Happy New You, we should say, as a new year takes off. Away with token resolutions. Embrace the whole enchilada of a better self fizzing with action and positive steps.
For many, number one is to be more confident. Stare our fears down. Make timidity cower and then take on the world, living fully and contentedly.
Possibly the only people who say they don’t want to be more confident are those who are too much that way to start with, swaggering about on blinkered ego energy, sucking up fear but breathing out vanity and self-importance. We all know someone like that. Privately (or not) we may call them narcissists or bigheads or pompous #@&*!’s.
Whatever carapace their heads are wrapped in, like unaware beetles they meet the challenges of life without feeling rejection and anxiety as keenly as others do, if they feel them at all.
Maybe we don’t want to be like that—certainly for the arrogance or conceit—but we can envy a little how easy they make it seem. Ironically, making it seem easy is a clue to perhaps the simplest path to self-possession.
Of course, we would rather feel genuine confidence than sham it. We would rather behave with the real deal than a fakery to cover a quaking heart. But with a strange alchemy, the two are intimately connected, intertwined like a double helix, the one feeding the other. Nothing can put wind in your sails like making it when you were half faking it.
Fear is necessary and powerful, of course, protecting us from danger and helping calibrate our responses to what’s around us. But too often in modern life it arises inappropriately and stops us from performing as well as we know we could.
Mainstream wisdom touts countless strategies of varying complexity that focus on the self or focus on others. They often go something like this:
Recipe for Self-Confidence (which is not a secret recipe but just because it’s made of everyday obvious items, or is easy to understand, doesn’t make it easy to follow).
Preparation time: a few moments to a lifetime. Cooking time: ditto.
Ingredients: In no particular order, mix together in a living soul all or some of the following: standing tall, speaking slowly, breathing deeply, knowing yourself, believing in yourself, living by your principles, preparing well, dressing well, being kind and generous, thinking positively, rejecting negative thoughts, rejecting the insufferable demands of others should they arise as they arise, setting small goals and achieving them, focusing on solutions, changing small habits to acquire the habit for changing big habits, smiling, exercising, and being grateful.
Garnish with knowledge, competence, loving kindness, and, if in season, serenity.
For added piquancy, take risks, expect success, embrace the unknown.
Method: The next thing to do (which can be done first—unlike conventional recipes, you can start cooking up confidence at any time) is to remember that confidence is as confidence does, behaves, appears, or simply pretends to be.
The apparent cool composure of a person on stage talking to five hundred people does not mean inside they are not terrified, grim and wishing they were anywhere else.
Even some of the most seasoned performers have admitted to stage fright every time the curtain goes up or the camera rolls. Barry Humphries, the late Carrie Fisher, Kirk Douglas, William Shatner, to name a few, have all spoken about it publicly. Brian Wilson once said, “I have stage fright every single concert I’ve ever done. It’s absolute living hell.”
As in The Wizard of Oz, within bold fabulous creatures may sit shy humans operating the levers and switches that let the outside world see something else entirely.
Conversely, normal souls with normal fears can appear more confident simply by telling the world as much.
The word itself is from the Latin: fidere, “to trust”; and com, meaning “with” or used as an intensifying prefix, i.e. “to trust a lot”. Fidere also means faith. And on this spins the whole premise. Confidence is a quality that does not exist unless we say it does.
It is as changeable as wind, fickle as a teenage crush, as powerful as any known force.
Religions, ideologies, stock markets and love all depend to varying degrees on our hopes, beliefs and mutable points of view, and the confidence, high or low, that derives therefrom. What we think as individuals or as groups massively influences the world we live in.
Presentation: A famous self-help book is called Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway. The title points to the fragile heart of the matter. Be bold, it says, and all shall pass. But it also accepts that fear is a precipice, an edge, sometimes the thinnest part of a moment in time when we may decide to step back and not act after all.
The book encourages us to reconsider those moments, to choose to go forward. And the beautiful kicker is, each step forward increases confidence and reduces fear.
The scared actor may suffer and shake before striding onstage but they still do it.
Perhaps it seems daft to suggest a matter so important to our wellbeing can be reduced to a simple formula, but it can. And while it’s always worthwhile to work on the long list of business making us round and fulfilled individuals, sometimes also we just need to do it. In new years, especially.
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