Welcome to this first part of a short series on CONFIDENCE and how to achieve it and how to strengthen it.
CONFIDENCE.....that word which gets used so often and which, sometimes, can feel so difficult to grab hold of and keep tightly in your grasp.
It's easy to look around and make assumptions about other people's confidence, perhaps telling ourselves that they are the lucky ones, born with confidence in abundance, whilst we are the unfortunate souls for whom confidence is always out of reach.
Let's get the question in the title out of the way before we go any further...
Confidence is a BELIEF. It is a self-belief that we are capable of achieving the things that we set out to do, whatever those things are. Taking horse riding as an example - confidence is a belief that we are able to ride our horse at whatever level, and in whatever discipline, we have chosen and that we will be able to handle that situation and the vast majority of unexpected challenges we may encounter.
Taking a more specific example such as hacking out on your horse - confidence is the belief that even if you meet a tractor or a pheasant causes your horse to spook you will be OK and handle that situation. It might upset you a bit of course but you will handle it.
When you have confident self-belief then you will FEEL more secure with a realistic sense of your ability.
There are many myths around confidence so let's bust some of them.
1. SOME PEOPLE ARE BORN CONFIDENT -
Confidence develops over time by handling challenging situations, pushing out of your comfort zone whilst learning that it's safe to do that, and by surrounding yourself with supportive and encouraging people who will help you to grow in self-belief.
2. YOU HAVE TO BE EXPERIENCED AND SUCCESSFUL TO BE CONFIDENT -
Taking horse riding as an example again, it's possible to be a confident novice as well as a confident expert. These riders at either end of the equestrian spectrum have the belief that they can fulfil the tasks they have set themselves. They probably have a healthy growth mindset in which they accept that they can make mistakes and learn from those mistakes as they progress on their riding journey.
3. YOU ARE EITHER CONFIDENT OR YOU AREN'T -
Confidence is variable and can be fragile but it is something that you can work on strengthening so that your confidence bubble is far less likely to be burst by setbacks.
4. IF YOU ARE CONFIDENT THEN YOU WILL NEVER FEEL NERVOUS - NOT TRUE...
This is a common myth because so many believe that confidence is a feeling of comfort and calmness.
A confident horse rider will accept that there will be times when they feel tense, nervous, and full of all of the symptoms of normal human stress reactions. However, they will have learned to tolerate those feelings and emotions and to be able to work through them and lessen them so that they can still ride effectively.
5. IF YOU LOSE YOUR CONFIDENCE THEN IT'S HARD TO GET IT BACK -
Most people and especially horse riders will find that they have dips in confidence as a response to events right through their lives.
With support, understanding and a bit of effort confidence can, and will, be regained.
WHAT DOES HAVING CONFIDENCE FEEL LIKE?
Well in general having a confident self-belief feels pretty good!
As I said above, it doesn't mean that you will never feel nervous but it does mean that you will be able to tolerate any nerves that you encounter without being consumed by fear or overwhelmed by the physical sensations associated with heightened levels of stress hormones.
Some of the positive characteristics of a confident rider are:
Prepared to push out of comfort zone
Tends to say yes to new opportunities
Rides in all sorts of different situations
Rides alone or in company without issue
Accepts challenges and is prepared to work hard to fulfil goals
Generally uses positive language to describe their horse and their riding
Finds opportunities for learning even when things are challenging
Accepts praise with grace and doesn’t require constant reassurance
Avoids unhelpful comparisons with others
Will generally appear to be physically comfortable even when they are a novice or inexperienced rider
Will say ‘No” for genuine reasons rather than as an excuse
Confident riders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and ride all sorts of different horses.
I'm sure that you will agree that the above characteristics are something to aim for so please keep your eyes open for the next part of this series on confidence where we will be looking at some simple confidence-building techniques you can learn and use to help yourself to grow in CONFIDENCE.