Everyone wants to be confident, to be brave enough to tackle new challenges and make a change for the better.
We’ve all seen successful people who are confident enough to try new things, to experiment and reach new heights. We’ve all wished we could be just like them.
Some would say confidence comes with experience, which I don’t doubt. But I think confidence comes with familiarity from a comfortable environment rather than the time you spend doing something.
When I say comfortable, I mean an environment that you are very familiar with, hopefully with supportive people (ie. family and/or friends) who will be there for you.
Once you find this comfortable environment, slowly but surely you will be able to start building your confidence and actually start making the improvements you want to see.
Familiarity Is The Start Of Confidence
When I think about the times in my life that I pushed myself to do things that I don’t normally do, I never remember suddenly making a change and succeeding. I only started gaining the confidence to succeed when I was comfortable in my local environment.
While I was in high school, I took leadership positions on my school’s community service council. But if you had told me at the beginning of my first year that I was going to be a leader, I would have thought you were crazy.
I was nervous and in a new place. My thoughts were focused entirely on remembering where my classes were. I was intimidated by the sudden appearance of many upperclassmen and teachers who I didn’t know. Everything was new to me and I was struggling to adapt.
Even joining a community service club was scary, because I knew no one and had to work in a new environment. I was not ready to push myself to the limits; I was just doing my best not to collapse!
But as I began to adapt to the school and spend more time, I became more comfortable. I made new friends and found old ones. I stayed with the club and assumed a leadership position. I joined the community service council and spent a year sitting in on meetings.
My confidence grew and I felt ready to take on new challenges. I put myself up for council elections and won both times, first being Secretary and then President.
I would take that confidence with me when I went to university in the United States, even though I had to spend time getting comfortable with an unfamiliar place again. I eventually felt comfortable enough to apply for a Teaching Assistant position, wanting to learn more and help students.
Coming back to Melbourne was the same way. Having not been in my home country for two decades, it was unfamiliar and I spent a year trying to adapt and find my footing. But once I found it, I managed to start going out to new groups, meeting new people and actually make progress on my life goals.
None of the success I would have achieved would be possible if I tried to make a change immediately. It came because I took the time to become comfortable with my surroundings, and when a chance to push myself appeared, I was confident enough to take it.
Comfortable Environments Plant Seeds Of Confidence
In my university days I became a tutor and a Teaching Assistant for two separate classes and worked with a lot of students.
A few students sought my assistance and they knew they needed help. My first meetings with them were all very awkward.
It was not because either one of us was being awkward on purpose, but because the students didn’t know what to ask me at first and I didn’t know what to say. They needed help with everything and they didn’t know where to start.
What I did was to tell them to start with one item and go from there. I told each student that this wouldn’t be the last time we would meet, and I would be free to meet with them as many times as they needed.
After every meeting, each student became more confident. They knew who I was and what I could do for them. Our meetings were no longer foreign settings, but familiar places where students could work with a trusted individual to go through the material with them.
That confidence allowed students to take risks and try new formulas, to think on their own to find an answer.
This would never have happened if they came to each session thinking I was a stranger and our meeting place was foreign. It happened because we had mutual trust and a welcoming environment.
When you have a comfortable environment, taking risks doesn’t seem scary anymore. That’s because you know what you are able to do, and you have people who will support you no matter what happens.
Encourage People To Get Comfortable First
When I meet new speakers, whether it’s at a language exchange or a public speaking group like Toastmasters, they are often dealing with nerves and expectations to challenge themselves and take risks.
My advice to them is to forget about challenging themselves or learning anything for the moment. What they should do is find out how welcoming the environment is, meet the participants and to get used to our meeting location.
This isn’t because I don’t believe in them, but because I know that they’re in a foreign environment with no one to trust. They’re not ready to try and learn something new yet.
Over time, the confidence will come when they start making friends and get used to their speaking venue. Once that confidence kicks in, then amazing things start to happen.
It’s not about finding the perfect time to improve (because there isn’t one), but setting the stage for you to find the courage to take that first step and improve.
Don’t rush and take the time to familiarize yourself with the people you meet and the environment you’re in. Whether you are in school, at work or an organization, take the time to adjust and adapt.
That’s when you’re ready to succeed.
Victor Tan writes to helps people overcome their weaknesses to be a better public speaker. He does this by helping people with self-improvement and teaching them proper speaking techniques. You can find him at his website, Spirit On Stage, Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Daria Shevtsova.