One definition of confidence is <A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities>. A seemingly simple premise, though inaccessible for many. 

Firstly, to show an appreciation of one’s own abilities and qualities, we have to know what these are. Since low self-esteem can begin at a very young age (there is a mountain of research on the troubling consequences of low self-esteem amongst girls and women, in particular regarding their body image and appearance*), all the more vital to identify and encourage abilities and qualities early on.

For the naturally confident or adept this might be easy. Perhaps good results at school, university or in the workplace might point a clear finger at academic or professional ability. Therefore making it seemingly straightforward enough to appreciate said ability. Of course this might depend on whether others convey appreciation or criticism. We have all experienced the backhand of a critic, whose intentions may originate as well meaning, but often wind up crushing us – especially if dished out repeatedly.

Confidence can be innate, though fortunately it can be learned too.

If we repel the urge to listen to and take as read what our critics say – be that family, friends, peers, colleagues, bosses and even some teachers – and focus what we know (or feel) to be a positive quality in us, we’re off to a good start building up confidence.

We all have positive qualities in us. We just need to retrieve them, and give them the space they need to puff up their chest long enough to inspire a little more aplomb. Positive self-talk can be a big help with reinforcing appreciation of our own qualities. For example, “I am resourceful, focused and zen” (one of my personal mantras at present). By saying this short sentence out loud or even to myself, something almost magical transpires. My spine straightens, my chin lifts, my voice steadies, and I feel inexplicably empowered. Confidence ensues.

There is also ample science behind the use of this simple tool. Emile Coué, (psychologist and pharmacist, 1857 – 1926) the forefather of “conscious autosuggestion”, gave us a widely known formula (“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”) to demonstrate positive self-talk – if verbalised and repeated without strain or effort – can improve our personal wellbeing.

Feeling good about ourselves, and positive about our abilities and qualities puts us well on our way to appreciating them. And if we appreciate them a feeling of self-assurance might well arise. The epitome of confidence.

Other techniques, such as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), also focus on the use of positive language (versus the overuse of negation) in writing and speaking. Avoiding don’ts, didn’ts couldn’ts, wouldn’ts, shouldn’ts helps to improve confidence in the way we communicate and behave.

I was first made poignantly aware of how confidently I came across back in 2000. I was facilitating a naming and brand strategy workshop with clients that had never been through that kind of exercise before. A colleague said after that it was my unwavering confidence in the outcomes, the material and the ideas we generated during the workshop that gave everyone else the confidence to share in the enthusiasm, agree, and move forward. My confidence made everyone else confident. I had never really quantified confidence before that day, as something of intrinsic value to a creative process. For me it was just the way I was.

Since however, I have given confidence its due, and value it in myself and where possible mentor others so they can strengthen and value theirs.

It is a key theme during the Presentations Skills Workshops I have designed and run for creative and design professionals. We focus on bringing out the abilities and qualities in each participant which leads to an appreciation of them, through lots of practice and constructive feedback. As a result, confidence has a real chance to stick.

My next workshop is with the Museum of Architecture on 2 and 9 March, 6-8pm, at the Saint Gobain Innovation Centre, 95 Great Portland St, London W1W 7NY.

See you there.



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 © Amanda Yensa Manor 2017


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