What’s behind your confident smile?
Feeling anxious and self-doubting is a normal part of the human experience, right? Then why is it something we so rarely talk about? It’s true that, as a culture, we are far more inclined to hide those feelings from others as we put on our confident mask and get on with the show. And this can really work for some us. But, what does this do for all those people who are comparing themselves to you?
You see, with 1 in 10 people feeling socially anxious and 2 in 5 people identifying as shy, there’s a whole lot of people who feel anxious and self-doubting and really don’t believe they can do the things that they see you doing. There’s someone comparing how they feel inside, to how they think they see you on the outside –and they can’t imagine for one moment that you also feel anxious and self-doubting at times too. Because they don’t see how you and other people really feel, they believe they simply shouldn’t be this way.
They’re seeing themselves as uniquely weird. Feeling ashamed of who they are. Thinking they’re a failure; they can’t succeed so what’s the point in trying? And they’re afraid of people finding out how inherently flawed they are, so they’re hiding away and staying small; avoiding any situation in which someone might find out. Holding themselves back in their education, career, health and relationships. Trapped. Waiting until that day they magically feel confident… and then they’ll be able to do more.
But what if we all knew that feeling anxious and self-doubting was normal? That people who are successful don’t necessarily feel confident all the time (and often don’t even see themselves as confident people), but instead have learnt how to push through the anxiousness and self-doubts with courage. That far from being uniquely weird, feeling this way is a common human experience and there’s no need to hide away. It’s okay to have a go and not be perfect; and it’s even okay to be seen experiencing anxiety.
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Reframing confidence and anxiety
When we know we’re not alone and we see that we’re not ‘defective’ after all, but a normal human being with normal human emotions, we can relate to ourselves more kindly. We can accept our challenges with self-compassion, rather than fuelling the isolation with self-criticism. We can shift our focus from wanting to change who we are and become more like the people we view as successful, to focusing on how we are; learning from people we admire, believing we can improve and achieve, inspired by their relatable stories.
What can you do to change this?
The #SpeakingTheUnspoken campaign is encouraging people to look beyond perceived confidence and realise that they’re not so different from the people they see as successful after all. Together, we’re normalising feelings of fear, anxiety, self-doubt and generally feeling we might not be ‘enough’, proving that it doesn’t have to hold you back. It’s about closing the perceived gap between how someone sees themselves and how they view success, raising hope and ambitions and increasing the motivation to try and to grow.
Through the project, people like you are sharing those vulnerabilities they usually keep hidden in order to break down misconceptions that successful people are just inherently confident, don’t experience anxiety and self-doubt, or must be different in some way.
What if your story inspires someone who is struggling to imagine succeeding at something in life because of the way they feel? What if instead of responding to those feelings by staying small and playing safe, someone finds the courage and motivation to push through their fear and step outside of their comfort zone? What if sharing your story can raise hope and aspirations in people who have been letting fear and feeling different hold themselves back, until now?
Join us in #SpeakingTheUnspoken…
There are three ways you can get involved:
- Share on social media: Share your story by blog, vlog, audio clips, quotes or selfie sign on social media using the #SpeakingTheUnspoken hashtag.
- Write for our website: We’d love to share your story on our website -you can send a video or blog post to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Volunteer for a video interview (South West): We’ll be interviewing a limited number of people from the South West about their experiences to create a short documentary that will be shared with students to inspire those who are struggling with anxiousness, raising hope and ambition.
How will your openness inspire others?
Hayley shares her personal stories of feeling shy, socially anxious, ‘not good enough’ and fearfully avoiding the good things in life. Growing her confidence through coaching, gradually stretching her comfort zone and connecting with others, she now uses everything she has learned to help other people grow their confidence in her role as a coach. Hayley is passionate about connecting people with similar stories and creating safe, supportive spaces to make friends and try new things. Hayley dreams of a time when all of the strengths, skills and goodness in ‘quiet’ is recognised and appreciated as readily as being bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight is right now.