Confidence - that unshakable inner knowledge that you have the capabilities you need. 

It is sometimes elusive, leaving you feeling insecure and unsure of your abilities. Other times it’s very present, making you feel like you’re on top of the world and you can do anything. 

But where does it come from?

One of my mentors once told me that confidence is not something that is “lost”, nor something that is “found”. It is something you have inside you, something that is built from layers of a lifetime of achievements and self-belief. Something that exists even when you don’t think it does. And it’s your goal to use it even when you feel like you can’t.

If you think about it, confidence can be directly linked to the amount of successes and failures you’ve had in your lifetime. Most of us can say that we’ve had about equal amounts of both, and we’ve learned new things from it each time. Our successes build up our confidence, because we have direct proof that what we did was right. Our failures tend to immediately diminish our confidence, but can also contribute directly to its positive growth - if the failures are treated as learning opportunities.

Think about a baby who is learning to walk, they don’t “find” the confidence to do it - they just get to a point where they’ve grown and learned enough, so they just do it. Yet, if you attribute our adult thoughts to it - that baby has never walked in its life, so shouldn’t it fear this new skill? Should it not have thoughts of “What if I can’t do it?” or “I will definitely fall over if I try this”.

And that’s the point - they don’t have our adult thoughts. Their confidence is just THERE, because they are ready to take their first steps. All the processes have happened in the right timeline for them to be able to walk.

And sure, they fall over a lot! But what do we do? We don’t berate them for falling over or not trying hard enough - we pick them back up, give them a cuddle if they’re crying, and put them down to try again. That’s not about “finding the confidence to stand up again”, but more like “using the fall as a learning opportunity”!

But, Laura, I’m not a baby!

No, but you are an adult. Or at least a teenager, if you’re reading this. And you have evolved from being a small baby to this point in your life, so you’ve experienced both successes and failures. And depending which one you focus on the most, it can have a huge effect on your confidence levels.

Have you ever overthought any failure, to the point that remembering it brings back those super strong negative emotions - shame, fear, unworthiness - and it throws you into a spiral of feeling terrible about yourself? 

Yep, me too. This is a totally normal, HUMAN response - your brain has perceived this failure as something you don’t want to happen again, so it keeps reminding you of it. The intention behind this response is to keep you safe and alive, and so you don’t put yourself in a place where you have to experience it again. Except, it’s forgetting to provide the positive alternative of what you DO want to. So the negative, fear-based spiral continues!

And, unfortunately, this is going to have a direct negative impact on the amount of confidence you feel when you try something new, even if it’s completely unrelated to the previous negative experience. Because, when your thought processes invite fear into the equation, fear overrides the lifetime of confidence that’s contained inside you. And unfortunately, fear is stronger than confidence, because its sole aim is to preserve your life. Your brain will focus on keeping you alive, further fueling your fear response, and diminishing your ability to be confident.

But what if we approached it all differently?

What if we took the failures, and looked at them objectively, treating them as learning opportunities? Yes, you may feel emotions associated with these memories when you remember, but if you look underneath you will find the answers as to why you failed - and they won’t be what you think they are! 

For example, let’s say you failed your singing exam, and the underlying feelings you had at the time (and subsequently get every time you remember this experience) are shame and unworthiness. So you berate yourself time and time again for simply not being good enough. 

But if you were to look at the actual feedback from the examiner, it seems you failed because you didn’t know the pieces well enough, or you were late and missed time so you couldn’t finish, or you let nerves overcome you so much you couldn’t make coherent sentences, let alone a good performance.

Does this all sound like you are fundamentally not good enough, or is it giving you the information you need to improve? The information you need to act upon to move forward? The things you need to change in order to grow your confidence? 

In other words, do you now have the information you need to turn this into a learning opportunity?

Because when you take action on those learning opportunities, it is going to have a direct positive impact on the amount of confidence you feel when you try something new. 

By taking action in this way, you are directly telling your fear response “thanks so much for keeping me safe, but I’m going to try/change/do this and improve my confidence instead.”

And trust me, when you’ve practised this enough, your fear response will start to think you’ll be safe in new situations without it taking over. You might still feel a little flutter of fear, but it is not debilitating, it’s just letting you know that it’s there if you need it.

How do I know all this?

I've been where you are. I've been in that pit of despair just fundamentally believing “I am not good enough”, when in reality, I just needed to embrace the learning opportunities from the failures. 

I learned this specifically when I was a teenager and didn’t want to mess up a performance. Over a few months, I’d literally curated stage fright thoughts like “I have to be good at this” and “I can’t mess this up”. During rehearsals, it was all fine, but when it got to the point where I stepped on stage to actually perform to an audience, I totally “blanked”. I just could not get any words out - I was the proverbial deer in headlights with the whole audience of 1000+ people looking at me expectantly.

Fortunately for me, the music director saw the signs and cued the band so I was able to kick in with muscle memory after a line or two. But, I was berating myself internally and just felt all that shame and disappointment flood my system, to the point where I didn’t enjoy the rest of the show and was a bit robotic in the rest of my performances. I managed to do it all without any more “blanks” but oh boy, did I feel like crap!

After the show, the music director came to find me, gave me a hug and just said “Don’t worry about what happened tonight, it happens to us all. Just focus on the fact that you did start singing a couple of lines in and kept going with the rest of the show - that’s what performing is about. The show must go on!

And that was an immediate relief to my internal narrative, because although I’d made a mistake, I was treated with compassion from a person I highly respected, who also then gave me permission to move on and let go of my fear.

So what happened when I let go of the fear response?

My confidence was up, so the rest of the show week went perfectly and I loved every second of it.

Nearly 18 years later, I still carry this with me, and I’ve learned to pass it on to all of my students. What or how you mess up doesn’t actually matter - it’s what you learn from it that matters. And I learned that when the fear response diminishes, your confidence has a chance to rise into all its glory.

Does this resonate with you? Remember you can start growing your confidence with my free online course - The Path To Vocal Freedom! You can also email me if you want some more personalised confidence coaching. So don't wait - get moving! See you in there!