Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

Confidence…Can it be learned?


Does it seem like some people are born force-full and self-confident, while others struggle with voicing their opinion or speaking up with ideas and promoting ourselves. Does this mean that, for the most part, confidence is something you’re born with, and those less gifted in the area simply have to deal with it as best we can? Absolutely Not!

According to an article published in Psychology Today “most socially confident people deliberately learn specific skills”.

So what exercises do the experts recommend for the confidence-challenged who are eager to learn to keep unruffled in front of others? First, forget about simply repressing your anxiety, which simply makes you more self-conscious. Then, consider honing the following skills:

  • Read your body right: “You can create a crisis of confidence by overreacting to your own normal heightened alertness. But if you can work yourself up simply by misinterpreting your body’s signals, you can chill yourself out by reading them correctly. The irony of misreading your nervous system’s cues is that far from harming you, your natural excitement can enhance your performance. Increased activation is not a sign that you’re failing, but that you want to do well and your body is ready to help.”
  • Focus on helping others: “Mastering social skills requires tuning in to your self-esteem. But instead of being self-conscious and fixating on your anxiety, work on creating positive interactions that make the people around you feel engaged and happy. Focusing less on yourself and more on others will yield big payoffs in expanded social opportunities.” Also, “feeling allegiance to a larger cause can make your discomfort more tolerable”
  • Get cozy with your fears: If you’re brave enough, “try ‘implosion’ — tackling a challenge so intimidating that once you’ve made it through, your original goal no longer fazes you.” Comedy stars Conan O’Brien and Will Ferrell apparently first started performing because it was what they feared most. By tackling their fears head on they overcame them.

The article includes much more information on the science of shyness, including statistics on its prevalence (40 percent of young people report they’re shy) and the genetic basis of social anxiety, as well as a ton of personal anecdotes about introverts’ battles to become more confident. If you’re interested, it’s worth checking out.


2 thoughts on “Confidence…Can it be learned?

  1. Hey. I agree with the first two tips, but I do not agree with the last one. I have suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder and I’m pretty isolated. I’m going to graduate school online, and I don’t have many social situations, other than large social gatherings. I pretty much bounce from one large gathering to the next, in fact. I push myself through them somehow. Thus far, I do not believe that this type of exposure helps, in fact I believe it does more harm than good because it confirms all the negative beliefs I have about myself. Slow, gradual, systematic exposure is much better–but it’s hard to get since I am so isolated. I think once I graduate and am back in the workforce, I’ll be able to tackle my fears slowly.

    • Mike,
      Thanks for your comments. Each of us has a process for managing through personal and other such challenges. Change happens when you belive in the process you are following. I commend you for taking the steps that you have taken and wish you the best of luck.

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