For many years I believed that I wasn't a very confident person. This was mainly based on the idea that I had of what confidence was. From school onwards we are taught that to be confident is to be the child that always puts their hand up in class, the one that volunteers to read the next chapter out loud in English lesson, or takes the lead in group activities. I was never that child. I didn't feel the need to draw attention to myself. I didn't need to let everyone else know that I knew the answers. Although I always got high marks in exams, throughout my school life my report cards read 'a quiet child', 'reserved', and 'spends a lot of time daydreaming'. Apparently not shouting my ability from the rooftops meant I wasn't reaching my potential.
Skip forward 20 years and not much had changed. Swap the classroom for a meeting room, and I still didn't feel the need to be the one talking the most or interjecting at every given moment. Despite always achieving the same level as my colleagues, throughout my working life I felt a niggling guilt that I wasn't as confident as I was supposed to be. This was until I came across a few ideas that changed my perception of what confidence is, and allowed me to start to carve myself a place in the world where I felt happy. So for anyone that has ever felt similarly, here are 5 lessons that allowed me to finally embrace being my quietly confident self.
1. Find your voice and listen to it.
"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul."
Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird.
As someone who doesn't naturally like to stand up in front of a room full of people, I have always found my comfort in writing, allowing me to express my opinions, experiences and observations without having to deal with people face to face. The beauty of the internet allows us to broadcast our thoughts to audiences of tens of thousands of people, and receive and reply to comments facing the fear of public speaking. Writing about something you care about, and receiving heartfelt feedback gives you a feeling of purpose, making me realise that I can make a difference in the world without having to adopt a phony confident, outgoing personality to convince people of my ideas.
2. Those who speak the loudest don't always have the most to say.
"There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas."
Susan Cain, Quiet.
It took me a long time to learn this one. As humans often we end up taking the opinion of the loudest in the room just because we've heard them the most. In fact as Susan Cain explains:
"I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they're good talkers, but they don't have good ideas. It's so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They're valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking".
3. Believe in your own knowledge & ability. Don't let others talk over you.
"Because of our quiet nature, people assume that we don't mind being talked over, interrupted and otherwise disrespected in conversation. This doesn't feel good...In an effort to avoid aggressive communication, we swing the complete opposite way."
Just because someone expresses their opinion in a more dominant tone than yours, or fails to recognise your point of view. It doesn't make it any less relevant. In fact, it makes them all the more ignorant. Don't let others arrogance affect your own belief in yourself. For the quiet and more sensitive among us, our egos can be easily affected by criticism. Remember that quiet confidence in your own integrity and beliefs has helped to shape the world that we live in today think of Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi. Neither of them were people who would talk over others, or shut them down. They quietly believed in their own power, and spoke only when was necessary with great consequences.
4. Recognise the need to spend time alone.
"Solitude matters, and for some people, it's the air they breathe."
Susan Cain, Quiet.
If you are a naturally quiet person then chances are you gain energy by spending time alone. You need this time to evaluate, process what has happened, and move on. However, because we live in a society where being extroverted and social is thought of as a desirable trait, you may often feel pressured to be social when it is the last thing you want to do. For many years I felt this pressure, wondering why I was tired all the time and unable to make decisions. It was only when I stopped feeling guilty about wanting to spend time alone, that I begun to think more clearly and productively.
5. Find your tribe.
"Even if you're a freelancer or a one woman show when it comes to your business, it's still important to find your tribe. For example, I regularly speak to several other female writers every day. When I need encouragement, they support me. When I have a question, they have the answers."
Despite spending most of my working life alone as a writer, it is still important to have a network and people to talk to on a daily basis. It has helped to build my confidence rather than being solely reliant on myself. This goes for any career path you choose. Although you may be naturally independent and solitary, no man (or woman), is an island, and although you may not want to spend hours of your day in an office, communication, even if it just via email, in my opinion is essential for maintaining drive and direction.