When I was young I spoke up for everything- wearing trousers to school, girls playing football, and friends dealing with bullies. Yet by secondary school, I became shy and quiet. By this time I had moved schools five times, moved countries and moved counties from Hampshire to Yorkshire. My accent was different from my school mates and I didn’t feel as cool as them. My once outspoken and confident self had taken a hit.
I’ve spent almost two decades since then trying to understand and reverse my lack of confidence. I attended almost every workshop going. I put myself out there as much as I could in order to re-learn confidence. Confidence is innate and how I help my clients reclaim it is very important and there are many factors.
I learnt that what happens to us in childhood has a huge bearing on our confidence as adults.
We pick up so many habits and make so many decisions about ourselves as children. Then we do so again as awkward hormonal teenagers that are still dictating the way we feel about ourselves today. Many of my clients find it easy to overcome these things in one to one and small settings. These feelings can often return and sabotage their ability to speak up and speak out when it’s most important.
Often they have stacks of experience and accolades to be proud of but standing in front of an audience seems to amplify every flaw they ever found in themselves.
We become really good at finding clever ways to hide our insecurities. But somehow being up on a stage to speak brings all of these things up and sit closely under our internal spotlight. Whether others can see, feel or hear them as loudly and clearly as we can, we can’t be sure but their mere presence is overwhelmingly loud and clear in our minds. It’s enough to sabotage our self-confidence and derail our attempts at sounding clever, knowledgeable, in control, calm and the experts that we have worked so hard to become.
We are our biggest critics and notice every single flaw we have, when others may not see the same.
The part of my job I enjoy most is unpicking what communication habits have formed, when that happened and then how exactly they are managing to get into someone’s head to sabotage them in those important moments.
If you sit a toddler down in front of a pallet of paint and hand them a paintbrush, they would fill that paper with colour. They don’t think, “I won’t do that, I can’t paint, I’m not good enough!” The kids will pick up the brush and play confidently, without judgement of whether it is good or bad. Toddlers are fearless, spontaneous and curious. They paint because it is fun, they find it easy, and natural to play. They don’t approach it as we might a microphone. What is different is what happens to us in between then and now and what’s missing is the same curiosity, trust, non-judgement and confidence we felt like kids with that paintbrush.
Fortunately, the natural confidence is actually not as deep inside us as you might think. I help my clients reclaim that confidence deep down.
When I meet someone who’s terrified of public speaking or lacking confidence, I don’t jump to slapping on some robotic acting performance techniques to fix them. I dig deep like an archaeologist and unearth the beginning of the communication habits. Then, we start from there clawing back and reclaiming their rightful confidence that is there but is hidden so far down, that is not there in those moments of need.
When that work is done, then we can arm you with all of the tools. The result is that you get to stand in front of others, share your skills and knowledge, change lives (including your own!) and actually enjoy yourself doing it.
While working in education, I saw how the kids transformed from shy to confident once they were given permission and encouragement to speak their thoughts and opinions on a stage. I then observed how this too happened for the adults I coached. I notice that once they realign their inner confidence with their innate confidence, that they started to thrive. They start experiencing themselves in a new way.
Confidence is not a cloak we put on, it’s a natural gift that we unearth. There isn’t one person I’ve worked with who couldn’t find it.
Copyright July 2021