Increase Your Confidence
First appeared in Connections Magazine
There are many ways to help grow confidence and I want to share one of them with you. I have found public speaking has been a great method for me, but that is not the nub of what I want to share here. It is HOW we engage with whatever we are doing and learning that makes the difference. Let me explain this through an example.
I am a member of a group called South West Speakers, and through this I went along to a national conference some time ago to learn from some of the best in the country. The first talk I headed for was about how to evaluate a speech and give useful feedback in a way that can be received comfortably - something I have seen Toastmasters (the international group to which our group belongs) do well. Being able to tell someone how to improve a thing they have already worked hard on without shaming or embarrassment requires subtlety, sensitivity and attention to detail. As someone who gives feedback through my training work, I hoped this talk would be a useful learning.
Mindfulness in Action
At the talk we were guided through how to concentrate on what we see, hear and feel about the content, structure and delivery of a person's talk– a useful checklist for our own speaking, and for other life experiences too: what we are undertaking, how we have organised ourselves, and how we make it happen.This is mindfulness in action – right up my street. Non-judgement, yet observing and guiding on what may be helpful to the individual is the fundamental work of a therapist like myself.
Interestingly, the speaker started by sharing that the way she had improved her skill to the level of winning competitions was by assessing every speech she witnessed, whether she was supposed to give the feedback session to them or not. It’s that level of commitment that really sharpens skill. I started to assess her. With my psychology background and current work on stress and posture, I guess it is natural that my observations usually include reflection on body language and breath and movement which affect confidence and anxiety hugely.
Watching some particular distracting movements of the speakers hands awoke a comment made to me once by a professional speaker about the way we use our hands. I was told that all gesture should come from the body’s core – like a ballet dancer – so if you are using energy in your diaphragm properly, the gestures will just ‘flow out of you and not feel separate. I call it mindfulness in the body, staying connected.
Making the Difference
Back to the story: as a side note, the speaker asked at the end who had evaluated her presentation. Only one other person than me stuck their hand up – out of over 100 people! What that said to me is that I am very much in a minority with the engagement and commitment I have. When a good suggestion comes my way I work on it. I felt shocked – we were all there to learn but only two of us acted on her first simple piece of advice. For me, this is such an important factor in growing confidence, and only 2% were doing it.
So how come so many come to listen, learn and be inspired but do not use what they see and hear? If you listen to an informative and stimulating talk, what does that motivate you to do? Are people just wanting to be entertained? Nothing wrong with that, but this is a group of people who want to improve themselves – it is why they were at a conference and it is why you are reading this magazine, I expect.
I invite you to watch what you do with the content of whatever motivational talk you next hear, or piece of learning you read. Do you put it into action? If not, my advice is to break it down. See if you can choose a tiny part of it to work on, something achievable, just somewhere to start. It doesn't matter how small as long as it is something.
The good news is that we don't need to to have natural talent to progress in our personal development. I am not a natural speaker; it took me years to feel comfortable on stage. If you are simply willing to try out, explore and act on the advice you have sought, you are already exceeding the norm. If 98% of people wanting to gain the same skills that I do don't do the work necessary – well - I'm there, and all I need to do is just keep at it.... and the same for you. That makes me feel more confident just knowing that I am doing the things that will make the difference, and confidence arises with each little step I take.
Once I would never have even asked a question at a conference, and now I speak at them myself. While speaking is probably not your thing, we all have something we want to be better at. The same principle, of acting on the expert advice we seek repeatedly, gaining little pieces of experience each time, applies. The change doesn't happen by osmosis, it happens by YOU.
I looked up the meaning of 'confidence'. The definition that caught my eye was 'the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something '. Who better to rely on than yourself - steadily, quietly practicing tiny steps towards what you want to achieve?
Copyright Cathy Towers 2017
Cathy Towers is a BACP Senior Accredited Practitioner and a fully certificated Zero Balancer.
Contact Cathy on 07989 564660