Confidence building: tips and thoughts
You may know the story of this man and his son going to the market on donkey's back to sell their goods. As they are passing through a village, people say:
“Look at how these heartless people treat their donkey! The poor animal has to carry all the merchandise, plus the merchant and his son!...”
Ashamed, father and son get off the donkey’s back and walk. In the next village, people laugh at them:
“Look at these two idiots! They have a donkey and they walk next to it! What’s the point of having a donkey then!”
The father thinks they are right and put in son on the donkey’s back. In the next village, people say:
“Look! This vigorous young guy is riding the donkey when his old man has to walk! Isn’t it a disgrace?...”
The son quickly gets off the donkey’s back and let his father takes his places. But soon, other people say:
“What a disgraceful thing to see! The man rides the donkey and let his young son walk! Why having children if you don’t care for them?”
Eventually, father and son decide to do just what they think is right and they stop taking people’s opinion into account. From then on, they will feel much better!
Nowadays, fathers and sons don’t ride donkeys in London’s street, but apart from this detail, not much has changed. Whatever you do, there will always be people to find that something is wrong with you. Building up confidence, whether for public speaking or other social settings, is necessary to maintain our balance and not be overwhelmed by critics and disapprovals.
Let me point out just a few things for today:
1 The story does not emphasize that whatever they do, there will always be people to be happy with them as well! Wisdom recommends to renounce to be universally approved. However, if we believe in any kind of higher power, we can always ask for blessings, and then look for allies. Who can be around and repeat as much as we need that they believe in us? Let’s focus and listen to these ones rather than the others!
2 When on stage, there are almost always one or two friendly, supportive and smiling faces in the audience. We can spot where they are and speak more especially for them.
3 Let’s not forget that some people listen intently without smiling. Not smiling does not equate with disapproving. I have often been surprised by positive feedback from people who looked stern when listening.
4 Let’s “unplug” our inner critic. We are only sensitive to other people’s disapproval when a part of us agrees with the disapproval. Before getting on stage, or when we meet our reflection in the mirror of a bathroom, let’s have a look at ourselves and say something like:
“I have prepared myself the best I could, I am not perfect however I have something valuable to give! It will be what it will be, let’s go!” Focusing on what we have to give helps taking the focus away from our imperfections.
We can also turn the inner critic against itself. Let’s get our inner critic to ask this question to itself: “Do I criticize beyond what’s efficient to make progress?”
5 Believe in yourself! Do you realize that being just who you are, the way you are is just what other people in your social environment need to meet? Keep this in mind, You are necessary.
6 Building confidence can be compared to stretching muscles. Stretching is good, but forcing ourselves beyond a certain point is not. It is possible and desirable to be kind with ourselves! Let's not go too far out of our comfort zone. A bit a regular and gentle stretching will work wonders.
7 As the saying goes: “You can eat an elephant one bite at a time” Let’s not forget to congratulate ourselves warmly for every small victory - and no victory is small enough to be “nothing” This will work as powerful positive affirmation.
Also, every now and then, let's look at our past and marvel at all the progress we have already made!
Before I leave you, let me tell you a last little story by the psychotherapist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick: he was helping a very very shy student to overcome his shyness. He had to do a presentation for his PhD at the end of the year. The psychotherapist made him start with very small challenges, such as asking “What time is it please?” to strangers… and very small challenge after very small challenge, the student build up his confidence and passed his PhD... You can eat an elephant one bite at a time...
And now, on to updates: as usual, Speed Public Speaking sessions are scheduled every Monday in Clerkenwell from 6.45pm to 9pm in the Apple Tree - 45 Mount Pleasant WC1X 0AE - Closest station Farringdon and every other Thursday (there is one this Thursday) in Willesden Green in the premises of RSL Collective Unit 1 Queen’s Parade Walm Lane NW2 5HT.
Thanks a lot for your support, your presence and your fantastic testimonies. It’s a wonderful adventure and it wouldn’t happen without you!