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How to show confidence without talking about ourselves

If telling everyone how great we are, or putting others down does not show confidence how can we show confidence?  How do we make ourselves feel confident without making someone else feel worse?

We show our confidence by our body language, standing tall, looking at the other person in the eyes, speaking with a clear voice, expressing our needs in a clear manner with a tone that tells others that we believe in our statements.

We show our confidence by our stepping up with courage when a situation needs to be made right.  We are not afraid of what others might think.  We have morals, values and ethics that we are willing to stand for.

positive_quotes_compliment_people_147From another point of view we show confidence by our willingness to ‘build others up’.  A confident person is not afraid to give sincere compliments to others or to express appreciation for what they have done or what they do.  Helping others feel good about themselves, and helping others feel good about another person, demonstrates a lack of fear, that someone may appear “better than” ourselves.

I especially like this point.  One of the things we teach at Balanced Life Skills is that the strongest leaders are ones who are willing to submit themselves to others by asking, “How can I help you?”.   Our willingness to help others improve themselves, to prove themselves, and to feel good about themselves is a demonstration of our own self-confidence.

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The science behind why anyone brags

When one person puts another person down by pointing out a weakness or making them feel “less than”, the confidence level of the recipient takes a hit.  When a person looks in the mirror and puts themselves down by focusing on what they have come to believe to be a weakness, their confidence is lowered – not improved on.

In trying to make up for not feeling confident some resort to pretending to be something that they are not – bragging or boasting – to make themselves feel “better than” or in an attempt to make the other person feel “less than”.  We see that kind of behavior in kids with one upping another child.  I scored 10,000 points on such & such game and the next kids say I scored 15 K and on and on.  We see it with kids feeling superior due to where they go to school (private vs. public), where they went on vacation, what they did this weekend, and the list goes on and on.

moms-braggingWhen it comes to adults and parents especially, we live in a culture in which most parents strive to raise ‘star’ children and convince everyone around them that they are stars.  They do this by gushing about a child’s accomplishments, how smart they are, how athletic, how beautiful they are.  Why do people – kids and adults carry on with bragging?   That answer in a moment.

How else does bragging show itself?  It might be shown on the purchasing of material things just to impress others (whether they can be afforded or not).  Keeping up appearances by this kind of activity is no different than speaking the words that are exaggerated to impress others. Still others may take actions to get the attention of others – to impress them with how brave or awesome they are – simply to prove the “better than” superiority.

So whether it is talking to no end about their non existent achievements, spending money to prove how well off they are, or pointing out the weaknesses of others – all of this is bragging and results in lowering the confidence of those that are targeted.  Oh yes the question WHY?

In 2012 a Harvard study found that sharing information about ourselves triggered the same sensations in the brain synonymous with eating food.  So talking about ourselves is rewarding.  In fact, it was found that 40% of what we talk about is our own thoughts and feelings.  So now that we are aware of what and why – the real question for us to consider is, How can we make ourselves feel confident without making someone else feel worse?  How can we make others feel more confident and spread those confident feelings around?

Thoughts on this question this week.

Tamir, Diana I., Mitchell, Jason P. “Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding.” Cambridge: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012. Web: wjh.harvard.edu/~dtamir/Tamir-PNAS-2012.pdf

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External or internal negative talk erodes confidence

What is it that can make us feel not so confident?  According to our students it can be many things including name calling.  Think about if you are called ‘shorty’ you become aware of being shorter than others and it may begin to bother you.  Someone makes fun of your nose saying it is so big – and that begins to bother you.  The list goes on and on.   Name calling – tall, short, skinny, fat, big ears, glasses, hearing aids….any one can find anything to make fun of.  It is that kind of external conversation that can deflate the confidence of an individual.

When students are asked if they would ever call their friend a name or would they point out something physical about them?  The answer is always “Of course not, that would be mean, not a good friend and so on”.  

How many of us though will look in the mirror and find something about ourselves that we do not like?  It may be something physical, as in what we look like, or it may be something about our personality.  We look in the mirror and discredit ourselves or our ability to accomplish a goal or an activity.  It is easy then to give up and stop liking ourselves, because we are doing to ourselves the very thing that we said we would never do to a friend.  Our confidence will take a nose dive and we are doing this to ourselves.

The next time you catch yourself being negative, putting yourself down or telling yourself that you can’t or don’t know how to do something – ask yourself, Given this situation with a friend, would I talk to them that way or would I encourage them to keep moving forward, to appreciate who they are or stop making fun of your physical attributes.  Find that answer and then practice that same kind of positive & upbuilding talk to yourself so that your confidence can grow or remain at a high level.

