7 things I’ve learned about confidence

…some of which overlap, and some of which may be obvious.

Sometimes, stating the obvious helps.

Confidence requires understanding
I’ve been researching some insurance this week and at the beginning all the jargon made me anxious. But as the week wore on, I began to understand the terminology and felt more at ease. If we understand something, we feel surer in how we respond to it. It’s no longer threatening. This isn’t just confined to words but includes people, places and worldviews.

Confidence grows with experience
The more experience we have, the better grasp we have of how to approach something. It no longer feels like something huge; it’s something we do frequently and therefore feel equipped to handle it. I feel much more relaxed now about public speaking; I no longer worry about throwing up over the front row! I still get nervous, but it’s manageable and doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the event.

Confidence gets better with practice
We can approach this accumulation of experience with deliberate practice – putting ourselves in certain situations or performing certain tasks in order to get better at them – which also helps with understanding. We’re training ourselves, sometimes by trial and error. Practice is a powerful ally.

Confidence needs perspective
I have to remind myself that I am really not that important (in a good way!) and that the world will not end if I make a mistake. If I always feel I have to do something perfectly, even if it’s early days, I put undue pressure on myself. I need to remind myself that if I make mistakes, it’s only human of me; I can learn from it and try again.

Confidence is affected by others
For the negative or the positive.  We need to try to retain perspective in the face of negative remarks – and by that I mean remarks that don’t come from a positive critical view but a destructive one.  It’s good to ensure we spend time with those who will build us up – not showering us with compliments but being honest with us and wanting to help us. This also challenges us in how we treat others – what effect am I having on someone else?  What kind of day are they having? How hard are they having to try to summon confidence and how can I nurture it rather than squash it?

Confidence uses energy
This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.  With my struggles with tiredness, it has become obvious that when I am exhausted, my confidence plummets.  This, if you think about it, is perfectly reasonable – I recognise that fatigue has impacted my abilities.  At times like this, I have to look to a source beyond myself – for me as a Christian, this is the strength of Christ given through the Holy Spirit.  (Check out Philippians 4:13)

Confidence is not an end in itself
This is an opinion many will not agree with.  People wish to be confident.  ‘How can I be/appear more confident?’ Confidence has become the aim.  For me this isn’t helpful.  It’s too abstract, like forcing myself to feel something.  I’d rather focus on what I want to have confidence in or about.  By looking at my motives and my passions, I have a better understanding of why I do – or don’t – feel confident about something.  I suggest that confidence is a symptom of something else, and the best thing we can do, or at least start by doing, is identifying the cause.

I’m not very confident by nature, but all of these factors make sense to me.  And just because I don’t have confidence ‘on tap’ doesn’t mean I can’t grow in confidence.  I can nurture and extend my understanding and experience, deliberately practising when appropriate, keeping a realistic perspective about myself and the world, recognising the impact of others and my impact on them. I can also recognise my weariness and learn to be gentle with myself, not judging myself for my inability but seeking out restoration.

And I ask myself: what is it I put my confidence in?  Sometimes this may be in my ability to do something, as I grow in understanding and experience. But in the wider sense, I place my confidence in God, because my competence in spreading the good news and modelling his ways comes from him (cf 2 Corinthians 3:5). God is the source of my strength and my life is a gift.

What about you?  What would you add to this list?

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