As a child, I really struggled with confidence. I was incredibly shy and quiet – the person in school who actually got told off for not talking. As such I’m fascinated with confidence – is there such a thing as being “naturally” confident, how does someone go about gaining confidence, what makes you appear confident?
Here are some of the reasons why I think confidence was a big issue for me:
- I’m an introvert, and whilst this doesn’t necessarily equate with shyness, it does mean my natural inclination is to avoid being the centre of attention, preferring quieter surroundings to those with lots of people.
- I’m a perfectionist – this often resulted in a tendency for me to hold back in case of making mistakes.
- That fateful combination of introvert and perfectionist made me overly worried about what other people thought of me. I would never draw attention to myself or take risks…for fear of looking silly.
One of those risks was public speaking, a challenge I was eventually convinced to take on. The more I’ve thought about and researched what makes people confident, or at least appear confident, the more I’ve realised that many traits of confident people can be connected to public speaking skills.
- Use of space – one of the first things I learnt in public speaking was to use stillness to control fidgeting to cover nervous ticks. Confidence is often associated with calmness. Great speakers also have the presence to fill a stage and move on that stage with purpose. Again this is congruent with confidence – having alignment between your words and actions.
- Eye contact – the ability to acknowledge, engage and connect with others is vitally important whether delivering a speech to a large audience, contributing in a group dynamic or meeting on a one-to-one basis.
- Voice projection – the difference between someone who looks down and mumbles at the floor with lots of erms and aahs whilst speaking verses someone with their head up, speaking clearly and audibly, is profound.
Realising that I could overcome an enormous fear of public speaking, actually become good at it and even enjoy it, gave me confidence in so many other situations. It clear that communication and confidence are inextricably linked – if you can communicate effectively, people will perceive you as confident.