Don’t believe the hype – confidence is a skill, not something you’re either born with or without.
While to some it feels innate, and to others intangible, just like leadership, learning a language and sharing your goddamn toys with your sister, how to be confident is 100 per cent something that can be taught and honed.
So, if you feel like your self-belief has grown flabby over time and is long overdue a gym session, read on. We’ve assembled a motley crew of individuals from disparate vocations, yet with a common thread – all have hurdled obstacles both personal and psychological in order to emerge more rounded, more self-assured, and more confident.
Tirernan Douieb is a stand-up comedian, actor and podcast host. He has supported Frankie Boyle on tour, and once had his back shaved by Gillian Anderson as part of Mark Watson’s 27 Hour Show for Comic Relief.
“I was definitely an annoyingly confident kid. I wasn’t the class clown – there were other kids that were much funnier than me – but I liked being a performer and being funny when I was given a platform. Looking back, I was clearly irritating, but I was also very sociable, so I guess that helped.
“With acting, you’re performing someone else’s words, or as someone who’s not you. So, if the audience hate it, they don’t hate you, they hate your character, the direction or the writing. With stand-up, it’s all you. If they don’t laugh, it’s because you’re shit. In terms of self-belief, that’s a pretty big leap.
Slightly concerned that the face recognition on my phone still works when wearing this. If Santa mugs me I’m in trouble. pic.twitter.com/yehsk6ZnIH
— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) December 8, 2018
“I was terrified before my first gig. I was pale and wobbly, feeling nauseous and unable to think of anything except getting it over with. It went well – the audience were supportive university friends, so I was lucky – but I knew within 30 seconds of being on stage that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
“When you do stand-up, confidence becomes a really useful tool. You can use it to persuade audiences to get onside, luring them into giving you space to talk to them about, well, anything. If an act is nervous onstage, the audience worry for them, but if you stride on with confidence, they sit back and relax, and are yours to entertain.
“Dealing with hecklers takes confidence, but it also takes remembering where you are and how it all works. You’re the comedian, you’ve got the microphone, the lights are on you and the audience have paid to be entertained. Nine times out of 10, the heckler isn’t funny and is probably annoying and/or wasted. So you take a breath to get a retort ready, then dish it out with the assuredness that you’re in charge. If a heckle is genuinely good and you can’t top it, then crediting them for it and saying it was funny shows you’re a good sport, and also removes any power from them, because if they keep going, you’ve been courteous and they haven’t.
— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) October 31, 2018
“Confidence can build. When I started, doing five minutes in front of a crowd was terrifying. Within five years, gigging to hundreds was fun and, by eight or nine, thousands was fine. Now I’ll happily walk out in front of any size crowd and it’s not a problem.
“I’ve also learned that having confidence about one thing doesn’t mean you’ve got it about everything. Standing in front strangers and performing has never been a problem, but if someone tells me off or I get in trouble, all of it ebbs away. I’m still terrified of bungee jumping or sky-diving, but maybe if I did those things enough, after a few years I’d be ok.”
The Life Coach
Anna Williamson is the new celebrity dating agent for E4’s Celebs Go Dating.
“To me, confidence is about being content. Inner contentment is hugely powerful at helping you feel grounded and self-confident. I have definitely had a massive journey with my own confidence and self-esteem – from a super shy child that would hide behind my mum’s skirt, to where I am now as a life coach, counsellor and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner – the change has been monumental. Having an anxiety disorder didn’t help my confidence for a time, but managing that successfully brought a new sense of acceptance and confidence; confidence that I am strong and to listen to what my mind and body needs.
“Having my own mental health struggles a decade ago opened my eyes to the world of talking therapies and indeed how so many of us are struggling in day to day circumstances. Dating and relationships have never been harder to navigate – so much choice, and yet, it seems, never enough. I love to help people understand who they are, what they want and what they ultimately need in a relationship.
“A good coach or therapist should always be non-judgemental, ethical, moral, confidential and trustworthy. A coach that’s faking any of that is not worth investing your time, money and heart in. My career has taught me that to be confident, you must first show vulnerability. Confidence comes from within – don’t measure yourself against anyone else, instead, focus on what’s great about you.”
You can find out more about Celebs Go Dating here
The Summer Camp Counsellor
Joshua Baker has worked at Camp America every summer for the past five years, helping take care of kids as young as 12.
“As a young kid I was relatively outgoing, but when I got to secondary school I got a lot quieter. I was separated from all my primary school friends, I felt lost and got bullied a little bit. I also got extreme anxiety when it came to performing – the idea of public speaking was terrifying, and made me feel nauseous.
“My family has a history of public service, so after school I found myself heading towards joining the police, even though I wasn’t sold on the idea. I began studying criminology and volunteered as a Special Constable, but during every scenario I’d get extreme anxiety and my confidence would suffer. The first time I had to arrest someone, halfway through I forgot what you have to say. Clearly, the woman had been arrested before, because she actually finished my lines for me.
“After university I didn’t know what I wanted to do, only that I didn’t want to join the police. I went back to my old job at a go-kart track, and a friend there suggested Camp America. I’d always wanted to travel, so I went to a recruitment fair where they fly in about 200 different camp directors and hire people on the spot. I basically just spoke my experience with go-karts, and though they did hire me on the spot, I later found out that it was because they were just incredibly desperate for a go-kart counsellor; it was towards the end of the day.
“I vividly remember the first time I was left alone in charge of this group of 22 kids – they were all looking to me and I thought ‘Well, I guess I’m the adult here’. But they were so outgoing, so outspoken and were asking me a million questions, so they made it really easy for me to actually just be myself. Their confidence and their brazenness was contagious.
“I’ve been going back for five years now, and have been with the same boys for all of them. They were 12 when I started and will be 17 now, and as much as I’ve been a role model for them, they’ve taught me a great deal about myself, and it has allowed me to become more confident.
“Those kids – and camp in general – made me realise that being who you are is an incredibly valuable thing.”
For more information about Camp America, visit their website
The Holiday Rep
Luke Harris has a post graduate degree in psychological wellbeing, and after working for Party Hard Travel as a resort host in Malia over the summer, has been offered a full-time position for the travel agency.
“I became a holiday rep because I wanted to do something different. I had just finished university, was unsure of what to do and decided to throw myself into working abroad. I thought it would be a natural role for me, but it was also clear that the job would involve stepping out of my comfort zone.
“The main duty of being a rep is to make sure the guests have the best time they possibly can. However, there’s a misconception that being a rep involves non-stop partying during the night and never seeing the day, which really is not the case. With new arrivals every day, there’s never a dull moment, and working throughout the day and night, juggling admin and getting communications out to over 500 people can be tough. The truth is, the work is hard and the hours are long, but it’s rewarding. When guests come to the end of their holiday and thank you personally because they’ve had an amazing time, that’s the highlight of the job.
“I’d say you need a little bit of confidence in order to apply, but being overly confident isn’t the key – you tend to grow in confidence on the job. It’s not about faking it, it’s about learning and growing throughout the whole process, knowing what makes you nervous, facing challenges head on and gaining in confidence from your experiences. The most valuable knowledge I have is knowing that being nervous because of a situation is temporary. Pushing yourself to face situations you would normally find uncomfortable, as challenging as it may be initially, can be very rewarding after the fact.
“This job has taught me to accept that confidence isn’t a concept you suddenly gain, and once you have it you have it. It’s situational, and has peaks and troughs. I think once you understand that being loud and always knowing what to say doesn’t constitute confidence – but rather knowing yourself and facing challenges does.”
For more information on Party Hard Travel, visit their website.