Do you ever wonder if we have gotten confidence completely wrong? As I get older, I have had to continually question the concept of confidence, and how it has been sold to me as a human being, from childhood to adulthood.
Let’s start with the basics, what is confidence?
Confidence is described as ‘the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something’. Confidence is the belief that we have in ourselves. However, along the lines, we appear to have developed a belief system, which is extremely limiting, that we can only do things once we have confidence.
Have you ever noticed though, that when we describe someone as ‘confident’ we are often referring to someone who:
- is louder
- is extroverted
- is sociable
- is able to put themselves ‘out there’
- is able to do things ‘in front of others’ (sing, dance, act etc)
For many years, I was referred to as ‘shy’ as I was quieter than my peers, and as a child, would go beet red when picked out to read in class etc. However, now, as an adult and therapist, I can see that I was introverted and actually, around those who made me comfortable I could be more outwardly ‘confident’. However, years of being told or referred to as ‘shy’ meant that I held myself back from many activities.
How do we frame it?
So, how we frame confidence (and shyness) actually has a lot to do with our belief systems. Do we have the wrong perception of confidence?
What brought me to write this article was the theme of extroverted confidence. The belief that many (not all) hold that confidence is something that we write on the school reports of children who are more ‘out there’ and have louder personalities. My issue with this, is that if our measure of confidence is those external attributes, what impact does that have on the children who do not fit into this box?
Is there a belief that to be confident we need to be LOUD – gregarious – joker – funny – popular?
In which case, does this create a belief in many young people that they are not confident?
When realistically, something that many of us learn, with age (and so called wisdom) is that we can be confident in ourselves, our abilities, our skills, our social groups and not be any of these things.
So, I want to talk about the difference of extroverted confidence, those people who gain confidence through social interactions – who seem to grow in size as they interact – becoming brighter – more loud the more people that they are with. Simon Sinek, has an analogy of the extrovert being someone who, if energy were coins, gains coins from every social situation that they encounter. Whilst, the introvert, starts their day with five coins and loses one for each social situation that they have, so chooses them differently.
Which, encourages me to reflect on how we can view those introverted children, believing that they are less confident as they may not put themselves forward for every situation, or may not attend all events, as they know their energy levels differ to their extroverted counterpart.
What if we were to consider a third group – the confident introvert?
Whilst they may not be found in every text book, a group of young people (and adults) who I have noticed over the years, and feel we need to consider more, is the confident introverts. Rather than looking at introverts as being more shy, what if they are confident, but that they use it differently?
The confident introvert, has a quiet certainty that they are OK – that they can do it – that they have the skills – resources – abilities to do what they need to do. They steam on, work through tasks, achieve incredible feats and often surprise us, as they are not screaming to us all about what they are working on. Frequently, we may see them referred to as the ‘outside runner’ but they were NEVER outside – they were steeling through without making a fuss. they surprise us, because we are often so caught up in extroverted confidence as a measure, that we are distracted – which has a magic to it, but also means that we can miss the magical journey.
The introverted confidence isn’t lesser, they are just different. Introverted confidence offers the quiet sense of ‘I can’. That individual is driven, capable and competent – their confidence just isn’t loud and gregarious – but they can captivate attention and hold a room – without the big song and dance.
Neither is right or wrong
Just – different
With their own strengths and abilities
But, we really need to start celebrating that quiet confidence – the introverted confidence – and recognise that they have the skills and abilities – their confidence just has a different type of exterior,.
And that those children will say that they are not confident, because the way that we often measure confidence is through loudness and sociability.
However, confidence is about having belief in ourselves and feeling good about ourselves, and that has nothing to do with volume.
So, maybe, we need to task ourselves, with re-measuring confidence, and recognising that confidence has a wide range of presentations and that they are all special and need to be recognised. So that more introverts don’t get caught up believing things about themselves, which are not true.
Perhaps, when we write reports about children, instead of confidence, we could acknowledged:
- their resilience
- their determination
- their skills
- their focus
- their drive
- their self-belief
- their goals and aspirations
- their growth mindsets
- their inspirational qualities
So, that we can increase child mental health and well-being from those early stages.
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