10 Easy Ways to Cultivate Unshakeable Creative Confidence
So, let's start at the beginning. What does confidence mean to you? How would you define it? The word 'confidence' is actually a medieval word that means assurance or belief in the truthfulness or honesty of another. It comes from the Latin word 'confidentia' which means to trust, to be bold, to rely upon. Does this definition surprise you? Confidence is not actually about having a charismatic, extroverted, superstar level of outer confidence, it is actually about cultivating gentle inner confidence and self-belief based on authenticity. Now, when we are a creative or working in a creative industry, there are so many things that can shake our confidence, such as uncertainty regarding work - and especially for freelancers, we may wrongly assume that if we haven't got any work right now, we must be useless at what we do. Another thing that can really knock our confidence is the idea of being judged. Being ignored, rejected, and even criticised can really go deep with us and make us have a confidence wobble. I know because I have experienced all of this on many occasions as a freelance writer. But what can we do when we are creative and we long to put our work out into the world but we are afraid to? Firstly, I think it's helpful to go back to the meaning of the word confidence. So, confidence means belief in truthfulness, trust, and reliability. So what is true for us? What are the values that guide our lives? What is the meaning behind why we do what we do? What is our 'why'? When we hold on to this, we develop unshakable self-trust and we know that the foundations from which we create are strong. Now add to this a little shake of boldness, and we're all set to become confident creators. Ok, so that's the inner confidence piece sorted, but how do we become bolder? So often, when it comes to sharing our work, I think we can fall into the habit of waiting until we feel ready, and until we feel confident, but if we wait until we feel confident to put our work out into the world, we may be waiting forever. In my experience, we get bolder and better, and more experienced and confident by taking action and by doing - and this, over time, can create a positive feedback loop. I say this, too, as someone with experience of not doing things and feeling my confidence become sapped as a result of this. Confidence is really something that ebbs and flows, but what I do know is that when we don't do something, it becomes bigger and scarier in our mind and in our perception of it. So simply by starting small - by doing the smallest thing possible, and then the next smallest thing, and then the next - we build our creative confidence and courage incrementally. It's all about baby steps. Confidence is nice to have and it supports us in doing what we love and are passionate about, but it's not a have-to-have. We don't need to cultivate it before we create. Just create first, and don't overthink writing that novel, entering that competition, or pressing 'send'. Just do it, then the confidence will come. Really, we develop confidence and strength through perseverance, discipline, and just keeping on keeping on. This is not to say that we shouldn't rest and it's not to say that we should push on past our comfort levels or our feelings of tiredness, but rather it is about doing the things that we love because we love to do them and because they fill us up and energise us - and because we hope that other people might love what we do too. If we're not feeling it right now, though, just take a break and come back to it. Also, it's important to remember that even if our work is met with rejection or criticism, it's all subjective. One person's rubbish might be another person's treasure, and if we can just hold on to our inner confidence, our values, and our 'why', we'll be just fine. All we have to do is to keep focused on our goal, and the worthiness of our goal - and how the achievement of it will not only help us but may also help others too. Believe in yourself, and the conviction of your beliefs will carry you beyond any lack of confidence. Helen Keller once said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." With even just a little self-belief and faith in ourselves and our gifts, then, we can massively empower ourselves. Confidence is not, however, to be confused with loudness, so don't fall into the comparison trap or make the mistake of thinking that loudness or a larger platform equals more knowledge, more experience, or more passion. It doesn't. Confidence comes in all shapes and sizes, and confidence can be quiet too. There is always a subtle balancing act between our vulnerabilities, insecurities, and fears and our confidence, courage, and self-belief. We need to tilt and pivot with all of this in order to find balance. There is no magic pill that can give us instant confidence and make all the other bits vanish, and we'd be in a real mess if such a pill existed! A huge part of our confidence comes from our authenticity, and we can't be truly authentic unless we are also flawed, imperfect, and vulnerable. But with that being said, what little things can we do to help us feel more creatively confident? The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu once said, "Kindness in words creates confidence", so we need to start listening to the language we use that limits us and our creativity. Listen for expressions like "I can't...' or "I'm not...". If you hear yourself say this, catch it, notice it, and question it. Say instead, "actually, I can..." and "actually, I am..." Practice letting go of some of those limiting beliefs by looking for evidence that contradicts them. Tell yourself a different story. As a writer, for example, should I focus on the articles that have been ghosted or rejected, or should I focus on the ones that have been published? What can I learn from the ones that were rejected and from the ones that were accepted? What story are you telling yourself? Focus on the lessons and foster limitless beliefs rather than limiting beliefs. Visualise yourself doing the things you love and just going for the things that you want to go for, regardless of the outcome; if my writing is rejected, it's not the end of the world. Stay confident in your values and your 'why', and set yourself some gentle goals. If you'd like a little more structure, 'smart goals' - where SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely - can be helpful. We need to be kind to ourselves and to tread gently, and practice self-care and living slowly. Take baby steps in the direction of your dreams and your passions, and watch your inner confidence soar - and even when things don't go your way, practice acceptance, curiosity, and most importantly of all, don't give up, because this is the way of the truly confident and courageous creative.