Awareness – Self Awareness – Self Confidence

Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Last week we discussed public self image, concluding that your public self image is in other people’s brains and yet that it’s put there almost entirely by you, by the ways you communicate with those around you.

Very few of us get into many actual fights, and yet the social hierarchy exists. In humans it’s built not from violence, physical beatings or horn-clashing head-buts, it’s built from much more subtle signals: Body-language and uniform and context and posture and tone and gait and manner and pheromones and hormones and inter and intra-personal feedback loops. These plus thousands of other subtle signals we don’t yet understand. In short, it’s built from communication; messages that we’re all, mostly subconsciously, transmitting and recieving all the time.

Each nervous system is collecting all these signals, counting and collating them, doing unbelievably complicated statistical analysis on them and the result of all this frantic neuronal activity is that that particular nervous system feels differently. It’s assessment of it’s own position in that social hierarchy, and the position of those it’s currently dealing with, change the context of the rest of the interactions going on around that awesomely complicated network of neurons.

And the way it feels to that nervous sytem, the variance and range of the result of that complex calculation, combined with the effects it has on cognition and behaviour, is what our language has labeled “Self Confidence”. You can judge the confidence of others, and that judgement is doubtless a part of the calculation just described, but you can only feel your own self confidence.

Understanding Self Confidence

Seen in this light, it’s clear that self confidence is not a simple thing. It’s built from a huge range of signals, communications and tells in both yourself and others. It hides so many feedback loops and self-referencing parameters that it’s bound to be chaotic in the mathematical sense and so difficult to predict. Self Confidence certainly is not judged entirely by brashness, volume, recklessness or refusal to back down. These things are just a part of the overall calculation and each of them has an optimum value, related to and dependent on the others, none of them will increase confidence merely by magnification.

Like love, confidence is not a simple fraction. It’s a multi-dimensional abstraction, a hyper-landscape, and we can’t hope to do much more than put a few stakes in the ground and roughly characterize it by massively oversimplifying.

The confidence club break down Self Confidence into five components. Each represeting a part of confidence which is not truly independent of the other parts. Each feeds on the others in the same way that the spiral skills feed-back and exaggerate each other’s abilities.

Physical Presence

The signals which you interpret to build your sense of physical presence include the set of your shoulders, the relaxation in the arms and support provided by the core muscles. Even your own expectation of how you’ll be treated comes across through the delicate dance of muscle movements and posture. You have already begun to change your posture, and this will probably already have begun to help you feel relaxed about the space you take up your physical presence. As that improves so your command confidence will continue to increase. As your muscles begin to reshape in response to that improved posture, you’ll begin to feel more confident about your own body’s shape.

Status Confidence

We have already discussed the social hierarchy, the feeling, the sense, that we each build and project of our own status within the social group. Your ‘status confidence’ is the feeling, the change in mood, which changes the way your behave to reflect your position in that hierarchy.

Obviously this reflects your assessment of the confidence of the others within that group too, just as they in turn will be interpreting signals you’re sending to judge your opinion of yourself and of those around you.

You can effect your own sense of status confidence simply by imagining events which would change this sense if they were true. Your brain isn’t really sophisticated enough to completely include the difference between imagination and fact in the calculation of your own social confidence. Sure enough, this month’s meditation will have you remember or imagine some act which would lead others to believe your confidence is higher. You’ll also pay attention to others there, observing it.

Peer Independence

Peer Independence reflects your trust in yourself. The truth is that no sane person is ever completely sure of anything, and that being backed up by others agreeing with you reinforces your opinion on everything from the niceness of the weather through to your own status confidence.

By spending more time concentrating on the times you were right to trust yourself over others you can increase your confidence about taking that risk.

Note: It may not pay to increase your peer independence too much. Other people help to ground you.

