide to show up. Just because those parts of me are there, doesn’t mean I have to show them. It gives me a choice over my behaviour. It gets me off autopilot and allows me to take control. It grounds me.
What are your thoughts?
I’m Susan Ritchie, an author, leadership and executive coach and trainer. My second book, Strategies for Being Visible: 14 Profile-Raising Ideas for Emerging Female Leaders is now available as a paperback, an audiobook and for the Kindle reader.