My moment of least confidence was when I was training to be a school teacher.
I remember the day clearly, although it was 17 years ago.
I had spent a whole week planning a lesson to teach a physics class about light, reflection and lasers... exciting, I know!
I spent hours on the planning sheet. Designed different worksheets for children of different abilities.
Eventually the date and time arrived. I was filled with a sense of nervousness... I’d struggled to sleep.
Although it was one of my first lessons, I was being inspected by both the usual class teacher and the senior teacher trainer from the Institute of Education.
The class came into the classroom in a noisy fashion. Shouting and screaming. I saw the look of horror on the trainer's face... I panicked.
I raised my voice and shouted as loud as I could, telling the class to leave and come in again quietly… 'Your behaviour is unacceptable!'
I recall that as the last time I actually felt so angry, I lost control of myself.
Anyway, the lesson unfolded and I just about kept control of the class. But I felt tense and nervous throughout. The usual class teacher wanted me to have the class completely quiet most of the time, and I struggled to maintain that level of discipline.
In my nervousness, I left the laser switched on, facing the class! Luckily no one looked directly into it - otherwise I would have been in big trouble.
I felt defeated. I’d messed up the lesson. I thought: ‘I can’t teach... this is not for me... I should quit’.
I even tried to quit. But luckily my teacher trainer persuaded me to persevere.
Building Confidence Day by Day
My confidence remained low, but everyday I stepped into a classroom, it got a bit better.
And some lessons started to go really well. I had some nicer classes and the children responded well to my lessons. That felt great!
The solution was taking things step-by-step, and using mindfulness and self-kindness along the way, as well as supportive colleagues to support me.
I went on to teach for another 10 years! In fact, I only quit because I didn’t find it challenging enough in the end. But I’m proud to say most kids loved my lessons...or at least, that’s what I tell myself. :)
So, how did I grow my confidence? And how can you build your confidence.
Steps for Building Confidence Mindfully
1. Be clear what you want to be confident in. Confidence is in specific areas. You can be confident in writing essays, but unconfident in public speaking, for example.
2. Start super small. Start so it’s so easy, you think it’s having almost no effect. For example, let’s say you want to be more confident in public speaking. Start by just writing a rough one minute speech - that's it! If you want to be more confident in social settings, start with just one to one or groups of just two people. Or just visualise the situation to start with. No rush.
3. Make a list of ALL the small steps all the way up to the thing you want to achieve. The list includes the action and how much fear you predict for each action: Rating 1 being no fear and 10 being so scary, it totally freaks you out!
Confidence Booster Action Plan
|Write an average/rubbish 1 minute speech||1|
|Read it out to myself||2|
|Write a better version of the short speech||3|
|Read it out to myself and record myself||3|
|Read it out to a baby or young child||3|
|Memorise the speech and record myself||4|
|Give the speech to my best friend and ask for positive feedback||6|
|Give the speech to a small group of supportive friends||7|
|Give speech to small group of friendly people||7|
|Give speech to strangers, interested in your subject.||9
|Give speech to random strangers.||10|
4. Use Kindfulness (mindfulness and kindness) to boost your confidence before each step. For example, take some deep breaths and then feel any fear or anxiety. Place your warm hand on the sensation in your body. Feel a sense of kindness and compassion going to that part of your body. Smile if you can. Deep slow breaths are good.
5. Keep doing the action until the fear turns into almost boredom. Don’t move onto the next step until you’ve done the last one without fear. This is important.
6. Once you’ve done all the steps, have a celebration - you deserve it. Rest in your glory, and if you feel moved to do so, challenge other fears you may have to build your confidence in other areas.
I find people who are so called ‘unconfident’ to be humble, sincere and kind. So if you feel unconfident, you’re starting from a great place.
Almost everyone wants to be more confident, but don’t take the time to reflect on what it means and how to build confidence.
There’s no such thing as a ‘confident’ person. Everyone is confident in different areas.
Confidence can be built through a reliable, scientifically tested approach outlined above. It is essentially writing down baby steps, taking regular action, using kindfulness to calm you down, and keep going until each step is so easy, you get bored by it. Then you move on.
By combining this approach with mindfulness and kindness, you’ll be unstoppable in no time!
Feel nervous about chatting online? Try some kindfulness and leave a comment below - I promise to be nice back. :)