The Blog

In Search of Calm

I once read that who we are is somewhere between how we see ourselves and how others see us. I have always found this interesting. Especially when the gulf between ourselves and others seems vast.

I often get told by people that I am 'very confident'. To be honest, I don't see myself this way. I just do what needs done because there is no other option.

Recently the perception has become even more wide. I found I had taken too much on and would sometimes feel anxious, and I let it affect me. I lost three opportunities because I let my emotions get the better of me. What I lacked in calmness I made up for in determination though and I decided to sort it out. I have put my anxiety in prescriptive and can fully function to the best of my ability now. To help you do the same I got a friend of mine who is a confidence coach to give some tips:

My name is Mark Joseph. I'm an actor by trade, but I also work as a confidence/dating coach, both independently and for a company called Kezia Noble Ltd. I specialise in helping men deal with anxiety and gain confidence in social situations.

I find it bizarre that people still give out advice such as "be confident", as if that were even possible, since confidence is not something that can be switched on and off. With the exception of simply giving the outer projection of confidence (which has its uses), it is in fact a resultant state. It comes after the fact and is the result of competence & familiarity. When you are competent at the task and familiar with the situation/surroundings, "confidence" will be the ongoing result.

I've been asked to give some pointers for dealing with anxiety and having confidence in certain situations, so here goes:

First date: Firstly, a little preparation goes a long way, so know where you're going. Sure, "winging it" is fun and looks wild & carefree, but it's not quite as fun if it leads to closed bars and full restaurants. Secondly, take the lead. Assume familiarity right off the bat, link her arm and lead the way. Thirdly, remember she is there for the same reason you are, to enjoy herself. A first date has to be fun, and light, with no pressure. Activities are better for this, as it doesn't force you to sit next to someone, having a three hour conversation on your first meeting.

At a party: Talk to as many people as possible, as early as possible, even for brief exchanges. People form cliques early on at parties, so breaking in to them later on in the night can seem very daunting. The more people you talk to, even for a few moments early on, the more chance you have to get yourself into those groups. If you want to approach a big group yourself, it can be done, but takes a lot of energy. Rule of thumb is always to go in a one level above the people you are approaching. (ie. if their energy level is a 7/10, you have to go in at an 8). Keep as positive as possible between talking to people, because however an interaction goes, your future interactions can be sabotaged if you appear negative after one that doesn't go your way.

Job interview/Audition: I think we're going to have a running theme. Again, preparation is key. Know your material, and the people you are going to meet. Know exactly where you're going and how to get there. In terms of the meeting itself, it is useful to stop thinking of the dynamic as employer/employee, because it immediately forces you into a state of impressing someone, which causes performance anxiety. It is much better to cultivate the thought of this meeting as two people seeing if they can work together. Tom Cruise does not worry about a particular meeting, because he knows the job is his if the dynamic between himself and the director is right. If it's not, there will be many other meetings. This also allows you to concentrate on being flexible and relaxed, rather than rigid in your answers/performance. Practice with a partner and get feedback on how you come across.

Driving Test: Obviously, some tests are going to be more stressful than others. Central London at 9am might not be the same as one in a small village in the afternoon. However, the truth of the situation is this: you either know how to use the car or you don't. If you don't, you shouldn't be taking the test. If you do, you do; you're ready. Concentrate on perspective. Millions of people before you have passed/are passing this test every single day. You are making it far bigger an issue in your mind than it is. Don't make the mistake of allowing the instructor to frustrate or relax you. Focus on the task at hand, which you know how to do. So just do it.

Making a speech: Ok, I don't think I need to say it any more. Alright, just once more. Preparation. If the material is new to you and you're working to a rigid script, you will naturally get nervous. Any deviation from it will cause anxiety. However, if you know the subject inside out and upside down, then it doesn't matter where you are on the page, you will always find your way back. No question will phase you. Know the material, not the speech. If it's a best man speech, you know the best man! If it's a science paper, you know your field! Test yourself by asking the most difficult questions and trying to improvise around the speech. Keep perspective. No-one will notice if you pause to check where you are. No-one will laugh if you stumble. All the pressure is in your head. All you're doing is saying some words to people. That's all.