The simple art of confidence


I remember my younger days when I was confident enough to walk into the woods all alone, to get into dark cellars, to pass through a cattle herd, to travel unaccompanied by bus to my grandmother.
These experiences taught me to trust. To trust my instincts. To sharpen them. To trust people. To believe I am safe.
My trust in Life moved me into untested waters. It helped me pioneer things unheard of in my family. It made me unsettled and unsettling. It made my parents ask one day “Who’s child are you?”. “Life’s” is my answer.
My confidence grew to heights where high winds are unsettling. Doubt settled in. It brought my spirits down. “Down to earth”, as the convention says. Not for long though. Once I tasted the sweetness of freedom from doubt, freedom from fear, doubt could only be a visiting guest.
My last year birthday wishes from my colleagues read “Happy to have such a confident colleague!”. I am thankful they let me see the way they see me. Especially, after a year of doubts, lows and struggles.
Some think confidence is built-in, genetic. Some think it’s about habits and choice. Might be both.
I am happy to share the ingredients of my confidence.self_confidence A. I know that fear and doubt are good signs. They save me from complacency and push my boundaries. I know I made it last time and there is no reason I cannot do better.
B. I say a polite “No, thank you” to my comfort zone. I have a public speech anxiety? I’ll ask my manager to book 15 min in our next meeting for an intervention. Once on the agenda, noblesse oblige.
C. I breath. I listen to my body. Its signs. I feel my heart racing? Good. My brain and body get more oxygen.
D. I move. I am relentless. I get things done. procrastination? Fine, allowed sometimes. Bothering? Get off my ass and do something. Bake. Prepare home-made chocolate. Water my plants. Go to colleagues and ask if they need help.
E. I have fun. Once I drew a funny faced carrot on a flip chart in a difficult Carrots-and-sticks policy dialogue.
F. Some say confident people don’t care about what others think. I do. As long as I can learn something from it. Confidence in others strengthens my confidence.
One time, I had to share the feedback from an important partner with a consultant. It was very good to excellent. I handed it over in a sealed envelope with a grave face. “Is it bad?” He asked. “Yes, it is”, I answered and watched him turning red as he took off the papers. One minute later: “I knew you are bad. But you are very bad!” And we laughed. I took his point. Confidence does not need to be associated with bad.
G. I am staying on a judgement-free territory. Judging and gossiping is a waste of time and energy. I give everyone the benefit of doubt, even if this was a hiring mistake.
H. I am resourceful. I know I do not have all the answers, but I have ideas where to look for solutions, whom to ask. I learned this from my first Human Rights professors. “A good lawyer does not need to know the law by heart. Knowing where to find answers makes a good lawyer”. I practice the same with people I work with. There are clear “Who’s monkey is this?” rules and I always ask if problems people face come with solutions and options to consider together.
I. Comparison is the thief of joy. I admit to the sin of comparison only with better and seek inspiration from most unexpected sources and people.
J. I build a network of friends and supporters. Sorry, negative perspectives and people with tendency to drag back are not part of it. I also know I cannot please everyone in life.
K. I do it my way. It’s my life and I am solely responsible for choices I make. I do not go with the flow. Everyone goes to the same doctor. I’ll choose the one I trust. Everyone follows the same baptism ritual. I’ll agree mine with the priest. I’ ll listen to my child first, then to my doctor.
L. I keep trying. A failure? Good. Learned something. A mistake? Is it an interesting mistake? Oh yes, come in, and teach me. I am ready to try again.

Thank you Alden Tan for inspiration.

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