How often has lack of confidence come in your way of achieving anything in life? There are numerous articles that seem to reiterate one thing – a confident person has high self-esteem, self-respect and a strong belief in oneself. I won’t blame them. A lot of successful people seem to attribute their success to their sense of self and their confidence. We are schooled, from a young age, to think like how society thinks, behave like the majority behaves and talk like how everyone else talks. And when everyone out there blames his or her lack of confidence for not achieving their goals, not being able to overcome obstacles, and not taking on opportunities that come their way, we all seem to believe it. That confidence is the key to success. We tend to believe that one needs a certain level of confidence before trying out something new. In the process of believing this to be true, we lose ourselves. We become like most of humanity. We stay mediocre. We stay stuck. We begin to disconnect from our true selves.
Have you watched the latest season, season 12 of the Indian Idol? I love watching this for many reasons. One for, there is a contestant, Anushka Banerjee from Kolkata, who has a social anxiety problem. During her audition rounds, she was literally panicking. She asked for a glass of water before she could start singing and explained to the judges her issue of social anxiety, shivering, and lack of confidence.
Anuskha got selected in the top 15 contestants because of her melodious voice. Week after week, she was committed to deliver and this is what happened in just 3 months after her first audition appearance.
Watch around the 50 second mark where one of the judges comes up on the stage to salute her performance. How did this happen? Did someone give her a magic confidence pill? Did she wait to become confident before she could own the stage?
Confidence is not a prerequisite…
Contrary to the popular belief that confidence is a prerequisite, it is actually built on accomplishment. Confidence is built on choices and taking imperfect actions. As you keep achieving small day-to-day goals you will begin to start feeling like a winner. You’re going to feel much better about yourself. You see your list of daily accomplishments grow incrementally and you can’t help but feel good about yourself.
Have you noticed how you feel like to start working out after a really long time? Especially for long-timers, like me, who had to take a forced break due to the COVID pandemic all of 2020. I remember I was in the gym in March when the government declared that all public places including gyms would be shut down from the next day. My workout routines came to a grinding halt. And it stayed that way for many months as I eventually came to terms with the new normal. Almost 8 months later, when I got back to working out I couldn’t do more than 5 push-ups. I couldn’t hold beyond a 12-second plank. I was very sore. My first few workouts sucked. Most people would simply quit at this point, where every tedious detail frustrates the hell out of you. Because we are incorrectly wired into believing that we need to have this confidence before we do anything worthwhile, we fail to accept that we all start as a beginner. And, as a beginner, you need to embrace the fact that you will suck initially. It’s going to be hard in the beginning. It’s going to feel sore.
If you hang in there, you grow in confidence.
You will never stay a beginner, for long. These feelings and obstacles that seem intimidating today are all temporary. Once you break through that wall it gets easier. You don’t need confidence to begin. As a beginner you need a strong commitment to doing what’s going to bring you closer to your goals coupled with a sense of courage required to move forward and a set of imperfect actions you take along the way. You don’t even need to believe in yourself at the beginning of all this. Have someone else believe in you and hold you accountable to doing what you say you’ll do. When you say you’re going to do something, do it, however imperfect it happens to be. When you start doing that you will notice you will respect yourself and the belief in yourself will come easier.
Fear as a compass.
Do not confuse fear with lack of confidence. As human beings, we have access to the entire spectrum of feelings and emotions. And, fear happens to be one of them. That voice is part of what makes us human. It’s designed to keep us safe, in our comfort zones.
No matter what you do, fear will always be there. Indian table virtuoso, Ustad Zakhir Hussain still feels butterflies in his stomach whenever he steps on the stage. Australian rules football player, Eddie Betts, who has kicked over 600 goals in his AFL career, admitted to being sweaty and jittery before every single game, even today. Actor Jennifer Lawrence still feels very nervous socially.
What these and many other successful people do is that they risk their fear every single time in search of experiences and growth. They don’t stay stagnant. The only way to find out the truth is to take that risk. They use fear as their compass to maneuver their potential into actual results, not as a driver to take them off track.
Clarity is Overrated.
We often feel the need to be 100% clear of the results we will get. As creatures of instant gratification, we prefer short-term certainty over long-term shifts. Uncertainty leaves us feeling powerless over the direction of our lives. In our quest for absolute clarity, we often go down a downward spiral of endless “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios. We then conveniently blame our confidence for not leading a better life.
In her book, Everything is Figureoutable, author Marie Forleo says, “Clarity comes from action, not thought.” In other words, we cannot think our way out of uncertainty and lack of confidence. Clarity comes from the rear-view mirror. You can only see it behind you, as you connect all the dots that brought you to the place you are at.
You can’t light an entire stadium with a candle. And, you don’t need to, at the beginning. You need to experiment and place small bets. Then double down on the ones that show signs of alignment and returns. Expose yourself to new ideas and tinker with them. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Most of what I stumbled in on turned out to be priceless down the road.”
Anuskha Banerjee continues to do this in this season of Indian Idol. She may not be the best among the contestants but she will certainly come out on the other side looking confident in her life. Will she win the contest? Heck, it doesn’t even matter. You either win or you grow. I continue to do this as a coach as I help high achievers reinvent themselves. Confidence is certainly a result, not a requirement. How are you going to go about it?