I firmly believe that natural confidence is the antidote to many of life’s ills.
I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
But I know just as well how nipple-bleedingly tough it can be to navigate “stuff”, and I’m entirely aware that a thing called “natural confidence” doesn’t seem at all what you need when all you want is:
a. a frickin’ break
b. a decent idea of what the answer is, or maybe someone who knows how shit works to just come along and tell you what you should do
c. life to ease up so you can get back to how you used to feel
So, what I want to do is show you 5 scenarios—5 things that life requires of all of us if we’re to live beautifully—and demonstrate how a little more natural confidence can be transformative.
…On Facing Up
My continuing hair loss is an inevitable crawl toward a shiny-headed retirement. I could try Regaine For Men, a tasty little toupee or even start wearing hats, but I think it’s a much more graceful thing to just accept it and go with it.
It’s a dumb example, but I see it a lot. I talk with people who always struggle because they’re fighting what is. I get emails from people who tell me how much they love their partner but that they’re damaged by the way they’re consistently belittled in the relationship. And I have people asking me how to change their fortunes when they won’t acknowledge their resistance to change.
It’s much easier to push away what you don’t want to see than it is to face it; wholly, non-judgementally and responsibly.
So how does natural confidence help you to face up to what’s true, and why the hell would you want to?
Denial is bliss, they joke, but that’s only true if you’re content to life half a life. Denying what is or suppressing or ignoring a truth about yourself will only ever create conflict and put obstacle after obstacle in your way. It’s like trying to run a marathon in bare feet and saying “It’s fine, everyone runs marathons without sneakers these days. Blood? What blood?”
Facing up to a truth requires that you soften into what is rather than harden your resolve toward the way you might prefer things to be.
And that’s scary stuff.
Natural confidence is a partner in that process. It’s the voice that tells you, “It’s okay, this is okay, you’re going to be okay“, and it’s a friend who you can talk to openly who will never feel let down.
Hopes, fears, circumstances, finances, sexuality, relationships, health—these are all areas where we resist the way things are and instead remain in a fantasy of how we’d prefer things to be, even if that fantasy hurts us.
Natural confidence makes it okay to open to truth rather than keeping that door bolted.
…On Letting Go
I was a good kid at school, kept my head down, was liked broadly and was never picked on. Apart from that one time when Adam poked fun at me in front of everyone by calling me every ugly, unpleasant thing he could think of, and everyone turned and laughed at me.
I felt horrible, and angry, and for a long time I hated him for that.
For years that memory would pop up—more because of how I shrank into shame rather than what he actually said—and I’d dream up ways to tear him down or picture what would have happened if I’d punched him square in his smug little face instead of crawling inside myself.
It was much later that I was finally able to let go and not have that memory bring up those same feelings, and I wonder how much time and energy I spent keeping it close.
Have you ever had someone say something bad about you, perhaps at work or in a relationship or friendship? Maybe they criticized how you did something. Maybe they made fun of you. Or maybe they rejected you.
Ever got angry at the way someone treated you or how they treated someone you love? Ever felt let down by a colleague, friend or family member who you expected better things from? Or ever been betrayed in a relationship and rolled around in the hurt?
Or have you sometimes found yourself wrapped in the stress and drama of a situation, content to keep on whining about how it is?
No two ways about it, life is filled with emotive, explosive or evocative situations that pull you into their gravity.
And once you’re in orbit, it’s hella tough to break free.
But it’s not just negative situations that draw us in; we’re equally compelled by comfort and safety. An easy job that doesn’t push you. A familiar relationship that doesn’t require change. A straighforward lifestyle that doesn’t challenge.
We hold things close that might not serve us well for a variety of reasons:
- It validates what happened or how you were wronged.
- It feeds a narrative that supports something you believe about yourself or the world (you’re not good enough, the world doesn’t care, you don’t have what it takes, etc).
- It’s a signpost your brain uses to help you navigate through the world to avoid similar situations.
- It keeps you small, and there’s safety in that.
- It makes you right, and there’s comfort in that.
When you think about it, it’s crazy how we cling to things that don’t serve us well, things that limit our chances for a sweet and beautiful life and things that even damage us. But we do it all the time, simply because those things known to us.