Social Confidence

When you share a secret with someone, they are more likely to share a secret with you. Most human beings are pretty similar. They go through similar ordeals, they have similar concerns, fears, problems and difficulties. We all have more or less the same dashed hopes, painful episodes and of course joys and pleasures and dreams. We tend to concentrate on the differences between people, because these are the things which distinguish us from each other, but the similarities in our lives in fact far outnumber those differences.

Understanding this, and paying more attention to the similarities, will increase your social confidence, your willingness to share those experiences with others. Fearing their judgement is likely to decrease it.

Extra social confidence will literally help you find confidants, influencing that part of your confidence which is in your public self image, in other people’s brains.

Stage Presence

Public speaking can scare some people more than aeroplane flights, roller-coasters, video-nasties, or even physical attack. The fight-or-flight adrenal response is just as real and just as true when you’re about to step onto a stage, or make a presentation, as if you’re being chased by a lion.

Like all the other confidence skills, feedback loops are important here. If you think of yourself as a confident public speaker, then there’s nothing to be afraid of and so you’ll act like one. If you think of yourself as a poor public speaker you’ll concentrate on past experiences of being a poor public speaker, invigorate the adrenal response, make yourself more afraid.

By concentrating on positive outcomes, pre- and re-playing successful experiences, you will increase this form of confidence too. If you want to improve your stage presence, listen to our meditation this month imagining or recalling a scene in which you are indeed on stage and full of stage confidence

Manipulating Self Confidence

Obviously you can’t directly change all of the variables which are collected and categorized and calculated in order to build this abstract quantity which affects your behaviour and impression of yourself. You can’t directly change the pheromones in the air, though changing your confidence levels WILL effect the composition of the pheromones you sweat out. You can’t directly change the posture of your conversational partner or the tone in which they’re talking, though they will react to changes in your behaviour.

Much of the calculation which your subconscious brain is constantly re-evaluating does come from variables which you can change through conscious deliberate action. You can change your own posture, you can change your clothes, where you stand or sit in a room, how often and loudly you speak. You can learn to stride a more confident gait, you can (over time) change the shape of your body.

More than this you can change the focus of your attention, and change the importance of various aspects which infleunce the neural calculation that makes you feel confidence. If you focus on things which work in your favour rather than those which work against building self confidence, you’ll automatically begin to feel more confident. By spending more time attending to positive traits and signals and less obsessing over negative ones, you can alter the focus of that calculation, change which of those signals it assumes has importance.

This direct action will have repercussions on the aspects of that calculation which you can only influence indirectly, your public self confidence in other people’s brains and thus the actions of others.

Our Meditation

When listening to this month’s mediation you’ll be asked to think of a positive trait and remember yourself exhibiting that trait, remembering how it feels. If you’re trying to work on self confidence in particular you should obviously think of an example when you were showing the type of self confidence which you wish to work with.

It may help to think of the meditation as a personal puff piece, an advert to advertise your confidence in yourself to yourself. The billions invested in advertising are there because adversing works. By repeating things, focusing your attention on them, you can change how likely you are to believe them.

If you want to increase your physical presence, remember or imagine an event in which you observed that kind of confidence, in yourself or in others, but either way see yourself doing it.

If you want to increase your status confidence, focus on events in which you were in fact top-dog, or at least the most tip-top in the group. Recall the feeling, let your brain get used to that feeling, to assume it as a default.

If you want to increase your peer independence, concentrate on a time when you were, despite everyone else’s opinion, right. Or imagine yourself in a situation where someone else was. Emulate their actions, their expressions, their very thoughts if you can.

If you want to increase your social confidence use a time when you shared a secret, or a secret was shared with you, or you learned that others had suffered the same disappointments or enjoyed the same highs.

If you want to increase your stage presence remember seeing somone on stage, and replace them with your self. Remember the biggest audiences you’ve performed well in front of. Generally try to keep your brain focused on that feeling, that confidence, it’ll stick with you the more you feel it.

Guided Meditation File 10 – Awareness – Self Awareness
Backing Music “Last Task” By DJ Answer
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