Finding Confidence

The 15th century Swiss doctor, toxicologist, philosopher Paracelsus wrote: „As a man imagines himself to be, so shall he be, and he is that which he imagines” I’m sure most of us will recognize this quote as being the basis of the title and first line of  James Allen’s book As a Man Thinketh…

This verse will be the starting point for my sermon, today.

Alexandra is a very intelligent, attractive, usually very buoyant, sometimes opinionated woman, who is, presently, assistant to the artistic director of the most important theatres in the German-speaking world). 

A talented dancer, she was on the road to making ballet her career, but a physical problem with  her feet meant she didn’t get taken on by any of the serious ballet schools. In Gymnasium and in her university studies she graduated with first class honours.

She was recruited directly university to her position at the theatre.

Alexandra is presently  at a major Artist Management Firm based in London. 

Now, with all this talent and success, you’d maybe think she was a pretty confident person…? Think again. She related that she had always had a horror of taking exams, while at school, and that these interviews had the same effect on her. “Exams and interviews are just a terror, it’s a fact of life, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Anyway, she couldn’t possibly see why she would stand a hope in hell of even getting considered for even a preliminary phone interview.

She had recently had an interview for a job similar to hers where the interview had simply gone “all wrong”, only confirming her feeling of being way out of her depth.

Bit of a long intro, but Alexandra is fairly typical of the sort of people I deal with, be they musicians, dancers, actors, athletes, business or young people; they have the goods, but they feel so down on their abilities that they force themselves to screw up in these sort of situations: interviews, auditions, and even performances. 

As long as people see the situation, or themselves as being so, or so, or so, it will be so as long as they believe this story that they’re telling themselves.

 Confidence is one of the main building blocks of a great performance (I’ll deal with the others in later posts). Without it we can’t summon up the courage to go for it, to get ourselves into the flow/zone, or whatever. Without it we give into our fears, and we know what they invariably break down to: not being enough, being unworthy; in other words, Imposter Syndrom.

For today, I’ll give you a few tools that can, if practiced work wonders.

Confidence is a muscle that must be exercised constantly.

1/ Fake it!  Do this until it becomes real.

If you were able to maintain a level of self-confidence that was just unshakeable, what would you be doing differently? You can watch the « Cowardly Lion » scene on Youtube for inspiration- « If I were king of the forest… »

How would you sit/stand?

How would you be breathing?

Would your major muscle groups be tense, or relaxed?

What would you focus on?

What would your self-talk be saying to you?

Figure these things out for yourself, practice them, pretend that this is you and, with practice, it could be.

2/ Visualisation.

Visualization is a great tool for correcting mistakes in one’s performance, as well as improving one’s self-image. Take Point 1-Fake it. Sitting comfortably, eyes closed, imagine yourself in the situation you wish to improve on. See yourself fully in the situation, feel the confidence, feel your mastery of the situation. If, at first there is something that doesn’t go as you want it to, then stop the film, rewind it and make corrections. Our minds don’t register the difference between something we have visualised and a real event, so each visualization session will be clocked up as a success ( as long as you are always seeing youself in a positive light). The more success, the more confident we become. We are also rewiring the brain to produce this reaction when this and similar situations arise. 

3/Highlight Reel.

Put together a list of some of your best moments/successes that you can sit down quietly and visualise every day. They don’t have to be huge, just successes. Come up with a couple of past successes, imagine succeeding in something coming up soon; again it doesn’t have to be massive in the beginning-you’re going to build on this going forward. Then see yourself succeeding in a larger event somewhere down the line. It’s important to always visualise things that are in the realm of the “possible” because your subconscious will always know when you’re fooling yourself. 

4/ Gratitude.

 Start and end your day with a short session of remembering all that you’re grateful for;  five things is enough (people, things situations etc.)-it’s a great fear-fighter!

5/ Monitor your +/- thoughts.

Every day the average person has ca. 60’000 thoughts. Usually, 40’000 of them are negative: “Idiot, watch where you’re driving, How can she go out dresses like THAT?, damn! Idiot! You screwed that up again! I’ll never get this right etc. What seem to be fairly benign, off the cuff thoughts, build up, day by day, putting a hugely negative bent on our basic outlook on life.

Take a notebook and, for a week, write down as many of your negative thoughts as you can. Then, look at them, and categorize them into useful/not useful, necessary/ not necessary sorts of thoughts. Then come up with empowering, realistic alternatives; they don’t have to be on the super-positive scale, neutralising a negative thought will do the trick. This will start you on your way to a more positive general attitude in your life. A positive person is also a more confident person; and a nicer one too!

Till next time.

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