The Presence of Confidence - Standing in Who You Are

Lack of confidence in yourself is one of the most elusive barriers to making satisfying changes at work and in significant relationships. It lies beneath most of the reasons I see people for coaching.  It is a fear that if you stand in what you truly know-- about yourself, about what you do-- it will not be enough.  You will not be accepted as a full partner at work or in an intimate relationship.  You are not complete.  This is the kind of fear that can keep you off-balance and not knowing how to create or hold a new direction.

One of my clients, a woman in her mid-30’s, a professional psychotherapist, accepted a managerial position with a large non-profit organization that brought her a regular income, benefits-- plus a lot of concern that her skills as a supervising therapist were not adequate to her new position.  She actually did well on the job, as evaluations of her work attested, but kept feeling uncomfortable, that she was expected to have a more commanding personality than was her style.

In one of our coaching sessions, I asked her to stand facing me, lift her arms, and press her hands against mine.  I leaned my weight from my arms into hers, and asked her to press her weight back towards me.  I noticed that instead of pushing her hands forward directly into mine, she kept moving her hands with mine in circles. She did not push back directly towards me.

After doing this for a while, we talked about the feelings we’d both experienced during this exercise.  She said she’d felt as she usually did at work-- that she was trying to stay aware of how all the people she worked with were thinking, and that her mind was going all over the place.

I told her that I’d felt that she wasn’t fully present to me, that she wobbled and I couldn’t rely on her to be there with me.  What I needed, I told her, was for her just to be in her own knowing, and let me feel her presence and the weight of her hands directly against mine. I could tell that she knew what she needed to know, and she didn’t need to press hard to communicate that to me effectively.  She just needed to feel her confidence in being herself, and communicate directly with me by being presentto her own body and personal style.

The poet, Mark Nepo writes:  “[Psychologist Michael Mahoney] traces confidence to the Latin confidere, “fidelity,” and understands self-confidence as a fidelity to the self.  Indeed, it is only a devotion to that sacred bottom beneath our moods of insecurity that brings us back in accord with the center of the heart which shares the same living center with all beings.”

It is from this “sacred bottom,” this “non-judging state” as the poet Rumi calls it, that you can learn to connect authentically and effectively with others.