After a while it gets hard to know where your skin ends and all the stuff you keep close begins, but moving forward meaningfully, integrating learning and growing into what’s next requires a certain freedom of movement.
It’s scary and exposing to let go of something you’ve held close for so long. It’s turning towards uncertainty rather than clinging to the certainty of what’s been and what is.
But damn, it feels so good when you’re on the other side.
Of course, letting go is uncomfortable and challenging, but it’s a process made easier when you can trust you’ll be okay whatever happens next.
It’s easier when you know that you don’t have to define your self or your worth by what’s happened or by those old stories.
Confidence in your self, not in what you’ve surrounded yourself with.
So, if there’s something you think you want to let go of, look and see what there is that continues to drain you or that seeps like an old wound. Look openly, honestly and frankly at how it’s really serving you and the role it’s been playing in your life, then trust, just for a moment, that you could have a different kind of experience. A better experience. A richer experience. A more loving experience. Just explore that; swim around in it; try it on like a new jacket.
And trust that you’ll be okay.
…On Taking Action
Let’s say there’s something you want to do. Maybe it’s switching careers. Maybe it’s getting back into the dating pool. Maybe it’s starting up your own thing or maybe it’s taking a stand in a relationship.
Whenever there’s the prospect of a fresh step or a bold action, there’s also the opposite.
For every desire to quit your job and do something more meaningful, there’s the thought that it won’t work out. For every time you want make a fresh start in a vibrant place, you also wonder whether you’ll just carry all your problems with you and screw it all up. And for every impulse you have to start that project that might just change your life, you worry that actually, you’re not good enough to make it happen.
So how do you leverage natural confidence when you want to take bold action?
1. Bubble-up courage.
Picture yourself about to give a keynote speech to 10,000 people. Or maybe you’re sitting in the doorway of a plane, legs dangling in the sky, about to jump. Or perhaps you’re looking at your wonderful, beautiful, funny and damn sexy friend, moments away from telling them how you feel.
So with your heart racing and thoughts spinning, you dig deep and find that little something you need to take a leap of faith.
That’s the thing with courage; it’s hopeful and optimistic, not concerned with what could go wrong but only looking to create something wonderful, something that matters.
Courage is an expansion, a rising into how you would love to be.
It requires blind faith, not reason.
2. Anchor into self.
When I have a decision to make—do I go down that road or not?—I always find that it helps hugely if I anchor that whole thing into something that’s relevant. Otherwise, making a decision to take action is something that just floats out there, untethered.
I picked confidence coaching because I saw how important it was in clients and it gave me goose-bumps. I’m working to finish my novel because to not do so doesn’t fit with who I am. And I went on a national TV dating show because I’m a firm believer in possibility.
Bold action works best when it’s congruent with who you are. Not only does that congruence of self and behaviour make it easier to act in the first place (because the action will feel more natural and intuitive), but it allows you to put your trust in your ability to act rather than what might happen as a result of that action. Which is huge. And is what confidence is.
Whether you bubble up courage or anchor self and behaviour, I’d argue that bold action is impossible without natural confidence.
…On Being Vulnerable
Being naked is, clearly, exposing.
It can feel awkward. It can feel like everyone’s whispering about you, or worse, laughing. It can feel cold as the air hits your bare skin. And it can feel like you could get hurt any second now.
These are just some of the reasons I wear trousers in public (not to mention the subsequent increase in terror alert levels should I forget), but fortunately for all of us vulnerability does not require the absence of clothing.
The gorgeous Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, and it’s these things that we’re hard-wired to pull back from out of self-protection.
Walking into a new job on day one into a building full of strangers. Going on a first date after a spell out of the dating game. Starting a difficult conversation with someone who might not be expecting it. Meeting a friend for coffee when you want to share a painful, challenging or even joyful experience (yes, easing into and expressing joy requires vulnerability too). Initiating sex with a new partner or wanting to try something new with an old partner.
Life is filled to the very brim with situations that are uncertain, risky or require emotional exposure. But just imagine how cold, hard and small life would be without them.