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Real Artists

“What is one thing you like about yourself?…. What are you good at? What is one talent that you have inside of you?” This is the question I asked my art class at BLS. The word of the month is confidence, and I wanted to start the class with each student feeling confident. One student was sitting in on his first class this year, and as one of my more shy students, hadn’t said a word to me thus far. He rolled his head back, stared up at the ceiling with his big eyes thinking hard, and then barely whispered, “I’m good at art.”

“Yes, you are! You are a very good artist! I love your work!” I said beaming at him, and he smiled his shy smile and started to relax a little.

“Oh yeah! I’m really good at art too!” Another one of my students chirped in, smiling from ear to ear. He is not as shy.

“Yes you are! You are a really good painter, you paint so fast and it’s always really good!” I reassured him.

Confidence in your artistic ability might seem like a pretty common idea in an art class, but I assure you that it’s not. It’s actually a pretty unique idea, one I’ve only heard from 5 year olds.  I also teach adult classes when I’m not at BLS.  I do events where people can come drink while I show them how to replicate one of my paintings. Before the event even gets started I am usually met with 10 or so people explaining to me why they will not be taking home a masterpiece that night. “I am a horrible artist! I’ll be lucky if you can even tell what the painting is!” To which I usually laugh and say something along the lines of –  “Drink some more, it helps the painting look better when you leave”, and then I turn around and wink at the bartender.

The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as a “horrible” artist. They’re just inexperienced artists. Somewhere between 5 and 45 someone convinced us that because we didn’t do things exactly the way everyone else was doing them that we were bad at it. We may have even been the ones telling ourselves that. After about four decades, it is easy to consider yourself  “hopeless”. But really, art isn’t about how well you can copy someone else’s style. It’s about finding your own style and refining it. Sure you may need to try different things to find your stride or your niche, but believing yourself is the only way to begin that journey and then keep the determination you need to become skilled at it.

I spend about 3 hours convincing my adult students to relax, have fun, and to stop trying to replicate my painting stroke for stroke or competing with the artist next to them. Happily, with younger students, I have to convince them TO copy someone else. “No, see… DaVinci’s Mona Lisa has black hair, not green” Or in one student’s case, not painting the whole page black every time. “Why don’t we just paint her hair black in THIS one, and THEN you can paint another picture and it can be all black. Ok? Ok.”:)

I have so much fun in my classes, and even though I am teaching your kids, really your kids are also teaching me. This month I’m learning that even if a 5 year old seems to be bursting with confidence, it is something that can easily be extinguished. We need to teach them to preserve it through their teenaged and adult years if they are going to reach their true potential and bring something new and different to the world. Just a little bit of reassurance goes a long way in a child’s world, and the results will astound you. They astounded me this week. These are my class’s masterpieces ~

IMG_6635 IMG_6639IMG_6636

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5 Reminders in dealing with diminishing confidence in children

Bullying at school pic

A child’s confidence can be diminished very quickly when they become the target of mean behavior or words.  One of the worst things that can happen to a child is being made feel “less than” by others.  This is many times the results of others talking about them, making sly comments, or being made to feel unwelcome or not a part of the group.

As this kind of behavior can be directed to anyone, especially a young person, we want to encourage them to be sure to speak up to adults and ask for the help that they need.  Along with that,  choosing friends that are not taking part in that kind of behavior is a good idea too.  Many times though, this is not enough.

As an adult, if a child comes to us with these kinds of situations, we can be confused about what the right thing to do might be.  There is no one answer to that question, as every situation and child needs to be worked with individually.  However, there are a few things for us to remember and not all of them are easy.   Control of ourselves and our emotions is key to do what is best for our children.

First, we must remember this is our child’s situation and our place is to protect them, but not take the problem over as if it is ours.
Second, what the target of this kind of behavior needs more than anything from us is to know that we understand their feelings.  So before you start getting all the details, be sure that you give your child as much time as they need to express themselves. (this is the hard part, because parents will want to jump right in and fix it)
Third, find out what your child would like to see happen and what they want to do or what they think might help the situation.
Fourth, help them weigh out their options, choose one and then practice it with them.
Fifth, follow up with how they are feeling, how it is working and what they want to do next.

Nobody has the right to make anyone feel less than or unworthy.  We have to understand though that bullying behavior is going to take place until we are able to create a culture of kindness and peace in our families, schools, and communities.  Having a ‘zero tolerance’ policy does not work in any community situation.  Changing culture of the community, where those in the community stand up and say – in our class, in our school, in our community – we do not treat each other in that manner, is what does work to eliminate confidence reducing behavior.  Are the teachers in your school making this the norm for the classroom?  The confidence level of your son or daughter may be at stake.

Anyone in our community that is dealing with a situation like this may consider working with a bully prevention expert like Joe Van Deuren at Balanced Life Skills.

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