Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence and being myself, and how these two things might intersect. This has been inspired by reading Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy (I’m about half way through, and I’m finding it a fascinating and illuminating read), and a conversation with Megan Macedo, who is an entrepreneur and marketing consultant teaching Be Yourself Marketing. (I’ll be interviewing Megan soon on the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, so stay tuned!)
I am an introvert. I am clearly an “I” on the Myers-Briggs preference index, and reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking 3 years ago was validating, indeed life-affirming, for me. She helped me recognize that some of my strengths are actually rooted in this aspect of my personality.
Over my three years of training to be an Alexander Technique teacher I felt layers of tension that for years had formed a kind of armor around me fall away. In many ways I was uncovering my true self. At times I felt exposed and vulnerable, and yet gradually a sort of inner confidence started to shine through. I felt comfortable in my own skin.
Confidence and introversion are not two things we usually think of in the same sentence. I believe firmly, however, that they are not incompatible. Indeed, my experience tells me so.
On the other hand, shyness and introversion are often thought of as synonymous, although strictly they are not the same thing. Shyness can broadly be defined as lack of confidence in dealing with others, whereas introversion is more about wanting (or needing) to spend time in your own inner world of ideas and images, rather than in the outer world of people and things (Myers Briggs Foundation).
As a child I was most definitely shy, but for the most part I did grow out of it, though new social situations were not necessarily comfortable as I tried hard to “fit in.” This involved quite a lot of excess tension, as I later found out.
As I studied the Alexander Technique, and especially during those three intense years when I trained to become a teacher, I gradually dropped the tension and contracted postures I’d lived in for so long, I learned to open up and be myself. Being in a more open posture is not only associated with confidence and feeling powerful, but also allows me to show up as me. It doesn’t change who I fundamentally am, or suddenly make me a full-on extrovert. In some ways it’s the reverse. It allows me to more fully own who I really am.
In turn this helps me be a better advocate for myself. I may not be great at small talk, but I have the confidence to speak up when I have something to say. In fact I love working with groups and sharing my work.
I’m more confident in expressing my own needs. I’m better about saying “no” when I need to, and more open to saying “yes” too, and I unapologetically prioritize alone time for myself each day. Quiet confidence can go a long way.
So, my key message is this:
Learning to open up and present yourself with confidence doesn’t mean a complete personality change.
Rather, it means having the confidence to show up and be yourself.
This is a key part of my own inner work, as well as my work with my clients. It helps with everything in business and in life. It’s certainly not always easy for me, but I am confident enough in myself that I now know I don’t need to apologize for being myself – with my posture or with my words.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”