In fact, whatever “surface” reason clients may think they’re coming to me, 8 times out of 10 the underlying reason is that they’ve developed deep habits to avoid uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure and have been suffering as their life has shrunk as a result.
They tell me they want to feel how they used to feel. They tell me how confident they used to be and that they don’t know what happened. And they tell me how much more they want for themselves.
Vulnerability and natural confidence are perfect together.
You get to apply confidence right at the point of choice or change without needing to have all the answers and without your worth being dependent on what happens next.
It might not make it comfortable, but confidence will make your approach into uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure okay. Necessary, even.
You could think of confidence as a natural balm for the discomfort that’s inherent in vulnerability, making it possible to take off your armour even when your craving for comfort and safety is urging you to keep it on.
That’s easy for me to say and easier for you to read, but that struggle between wanting to move towards uncertainty and wanting to be safe is a bit like trying to paint a smiley face on an angry bear.
Here are a couple of thoughts to help.
You’re not going to die
The urge to pull back from vulnerability is one driven by that scared part of you, so reassure it. You’ve come this far and you’re still standing, and the overwhelming evidence is that you’ll be okay, so develop dialogue and narrative to support that (e.g. I’m not going to die), while talking softly to the scared part of you, letting it know it’s been heard and then whispering it to sleep.
What’s the alternative, really?
Looking at the flip side can be a useful motivator sometimes, so if you don’t act—if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable—what kind of person does that turn you into? Sometimes in life we diminish through creeping fences—a compromise here or a safe choice there—and the next thing we know, we’re not the person we thought we would be. I’m not interested in pointing fingers or assigning blame, but think about the kind of person you want to be, hoped to be or strive to be, and then make an appropriate choice.
Vulnerability has to be part of your future, otherwise you’re not really living.
Which leads me to…
…On Showing Up
Back in 2011, at my very first World Domination Summit, I received a hand-written card reading, “Step into your greatness. It’s time.”
See, we’re hardwired to fit in and, to a certain degree, fly under the radar. That’s how our brains believe we stand the best chance to stay safe and free from attack, but it’s a mechanism that clearly has a downside.
I did it when I started out coaching back in 2002; I pretended to be a “good coach”, acted all coachy and made sure I said and did all the right things. Of course, most of it was vacuous horseshit, but I wanted to fit in with my coaching peers and mentors and didn’t want them—or my clients—to think that I didn’t belong.
I acted professionally in a previous career where I was damn successful, apart from how I squeezed myself into a box that was never going to fit and slipped into a major breakdown that took 18 months to recover from.
And for a long time I assumed I had to be 100% heterosexual rather than admitting that a part of me was attracted to guys as well as girls.
So you might say that I’m something of an expert in not showing up. And this, friends, is what I’ve learned.
It’s not kidding around.
It starts with knowing yourself, moves into accepting yourself and then flows into being that way.
And it’s here that natural confidence helps, right at the point where you meet the world.
It’s confidence that accepts some people won’t get you or like you and that seeking universal approval is no way to live. It’s confidence that makes it okay for you to step into who you are and everything that means, without knowing what happens next. And it’s confidence that allows you to look into those corners of yourself you’d rather not see, and to find love for what you find there instead of judgement.
Confidence is a vehicle for showing up in the world as you already are, and here’s a quick 1-2-3 to help that along.
- First step is to see how you might be pulling back, hiding or cutting yourself off. What story have you been telling yourself about how you need to behave or act? How have you been fitting in with how you think people expect you to be?
- How would it be if you didn’t need to fit in, meet expectations, play a role or hide a part of you? Let’s say that you could show up as you really are, what difference would that make to you? What difference would it make in your life?
- What’s a fresh, new story you could tell yourself, that supports you towards showing up as you really are? What belief or narrative can you create that enables you to show up? Maybe I don’t have to prove myself to anyone, or something like I’m already worthy of love and belonging (thanks Brené).
This takes practice. It’ not a one-time deal. I’m talking consistent, deliberate practice.
But it’s never wasted effort.
In showing up, in being vulnerable, in letting go, in facing up and in taking action, I hope I’ve shown that a core of natural confidence is priceless.
And I’d love to hear your thoughts – what is there in here that jumps out at you? What do you think your take-away is?