“The greatest success is confidence.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I was recently asked about confidence and the origins of people’s confidence. Why do some people have it? Why do some people who should have it (strong academic track record, high achiever, physically attractive, etc.) lack it? Why do some people who apparently have no right to self-confidence have it anyway? Big topic. I’ll be talking about this for some time to come, I suspect. Initial thoughts:

In my opinion, true confidence stems from certainty. If you are sure you can do something, you almost certainly will and you will face into the experience with a positive mindset. I remember watching my eldest child crawling around on the grass in our local park as a baby. When she came to the end of the grass, she turned around and crawled oh-so-cautiously backwards onto the path – even though there was no change in the ground level. She had learnt that trick from going down the stairs (scary place!) and now she was applying it in the park (scary, unknown place).

As a parent, my one hope for my children is that I can bring them up and send them out into the world as confident, self-aware young women. I would rather err on the side of brashness – the real world will soon have a lapidary effect and knock the corners and rough edges off them. If 20+ years in the working world has shown me anything, it has shown me that shrinking violets have a much tougher time carving out a niche for themselves than the ‘apparently’ confident.

I meet lots of clients who are almost phobic about job interviews. Others who need Valium and beta-blockers to face an audience and deliver a presentation. Still others who will do almost anything to avoid even a low-level confrontation. Psychology’s answer to these problems is desensitisation and we use that approach in a simplified form. So, interview-phobes go out and do lots of interviews for jobs they don’t want in locations they have no intention of moving to; presentation-phobes find themselves in the local amateur dramatic society or joining Toastmasters; and so forth.

The confidence these clients gain derives from the combination of the exultation they get from facing up to their fear, from the experience of succeeding in the effort, and also from the intellectual debriefing we do after the experience:

“And did the interviewer grow into a 20′ tall monster and actually bite your head off at any point?”
Ehhh … no.”
“So, have we learned anything from the experience …?”

Part 2 of this topic is here.