“Be confident” is one of the most essential pieces of advice you will receive from parents and other well-meaning individuals. Confidence is hailed as a characteristic of a great leader. I cannot remember how many times, I have had to train myself on confidence and poise.
However, I am interested in humans who aren’t confident. Those who have read everything they could find on the topic, attended several training events but still secretly struggle. I find that when I want it so bad, I cannot be still. My lips and hands will gain a mind of their own, moving without any effort. Sometimes my eyes refuse to cooperate, quickly sinking into riotous blinks. As soon as my alert mind declares that this is important, my whole being starts vibrating to imaginary native music that only an actual appearance by Osayomore Joseph, the famous Bini musician would calm.
Teachers and Speakers need to appear confident lest a student think, we are not sure of what we are saying. The need to create the illusion of confidence is borne out of our perfectionist culture. My father has a favourite quote which says “life is for the firsts not the also rans”. He said it often enough to make me want to come first in everything including speaking about causes I am passionate about.
However, research has shown that confidence is not a good indicator of ability. Cognitive scientists, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons suggests that it is reasonable for us to embrace tentativeness and modesty as noble characteristics, or strengths of character, much like positive psychology now recommends, and thus welcome back the uncertain phrase, “I’m not sure”.
After going through an article in Psychology Today on the negatives of intuition, I started to question confidence as we know it. A brilliant young man with a message for men told me he may not share it, just because he cannot address a crowd. Who would want to listen to someone who speaks in his Nigerian accent instead of the television acquired foreign accent?
I think the need to appear perfect and in control maybe worse in Nigeria and by extension the African Continent. We want to come first in everything and gain nothing in the end. First to marry, build house, buy car, graduate and first to lead the unconsciously blind.
Pray tell, would we have tolerated the likes of the English theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking? Are our leaders including the religious folks allowed to show true human emotions? Can our teachers stutter sometimes? Do our kids always have to come first in class to be valuable?
I think we are too failure averse that we miss huge opportunities to learn and build. My personal belief is that there is no failure only feedback. I have learnt more from my mistakes than the things I easily mastered. When I stand in front of an audience to talk about my vision for my organization, I get a bit nervous. Not because I am not sure of what I am about to say but rather I care too much to deliver a mechanical presentation. I always want my audience to feel my many human emotions and connect with my message in their hearts.
Should we not seek self mastery or confidence then? I cannot claim to know it all but I made my own quote from my father’s and it goes thus;
“Life is for all of us, for there is no such thing as also ran’s. We are all running”.
Do not let anything stop you from reaching your truest potential including your inability to communicate like those on television. You can learn as you grow but by all means start your journey. We cannot all be flawless speakers but we can channel our hearts to the core of our message. Usually, to transform humanity all you need is a conviction in yourself that you can bring about positive change in your generation. That is confidence as defined by your inner locus of understanding. This will take you as far as you need to go.
Now that you know you can. Start!