Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Taking the “con” out of confidence

Many people reading this blog post will be aware that the TV series The Apprentice has just come to its conclusion for yet another series here in the UK. A bright-eyed  quirky young inventor called Tom has made it through this bizarre circus to reach the dizzy heights of being  dear Lord Sugar’s new “business partner”.

 So, hats off to Tom.

 However, I’d like to focus on a candidate who had been fired from the process a couple of weeks’ previously. This was a girl called Melody who had displayed the most mind boggling show of apparent self assuredness and confidence through much of the series –  yet ultimately to no avail.

 I was struck though by something she said in the follow up interview with Dara O’Briain. It was words to the effect that, the very times she appeared to be at her most confident were those when she was actually feeling most afraid or insecure.

 The Apprentice is famed for its posturing, with the young whippersnappers strutting their stuff in order to impress and convince that they have what it takes to get into Lord Sugar’s business undies. Melody’s comments blew the lid on that and I found myself actually liking her for the very first time.

 She had overtly verbalised and exposed  the open secret of the  “con” in so called confidence.

 When I first worked in sales, and felt nervous or afraid, I would parade my “confidence” at times in order to mask a shaky self esteem. Under the surface I would feel like jelly, yet the outward “me” would be thrusting, loud and quick witted.

 Nowadays, I often ask delegates on  courses: “What is confidence?  What is self esteem? How do they differ?” Their discussions usually draw a similar conclusion: confidence being what we project (the outer) and self esteem being about what we think and feel about ourselves (the inner).

 If I think badly of myself or am afraid, but unable to express or share that openly and candidly, then I am more likely to over compensate by acting out aggression, boastfulness, arrogance or any number of other behaviours in order to stop the world from sussing how I am really feeling.

 I’d go as far as to say that most of us do this much of the time  – simply in order to give the impression that we can successfully make our way and ride the challenges that life chucks at us.

 We want others to have confidence in us, so we must appear confident ourselves.

 So, that begs the question as to how many apparently “successful” people are masking a very different story that exists under the surface? What kind of stress does the resulting lack of integrity create for them as they live out the pretence? Gerry Robinson, the former head of Granada once claimed in an interview that most (not all) people he’d encountered at the top of organisations were  screwed up one way or another. Worrying.

 One of my favourite actors is Robin Williams. However, I cannot bear to watch him being interviewed, as he consistently seems to hide behind incessant wisecracking. I never get to see the real Robin Williams – I wonder why?

 Yet, I can relate to him, given that humour was, in the past what I would, myself hide behind – and still do at times.

 So, should your boss shout at you today over some misdemeanour or a client or customer act aggressively towards you, simply draw breath calmly, look them in the eye and reassuringly say “I can recognise that you’re probably feeling rather insecure at the moment”.

 Actually, don’t. My guess is that such a strategy could be very dangerous. However, at least an understanding that such behaviours are usually borne out of insecurity or fear can help us accept them for what they are – protective mechanisms.

 The challenge for us all is to build up a more positive opinion of ourselves, in a healthy, integrated way, so that it marries up with our confidence – thus creating what one delegate on a course called “natural authority”. That gap between what we project (confidence) and how we are with ourselves (self esteem) narrows and we go about our business with true integrity and authenticity.  

 So, the killer question to ask ourselves is: “Do I like me?”

 If so, I no longer need to shout the odds, brag or pretend things are other than they really are. I imagine that would be mighty liberating, but I’m not quite there yet myself!

 Melody from The Apprentice was like a breath of fresh air. I hope her admission in that interview served to counter some of the posturing that is such a nauseating feature of the programme. Hopefully, viewers will have picked up the value of such an insight. Sadly, I somehow doubt it and “look forward” to another crop of whippersnappers pitching up to impress the bearded Brentford demi-god and his two archangels in a few months’ time.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to work on all this and practise my mantra: “I like me – actually”           


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