• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Confidence Is Not Just Thin Air

Photo by Imani Bahati on Unsplash

What is the source of confidence and when did you know you had it or didn’t have it? Is it a general state or does it vary with types of experience? Is it related to having had childhood opportunities to make your own decisions and/or find your own solutions to problems?

Ever had the jitters when coming upon a new task or challenge? Perhaps your whole dossier disappears into thin air, and you don’t have the memory base attached to your accomplishments. I used to always get mad at my mother when I told her about a new goal, and she would say matter of factly, “You’ll get it. You have this. You’ve done that.” Later I looked back in retrospect and realized she was trying to implant or confirm that memory base, to make me internalize my experiences and the implications of them regarding my sense of my identity. According to Psychology Today, “Confidence is . . . an ability that can be acquired and improved over time.” Perhaps belief in oneself can be nurtured after all.

Recently, I participated in an oral exam and when the topic of jitters came up, a topic I brought up, the examiner asked, “Why do people distrust themselves so much?” This really took me by surprise because I never thought of it that way, as a matter of distrust. I just thought of it as the usual jitters anyone or everyone has related to making a first impression, whether in a social situation or as a teacher with the first class of the term. I have talked to many teachers over the years, and most if not all of them have said they have the same experience.

The difference is that I talk about it. I give away the secret that I was supposed to protect. The question is whether that is the right thing to do or whether confidence is just about not talking about it. Another way of putting it is how much does confidence reflect a real sense of security with one’s identity and social aptitude and how much is it partly just putting on a brave front, faking it until you make it, so the saying goes?

Joan Rosenberg, PhD, author of the Psychology Today article, “5 Daily Actions to Build Your Confidence,”writes, “Confidence develops when you have a deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face or pursue.” But what if your development is uneven? What if you didn’t have the opportunity to emotionally mature for whatever reason? Isn’t this part of the success of such classic books as Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman? Somehow you have to make up for lost time. As a wise woman once said, “When you are ready.”

You might think your honesty regarding jitters is an ice breaker or providing the human touch, but the truth is you need to take stock of your experiences and take ownership of the emotional memory base they are built upon. You are the only one who can do this. Everyone else is busy trying to internalize their own experiences and invent or construct their identity.

You don’t have to keep proving to yourself you can do every new exercise or interaction as if you are starting from scratch. Do some mind exercises like mind maps and make connections between everything you’ve done related to the task or try journaling about your experiences or take your cv and build a story around it (the writing process, the interviews, the offers or rejections and the job experiences). Don’t leave out a perfectly nice soliloquy about your hobbies or interests; and, finally, showcase those awards.

Of course, it is not as easy as this. Believing in yourself takes time. Experience emotionally, be authentic or true to yourself, don’t beat yourself up and most of all strive to get beyond “fake it” and start making it.

For more of Barbara's Blogs, go to www.thewaylearningworks.com/blog.

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