Questioning Confidence

Chris & Karen Highland

Giving yourself credit is a tough thing. I don’t know about you, but I am my own worst critic. I always have been and, alas, I probably always will be. It’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand it pushes me to keep improving and learning, but on the other hand it makes me a little insecure. How do I know if I’m good enough? Will people like me even if I make a bad decision, or say the wrong thing? Is my nose really too big for my face? It’s normal to doubt yourself but I sometimes wonder if I doubt myself too much and too often. My friend and I have often pondered the question, what is the key to confidence? Recently, for reasons I blogged about here, we decided to interview talented movers and shakers from a range of different sectors to find out what makes them feel confident and whether they had anything in common. Here are a couple of highlights…

We blagged an interview with BBC Silent Witness star and disability rights activist, Liz Carr. She told us: “Partly being confident is knowing, it’s ok not to be… what I’m really glad I never had when I was starting out was a crystal ball… I graduated 20 years ago and there is no way I could have imagined I would end up where I am now. Sometimes you can feel really rubbish because you think you everyone knows what they want and the key to being a grown up is knowing we all just don’t know what we’re doing!” Watch the short interview here.

It just so happened that my friend and I were outside an on location broadcast booth of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Initially we were way too scared to approach the show’s presenters to ask for an interview and it took a good ten minutes for us to build the confidence to approach them. Turns out presenter Jane Garvey was more than happy to talk to us—and to think we nearly didn’t ask! Without a moment’s hesitation she told us, “confidence is the ability to bullsh*t convincingly!” [please pardon the language] In this clip she talks about how she developed her confidence as a professional broadcaster and an individual.

We interviewed Susie Orbach, a feminist writer and psychoanalyst who described confidence as “an act of generosity towards yourself.” This really struck a chord with me. I look back and think how badly I used to torture myself over tiny little things. I worried that all people would see in me was the negatives I saw in myself. It seems silly now, but it really wasn’t at the time and I missed out on a lot of fun because of it. Whenever that nagging insecure voice in my head told me I wasn’t perfect, I wish, wish, wish, I had been more kind and generous to myself and said, you know what, SO WHAT? I’m good enough.

After all 15 interviews the overwhelming message that I took away from these confident, inspiring and successful women was that confidence comes hand in hand with experience. Experience comes with practice and with time. Confidence for most people is a lifelong a work in progress. So relax.

In truth I was almost too scared to link to this video because it’s not as slick as we hoped it would be. A very, very long story short: a perfect storm of problems including difficulties cutting 15 long interviews into short soundbites for a video no longer than 4mins (FYI people do not speak in short sentences!), frequent computer failure, audio and lighting problems and rubbish free video editing software, left us with something far short of the professional-looking viral video we envisioned. But here I go again… beating myself up about failing to reach ridiculous standards of perfection, instead of focusing on the fact that for two people who had literally zero video-making experience, and who don’t even own a video camera(!), we did pretty good. We had an absolute blast, laughed until we cried and produced something valuable in the end of it. It’s not perfect, SO WHAT. It’s good enough. Next time, it’ll be that much more awesome.


 Written by Shirin Zaid

Photography courtesy of Chris & Karen Highland