During one of my sessions on ‘Understanding MBA’ at CH last month, I came across an old question once again. If there were a universal list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), this one would manage a position at least among the top 3. When looked at from two different points of view, the question could be too vague and too specific at the same time.
The question is: “How to build confidence?” Well specifically, I could say, “Be yourself and be confident.” However, there is no one answer to this question and hence no one way to be confident. In fact, with most people confidence varies from one situation and the other. Yet, I cannot help but make one honest attempt.
I am reminded of my ‘Green House’ days when I was performing for the first time in my new school among an audience of 300. I was about three and a half feet tall then studying in 5th standard. Just minutes before my performance, my house captain Amit asked me a question, “Are you nervous?” When I said yes, he threw another one, “And you are nervous because you think they would laugh at you?” He did succeed in reading my mind. That was the moment I received my first lesson in confidence. He said, “Then let them laugh at you today because unless they do, you will never be able to overcome this fear.” This implies that if I keep thinking over ‘what will they think?’ or ‘what if they laugh’, I suffocate my confidence. So it is important that I go ahead and do what I have to, regardless of what others think. The world never stops for me, so what should I ?
While interacting with students personally, I find a lot of them avoiding eye contact. This habit has several reasons- a sense of guilt or discomfort, jealousy or dislike, a hidden motive or shyness etc. But the commonest of all reasons is intimidation. We often feel scared of people who are more confident than we are. Believe me, I was one of those who think so till I learnt another lesson.
Eye contact is one of the biggest indicators of our confidence and so we must learn to look into people’s eyes. This certainly comes with a lot of practice. Try doing that with everyone you meet or practice while talking to your peer group. The best trick, as any motivational speaker would tell you, is to look at the other person’s forehead. That way you would at least ‘appear’ to be looking into his/her eyes. So next time when you feel your friend is confident enough to look into your eyes, think again! He may just be faking it!
One of my seniors who taught me lessons in ‘Corporate Training’ helped me see how body language can also be a parameter of one’s confidence. He bars every participant from folding hands during his sessions. He says it indicates that you are not open minded enough to receive the speaker’s messages, thoughts and ideas. However, to me, this also shows that the person doesn’t enjoy his own demeanour and constantly compares himself with others. While holding a lecture or talking to a person, I realize that I look my confident best when I just clench both my palms together (but no folded hands). One can also lean one hand on a table or hold a pen with it etc to flaunt a confident self. While delivering a speech, my best friend is the podium. That way, I just need to use my creativity to ‘tailor’ my body language so I come across as a confident person.
Another important lesson to build confidence is to learn to love oneself. I know that God has made me a unique person and there’s nobody in this world who is even remotely like me. That gives me all the confidence in the world. When I look around, I find that even my worst of enemies and fiercest of rivals have bowled me over with their ‘better sides’. Each person is blessed with some special characteristic and this is one of the biggest reasons why one must love oneself. I have often discovered that the most confident people I have met are those who love themselves the way they are. And this amour propre so naturally adds to their confidence.
So guys, here’s a not-so-adequate yet a tried-and-tested guide to confidence building:
- Learn to love yourself- your physical features, your voice, your accent, your background etc and be proud of yourself.
- Tell yourself everyday- I am unique.
- So don’t try to be someone else!
- Look into people’s eyes while talking. Start with looking at the forehead.
- Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Flaunt the former, try to eliminate the latter.
- When at fault, admit it. This boosts your self-image.
- The world doesn’t stop to know what you think about it. Why should you?
- Discover newer ways for self-development. Find out where you lack. Then correct that part quickly.
- Practice talking in front of a mirror for at least five minutes. Then observe your body language, eye contact, pronunciation and accent. Do the necessary corrections.
- Challenge yourself every day by being in the company of more confident people. Make a target to reach their level. Beat it every time.
- Play ‘news anchor’ every day. Pick up a daily. Read headlines, news pieces, ads etc aloud for at least 15 minutes. But don’t copy news anchors. Develop your own style.
- There are two kinds of people in the world- confident and diffident. Now decide!
These I am sure can, to some extent, help you develop confidence in your abilities. I would conclude by quoting one last incident that enhanced my confidence. When I was about to have my first ever session in an engineering batch at CH about three years ago, I felt my confidence shaking. I asked one of my engineer colleagues to give me tips. What he told me was far from an encouragement, yet was very effective. He said, “Well, either they will kill you (with their logics) or you will kill them. The choice is yours.” Have YOU made your choice today?