On Appearing Confident

A number of people have told me that they have the ability to appear confident even when they don’t feel confident. Others ask “How can I appear confident when I’m not feeling confident?”

Are these…being confident and appearing confident…really two different things?

This seeming dichotomy brings to mind one of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes. She said:

“Believe in yourself. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face…You must do that which you think you cannot do.”

Confidence is not

Contrary to popular opinion, confidence is not the absence of doubt, anxiety and fear, it’s the ability to act despite these feelings. Emotions are automatic responses. We can’t stop them, we can’t prevent them, but we can quickly set them aside and act despite them.

Redefining confidence

Let’s get back to the statements and questions about acting confident when one doesn’t feel confident. Isn’t the ability to appear confident really a statement of confidence?

Isn’t your willingness to tackle the task, to deal with the situation you’re facing, even though you feel ill-equipped to do so, an indication of your confidence in your ability to deal with anything you face?

And where does that confidence come from? It comes from your memory, a subconscious memory, of all the things you’ve achieved, all of the situations you faced when you had no background or experience, and yet you produced a favorable result.

These memories of prior achievements are what enable you to “appear confident” even when you don’t “feel” confident. Now let’s talk about how you can remove the discomfort you feel when you feel like you’re “faking it.” People of integrity, which most of us are, feel bad when we believe that we’re misleading others. That’s the feeling we get when we appear confident, but don’t feel confident.

Genuine confidence

As we’ve just seen, your ability to appear confident when you don’t feel confident is the result of your subconscious memory of past successes. Make these conscious memories and you’ll no longer feel like a fraud. Instead you’ll know that your confidence is genuine and well earned.

The simplest way to shift these memories from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind is simply to make a list of the situations you’ve faced and responsibilities you accepted when you had no background or experience. Then list the results you achieved. Review this list twice a day, shortly after rising and just prior to going to bed. Keep it up until you find that you can quickly set aside the doubts, anxiety and fear you experience and replace these emotions with the memory of your successes.

For you

First, remember that being able to act in the face of doubts, fear and anxiety is a true measure of confidence.

Second, the reason that you appear confident to others is that you possess confidence even though you don’t feel it.

Finally, to remove the feeling of being disingenuous, convert the subconscious memories of your success to conscious memories by reviewing a list of your successes twice each day. It’s also helpful to carry that list with you, especially in the early stages of this transition from subconscious memory to conscious memory. When doubts arise, you can always refer to the list you’re carrying to remind you that you are confident…you are NOT faking it.

For our kids

When kids demonstrate the ability to act despite their doubts and fears, congratulate them. Let them know that being able to act when doubtful or fearful is a true statement of confidence. As they begin to understand that confidence isn’t the absence of these emotions, but the ability to act despite them, they’ll be more confident, act more confidently and feel genuine in doing so. How’s that for hitting the trifecta?

If you’d like to develop the skills to teach confidence as part of your role as an educator, coach, consultant, trainer, leader or other professional, check out my professional development and certification programs at TeachingConfidence.com.

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