When I was a student, I hated public speaking. Even in front of a small class of just 20 students, all of whom I knew.
Tell me to stand up in front of any number of people, and I would panic …
My confidence would desert me. I’d get nervous, sometimes even physically shake! I’d forget everything I was meant to be saying, and generally just feel a fool.
So I didn’t only hate public speaking, I told myself I was terrible at it. And I always dreaded any kind of assignment that required having to present in front of the class.
Until one day, when I had to present on a topic that I was particularly interested in …
Given my genuine interest, I put a lot of work into the presentation. I enjoyed working on it, and by the time I was done, I knew it inside and out.
I didn’t need notes. I could talk around that presentation without needing to refer back to anything. I could just ad lib.
And … it was a roaring success! It was by far the best presentation … the best “public speaking” … I had ever done.
No shaking, no nervousness, no forgetting where I was, or what I was saying. It was a strong, confident, interesting speech.
And it was then that I realised – I wasn’t bad at public speaking … I was bad at public speaking IF I didn’t know what I was speaking about. If I didn’t have the confidence in my knowledge …
It wasn’t that my confidence was deserting me. It’s that it wasn’t there … for that particular task, or presentation … to begin with.
Yet when I had certainty in my subject? Well, it turned out that was a whole new ballgame …
I knew what I was talking about, so there was no worry that I’d forget what I needed to say … or lose my place in my notes … or that someone would ask a question that I couldn’t answer.
All the doubt was removed, meaning I could focus on the task at hand. And the result was a very different speech. And – a very different grade. That was the first presentation I ever got an A for.
But more than that … that was the presentation where I realised an important implication …
I hadn’t suddenly become good at public speaking … it was that the process of public speaking wasn’t an issue, IF I knew my subject.
I didn’t need to be confident about public speaking. I needed to be confident about my SUBJECT.
Which was also, I realised, the PURPOSE …
There’s no benefit in being a great public speaker if you don’t have anything to say! So the speaking itself, isn’t the most important part. My teachers weren’t, in fact, as focused on my presenting abilities as they were in the information I was presenting.
So if I could be sure, and confident in my information … in my OUTPUT … then the rest – the process of presenting it – THAT would come naturally. Plus, I’d get better at that, the more I did it.
That was it. I’d had the epiphany …
… Confidence comes from CERTAINTY.
When you’re certain, you have less stress. You know what you’re doing, and you know you can do it. You’re confident by default.
So to reach that “default” confidence, particularly in something new … you just have to start. You have to have the courage to commit to what you’re doing … and by doing it, you will learn … and by learning, you will become certain …
… and the loop is complete. Your courage becomes your certainty, which becomes your confidence!
This epiphany stayed with me … helping me through every job … through my entire career.
And maybe it can help you with yours too?
If you’re feeling that you’re lacking in confidence, maybe you just need to stop and think about the loop.
Maybe you need to start with your courage. Courage to DO … and courage to BELIEVE ….
Courage to believe in your “certainties” … or the courage to create them! The certainties of what you know you’re good at. And more importantly, what you know you’re able to do for your clients …
And maybe, if you focus on your certainties as being the OUTCOME of your knowledge and capabilities … the RESULTS that you’re able to achieve for your clients – the BENEFITS that you are able to give them … maybe then, the process itself will become less of an issue. Will become less stressful … less scary.
Maybe by being certain in the results that you can achieve, your confidence in the way that you achieve them will start to increase naturally.
Because perhaps it’s not really about being confident anyway … it’s about being courageous … and then it’s about being certain.