Margaritas al fresco with some friends on a steamy summer night. That’s the relaxed setting recently when one friend says what so many of us in our 50s realize – it sure feels good to be more confident.
Confidence is one of those words that has a cliché ring to it. A buzzword. A rah-rah life coach go-to.
But this is not at all what this friend was talking about. He was referring to a depth of feeling that comes with knowing his own value, interests, gifts and preferences. This is it. This is me. This is where half a century or so has brought me. Unabashed comfort with self.
I nodded and listened to him expand on his insight. I got it on a soul level.
Since our conversation, I’ve thought a lot about this topic. So often when we talk about confidence, especially as life coaches, it’s in the context of achieving big things. Having the confidence to make our goals come to fruition. The confidence to give the big speech. The confidence to start a new job. The confidence to make big, sweeping changes.
But every day there are situations where our confidence level comes into play, and while taken separately they may seem inconsequential, they are building upon one another to create our quality of life.
Perhaps nothing shows the pointed contrast to a confident phase of life quite like the acclaimed series Girls on HBO. I consumed the entire season in a marathon weekend recently, and while its creator Lena Dunham is gifted, I came away relieved the floundering 20s is in my rearview mirror.
Back then I may have thought of confidence along the lines of bravado and ‘I deserve’ as opposed to ‘I bring value’ or ‘I’m resilient and open’ or ‘I have no fear of speaking up and being wrong.’ Think about how great an impact this can have daily.
Last week I was doing a one-hour coaching consultation on the phone. The potential client informed me that she’s talking to several coaches, not just me. I told her that’s a good idea and I meant it. I didn’t change my behavior or style in any way because there was competition. Experience tells me we’re either a good fit or we’re not. There’s either coach-client chemistry or there’s not. She hires me or she doesn’t.
When I started coaching a decade ago, I confess to not having near the confidence around it that I do now. How often does a beginner come out of the gate with that kind of confidence? Now, ever present, I can coach cold, on the fly, by instinct. But that doesn’t mean I’m the right coach for everyone.
We can all apply that somewhere in our lives. That area where we can do things by rote because we have them down. In fact, we’re so confident we can break from rote and adjust where needed. Rote can make us confident, but deviating from rote takes it to another level. The singer who plays with the lyrics of the classic a bit. The author who reads the last chapter of her novel at a reading. It’s mastery gone a little wild.
There was another moment recently where I thought about the role confidence plays in the everyday. I was having a phone conversation with a friend who prides himself on being a good listener. To him that means listening silently when I speak, so silently I periodically wonder if we’ve been disconnected. If I ask if he’s still there, I typically get a quizzical, “Yes, I’m listening” in response. But when I’m done speaking, I frequently feel like he listened, but didn’t hear me.
Instead of feeding me back as I’m talking, it’s like he’s letting me talk and waiting for his turn to speak. He often gives his opinion on the topic without in any way acknowledging what he just heard from me. While I applaud his ability to be still and let me speak freely, he could take his skill to another realm by confidently repeating back what he thinks I said before proceeding with his take.
I come across an awful lot of accomplished people who want to express themselves through art of some kind and lack the confidence to do so. A few years ago when I was teaching an adult ed creative writing class at the local high school, I would give my students a prompt and tell them to write on that given subject for five minutes. Always there were one or two individuals whose pen didn’t move. They were frozen. Confident in career, but not in creative expression.
Look, I can write about a blade of grass. It will either be good writing or not. I don’t expect it to be literary. It’s about building a muscle. Maybe it leads to something coherent, maybe not. This is where I wanted the students to go. That place where confidence grows because they’re writing more. A lot more. Each word, sentence, paragraph isn’t overly important when you’re writing regularly. Each idea doesn’t have to be a jewel or etched into stone like a commandment.
This applies to countless areas of our lives. The confidence of being able to run one mile and stretch it to two and then three. Learning a language where we go from conjugating verbs to expressing thoughts, confidently communicating with the natives. I can confidently get on a dance floor. I can’t confidently get on a softball field. It takes confidence to state both of those facts.
Confidence is not some buzz word. If you don’t have it, recognize that it’s worth cultivating. Read. Learn. Meditate. Find a church. Leave a church. Work hard. See a therapist. Whatever it takes.
Confidence allows us to be present and vibrant and it ripples into everything. It just does.
Maybe that’s worth a Rah-Rah.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.