What Are the Barriers to Confidence?
If you have heard me speak recently or attended a workshop you will know I am passionate about encouraging people to nail exactly how they will get their message across, whether this is your business brand, your personal brand or something that you are really passionate about, it must feel authentic.
So what is it that holds us back from standing in the spotlight? From promoting yourself or getting the job of your dreams? I know many experts, small business owners and entrepreneurs (even very successful ones) who have turned down the opportunity to speak, be interviewed or pitch their brand to an influential team. Usually it’s lack of confidence, the nagging voice in your head that says ‘people won’t want to listen to me, I don’t know how I will cope if someone heckles, I may stumble over my words or drop my notes’.
The chances are that at some point when you were a child your confidence took a knock, perhaps you had to stand up and speak in class and someone laughed or you tried to tell a joke and no-one laughed. Most of us are aware of feelings of being judged, concerned about what people will think of us, this is all back to the power of the subconscious mind – most of us are not very kind to ourselves, and if we were to speak to a 5-year-old child the way we talk to ourselves we would be had up for abuse!
For many people when they’re asked to speak or to be interviewed, the line of talk will go something along the lines of…
’I couldn’t do that, I’m a terrible public speaker, I wouldn’t look good, everyone would judge my awful clothes and I’m several pounds overweight, I’d never be able to remember anything without reading from a full script and my voice would probably sound really weak and not confident, I can’t be interviewed because I just wouldn’t get the answers out that I really want to, I’d get all confused and then everyone listening would think I’m stupid’ and so it goes on…
We’ve all been there! The inner critic from our subconscious mind. But once you’ve acknowledged that you DO have an important message to share, a desire to promote what you do and who you are to a wider audience FOR THE GREATER GOOD OF US ALL then it’s time to find a way to conquer the fears and the inner talk.
If you can drill down to your USP, identify your own unique qualities then you can start talking to your sub conscious mind and to others about your passion, about how you do feel confident to stand on stage or be interviewed about your subject because it’s such a thrill for you to talk about something you love. In fact, it’s your DUTY to get it out there.
When your nerves come into play the trick is to talk to yourself a different way. Ask yourself whether the fear is really an old fear, linked to a childhood memory, or is it that you fear the particular group of people you are going to be speaking to? Whatever it is, challenge yourself, and come up with a new dialogue instead of letting your subconscious destroy your confidence.
When you feel really solid on your subject matter then it becomes unshakable, so it really won’t matter if an audience didn’t particularly like you or the interviewer seems to ask purposely awkward questions. You will feel that confidence in yourself and know that your message is important, and if the audience seem uninterested – well that’s about them, not you.
I remember I was once booked to speak at a conference for the Rotary club, when I arrived I realised I was sandwiched between several other celebrities and after dinner speakers and suddenly I realised that they had probably booked me because they knew I was a co-presenter on Steve Wright in the afternoon on Radio 2 and they knew I interviewed lots of big stars and celebs. I started to panic, I was there to talk about holistic living and offer tips and ideas from my first book Imperfectly Natural Woman and so hadn’t prepared anything else, my sub conscious mind said that I’d be mocked, ‘there’s no way they’re going to want to hear about eco laundry products and organic skincare’, the speaker before me was award winning actress Dame Anna Neagle!
I told myself they would feel I was totally incongruent and out of touch with them, the audience was mostly middle aged gentlemen and their wives. Suddenly I stopped my subconscious chatter in its tracks and said to myself (or possibly out loud) ‘I’m passionate about my message, I know I will deliver an informative and entertaining talk and if it’s not what they were expecting – well hey – surprise!’ I practised a few techniques and visualised myself as a success.
Well guess what, I went out, hit them with half an hour of tips and ideas for everything from avoiding artificial sweeteners to the importance of ditching the chemicals, using bi-carbonate of soda and white vinegar for cleaning, and how you can make a great facial scrub with oatmeal, though I say so myself I rocked it! Embarrassingly, the next speaker had to be delayed because there was such a massive queue to buy my book, I sold all the 300 books I’d taken along with me, and could probably have sold more!
If I had let my nervous subconscious chatter destroy my confidence I dread to think what would have happened. I did however quickly ‘re-assess’ my talk. I delivered the same talk but with a nod towards the audience, this is sometimes called doing a quick audience analysis, in this case all I did was ‘up’ my ‘entertainment’ value, threw in a gag or two about working with celebrities and left out the section on the importance of breastfeeding! Effective speakers and communicators do ‘read’ their audience and match their behaviour, as you walk into the room you can decide whether to warm them up a bit and connect with them, telling a bit of an impromptu story as you set up your laptop or whatever, or are they shuffling in their seats wanting to really get on with it.