Walking in the room the immediate scent of stale cigarettes and beer overpowered my senses. Looking around the dimly lit British pub my eyes were met with the disparaging stares from strangers, and I felt like I had just crashed a party. Feeling very nervous, I clutched my shoebox of photography slides, took a deep breath, put on the biggest smile I could muster, and stepped into the room.
Everything was going well until I started thinking “Why are they looking at me like that? Am I in the right room? I wonder if there is anyone I know? They probably think I’m a fraud…”.
Then my palms felt clammy and I started heating up. Before I could take another step, the shoebox fell to the ground and all the slides spilled onto the floor.
Feeling very embarrassed for drawing attention, I knelt on the ground and hurriedly scooped up the slides. The three guys at the bar turned to look at me on the floor, and the one lifted his beer glass in a toast and said (in a very Yorkshire British accent); “Hey love, why don’t you go make us all a cup of tea?” Their caucus laughter ringing in my ears.
My eyes welled up and I fought hard to hold back the tears. I gathered my shoebox and scurried off to the ladies bathroom to gather myself.
Ten minutes later I re-entered the room, except with a different mindset. I was not going to let this “old boys club” put me off from pursuing my dream of becoming a photographer. I went there for a purpose, to learn from the more experienced so I could get the direction I needed to reach my goals.
I learnt pretty quickly that night that I was the only female in attendance, and the 100 year old photographic society had predominantly been male dominated for years.
Their disparaging behavior was seen as acceptable (even amusing), and although I cried driving all the way home, I decided that night that I was not going to let my lack of confidence sabotage my aspirations ever again!
The saying “pretend until you become” became my new mantra. For the next three years, every time I attended those monthly meetings, I put on my “don’t mess with me” attitude and a confident stride.
I became known as “that South African lippy lass” because I spoke my mind, asked questions boldly (with a bit of sass) and always garnered a smile.
Three years after the incident it came time for the annual “Photographer of the Year” awards. Being always curious, I volunteered to take the behind-the-scenes photos of the judging (ironically of professional photographers judging professional photos).
Circling the room I captured all the winners as they came to the stage to accept their awards. Then the main judge announced.. “And the Yorkshire Photographer of the Year award goes to…. Mim… Mimi…. Mimika Cooney!”
Wow I was floored! Standing at the front of the room I turned to one of the other judges, handed him my camera and said “Excuse me love, would you mind taking my photo with my award?” He obliged and I have the photo that appeared in the local newspaper.
So what is confidence exactly? The official definition is a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
Confidence comes through action (no matter your emotions) so by taking that first step your confidence grows. If we can get through our feelings of inadequacy and project our thoughts to how we will feel exuding confidence, then our actions and demeanor will reflect a confident attitude.
If I had to wait to “feel” confident, I would have never taken the step toward pushing through my embarrassment and fears. I would have high-tailed it out the ladies bathroom, into my car and driven home that first night never to be seen again.
That would have been the easy choice…
Instead, I had to remind myself that confidence isn’t a feeling you have BEFORE you take action. On the contrary, confidence is how you feel AFTER you take the action.
Confidence inspires confidence in others, so gaining the confidence of others is one of the ways a self-confident person finds their success. To think of yourself as success you become more confident, and then everyone around you senses it and the respect or admiration soon follows.
Interesting fact, according to the Kelton study of Fascination women will spend more to be fascinating than they spend on food and clothes combined, or nearly 15% of their net income. This isn’t surprising considering how much money the beauty and movie industry generates.
A dynamic and effervescent public speaker who exudes confidence can captivate an audience with their charisma. The good news is that self-confidence can be learned.
No matter if you’re working on your own self confidence, or building the confidence of others, it’s well-worth the effort in pushing through the pain until you become more confident.
So how can we become more confident?
Envision what you want the end result to look like. How will you feel once you have the confidence?
Think of public speaking, don’t focus on the negative energy of that disparaging voice in your head that says “What an idiot! There are so many people staring at me, I hope I don’t mess up”.
Our thoughts become our feelings, our feelings become our actions, and then it’s just a downward ticket from there honey! Instead, focus on the positive outcomes of how you want the experience to be.
Take the action first, then the confidence will follow.
Think of sky diving, if we focus on how far we have to fall, we would focus on the worst that could happen. Instead, feel the fear and do it afraid! Once you’ve stepped out of the plane the anticipation is over which is usually worse than the action itself.
Remember that feeling of confidence.
Next time you have a speaking gig or you need to try something new, remember how it felt to “feel” confident. Now that you’ve overcome the initial debilitating feelings, you can do what method actors do and rely on a positive experience to get you through the next time.
Dress for success. The cliche is always right, if you dress for the occasion you will feel good about yourself and you’ll have a confident swagger. Then you can truly pretend until you become the star you know you were born to be!
The good news is confidence is an art, the more we practice the better we will become.
And if all else fails, a classy pair of Manolo Blahnik heels will make any lady feel confidently gorgeous any day of the week!