Photo: Portrait of the Castiglione who wrote about self Confidence in the fifteenth Century in “The Book of the Courtier”
Do you avoid difficult social situations, are you sensitive to criticism, do you easily get anxious and are you reluctant to trust yourself? In the following you will read a clinical psychologist’s perspective on the matter of “Self Confidence”. You will find concrete advise and food for thought.
Mastery – of something
Having self confidence is often hinged on being able to answer for yourself. The ability to know what you are doing and why you are doing what you are doing. If you are witless you will easily fall prey to feelings of embarrassment. If you are sat in school and the teacher asks you a question to the homework that everybody else around may have read, and you haven’t, you may easily feel like you are being put on the spot. Your classmates may even laugh at you. You will not feel confident at all.
It is all about mastery. Do what is needed. Gain the skills required to earn your space among others: If you are studying do your homework, if you are working as a black smith, carpenter, electrician etc know your tools. You get the drift. In this sense there is no easy way around getting more self confident – do the work and your self confidence will grow from your labor.
What to do if you are temperamentally inclined to have low conscientiousness? If you are the lazy type, as it were?
One trick is to structure the work.
Example: Set aside specific hours for your productivity – like doing your homework every other day from 16-18 hours. It’s called “prioritizing activity goals over performance goals”. The moment you let go of thoughts about performing and replace it with thoughts about “just being active studying” you may cancel out your procrastination. Procrastination is our natural response to thoughts of having to perform.
A rather magical and general piece of advice to people with low productivity, would be to begin working out. Being physically active at least 3-4 times a week, works wonders for most procrastinators whatever the explanation.
Dealing with your Introverted Narcissism
Normally when we think of narcissism we think of people who are extroverted and who appear self confident. There are however also the introverted kinds. They harbor thoughts of grandeur but due to shyness they never get to practice and develop their skills. Hence they feel like they are walking on thin ice all the time. The discrepancy between their felt competencies and their actual competencies is like a canyon. A lonely and unfulfilled place. This frustrating place may give birth to great art as these types of lonely persons may create fascinating worlds (Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kirkegaard were most likely introverted narcissists) but most people of this sort just suffer.
What to do? The clue is in the social world. The thing is: The more the introverted narcissist isolates him- or herself the more vulnerable he or she becomes to social situations. Therefore any and all social activity will dampen this cause of low self esteem. Discovering that you are a normal human being will redeem you.
Posture, body language and voice
How do you take up space? People with low self confidence will often portray it in the way they walk, stand, sit and talk. We know from cognitive behavioral therapy that this way of carrying yourself reinforces your lack of self confidence. By composing yourself as an excuse for yourself you are basically telling yourself that you don’t count. That you are at the bottom rung of all human hierarchies.
It follows that you can develop your self confidence by tuning your general behavior a bit:
Walk and stand straight. In many self help books including Jordan B Peterson’s “Twelve Rules for Life” you are called upon to shoot your chest out and look people straight in the eyes. While this may work for some, it is also an imposing posture which may garner more problems than solutions to your life. In my experience it also makes sense to stand straight but your gait should be confident in a more relaxed manner. The most relaxing way you can comport yourself is by walking with your pelvis shot out and your shoulders drawn back. This is the way men carry themselves in Tango, this is how small children, Winnie the Pooh and Homer Simpson walk and this is the way the cowboy movie hero walks: his belt buckle entering the saloon before his boots do. You get the drift. This way of walking does not invite a stare down; it simply announces that this person is chill.
When it comes to your voice and articulation, do yourself the favor of speaking clearly, don’t slur. When having gained your place among people with a gentleman’s ease and honor and you have learned how to speak as someone others may want to stop and listen to – you can being hushing up your voice, drawing it out or slurring it as badly you may want.
Sprezzatura – Taking it Easy
Make it look like you don’t make an effort.
You may study hard and follow what is going on in the political realm closely but you don’t act flashy with your ego nor your knowledge. You don’t try to convince anyone about anything. You signal that you are perfectly happy not knowing things and above all you never argue. You’d rather let people around you reap the rewards of appearing to be the ones knowing things and being in the right.
The term “Sprezzatura” was coined by Castiglione who wrote about it in “The Book of the Courtier” in the fifteenth century:
“I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all other, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it
The character who arguably has embodied sprezzatura better than anyone else is James Bond. In the world of litterature Albert Camus has also cast many characters who had great sprezzatura. Any character who appears cool, collected and calm. Any character who doesn’t care too much about what other people may think – about anything really.
With the advent of mindfulness based approaches in psychotherapy the term “self accept” has gained traction in our collective psyche. This has been a timely revolution of our modern talking therapies.
When casting one’s problems in terms of “self esteem” or “self confidence” you are tricked into thinking of yourself, as a something that lacks something. Hence these kinds of terms may actually lower your self confidence? Perhaps it would better to just chill out and try to accept yourself as you are instead with flaws and all. The ideal:
Being in the now with openness, creativity, vulnerability and curiosity without neurotic ideas of how you should appear.
“….Should I then forget all about mastery and stop working on my narcissism and not care about my posture, voice and “sprezzatura?”
No. Not at all. But be aware of the fact that underneath it all lies a fundament of self love, the idea that you are worthy of love and attention – adulation even. This is the key to unlocking all the others doors to a more confident life.
Let me know what you think. Leave a comment if you wish to.
If you would like a hand developing a more confident life you may book a session or write me a mail: Thomas.Markersen@Gmail.com