Sunday Edition #23: My Column in Yellow
I struggle with my confidence especially in meeting new people. In the past I had trouble formulating the words to express myself clearly. People made fun of me or got mad at me for stumbling. Even though I’ve worked hard to speak up for myself, I still carry that fear with me. Do you have any suggestions on how to feel more confident in expressing my truth?
The first thought coming to mind is... if people are impatient and insult you for stumbling over words, they probably aren’t worth sharing your voice with. But, I realize there are times when it is important to speak with someone who is difficult to approach whether it be for business or pursuing your passion and purpose. So, let’s figure this out.
Confidence starts with acknowledging your worth. The most critical point I need you to hear, understand and embody is… Your voice and truth are worth hearing.
We all have something to contribute to this world. I slap stickers and paint murals everywhere I go saying, “The World Needs Your Beauty.” And by beauty, I mean inner beauty. Expressing our truth, sharing our talents and pursuing our passions are what make this world a beautiful place. The worst thing you can do is doubt yourself to the point you fall into complete silence.
The world needs your voice.
Even though this topic is about speaking with confidence, you also need to carry your physical body with confidence. Stand tall. Heart up rather than slinking into the self protection of a rounded spine and collapsed rib cage. How you present yourself not only makes the one you are talking to see your confidence but it will also help you feel it from within.
Don’t let your thoughts get ahead of your words or vise versa. Many of us speak fast when we get nervous which results in stumbling on words or rambling around thoughts. Take a deep breath before you begin and remember to breath along the way of what you are saying! Hurrying through a point you are trying to make will only cause it to be harder to understand by those listening. It can also transfer any anxiety or discomfort you might be feeling onto them. They will walk away feeling unsettled and I’m sure that isn’t the impression you want to make.
Over-explaining a point you are trying to make can also steer the conversation into a downward spiral. Remember the words of Einstein, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” The more words coming out of your mouth before reaching the point of what you are trying to say, the faster you will lose the attention of your audience. Embrace the beauty of brevity.
There is also a beauty in speaking only when you have something worth saying. Some people fall into the problem of feeling the need to talk all the time. Silence during a conversation is just as important. There is no shame in not contributing with words the entire time. Limiting how often you jump in can make your words more powerful. When I worked in advertising, there was a woman in the Creative Department whom I admired greatly. During meetings she would sit quietly and listen while everyone fought for airtime during the conversation. The moment she spoke up, everyone stopped talking and gave her their full attention. She didn’t speak often but when she did, it was worth hearing and made a huge impact on everyone who heard her.
Confidence in speaking your truth isn’t something that will happen overnight. As we all know, practice is what makes perfect. You are going to need to put yourself in situations that might feel scary or uncomfortable. But, start by utilizing moments and people you find it easier to speak up around. Take note of why you feel safer with them and how you can carry that forward with you. Then, challenge yourself by going into situations that are more difficult but not necessarily “life and death” for something you need/want. Keep stepping it up from there.
If the fear of making a mistake causes inaction, you will struggle with moving forward. Perfection is an impossible expectation and can bring frustration and a sense of failure if you stumble along the way towards conquering this demon. The hardest challenge many of us face is accepting our imperfections and knowing we won’t always be flawless. This is all part of being human.
I bet you aren’t as bad at expressing your truth as you might think. We are our own worst enemy when we look in the mirror with a critical eye. Find forgiveness and compassion for yourself. Embrace each stage of your evolution and like I said earlier, never forget that your voice and truth are worth hearing. So get out there and make it known!
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My Life in Yellow is not a licensed psychologist or health care professional and the advice within this column does not replace the care of psychologists or other healthcare professionals. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a health/medical professional. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.