014: What Is Confidence?


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Tors Grantham

Tors is a television professional, who studied all aspects of television production before launching her career spanning almost a decade. She's worked with a BAFTA nominated production team, has her own entry on imdb.com, and has even walked the red carpet several (terrifying) times.

She's had chips thrown at her by David Tennant (it was an accident, he's got terrible aim), she's interviewed some amazing actresses, and she attended the cast and crew screening of Empire Strikes Back at the grand old age of four. 

Now she lives in south Wales with a large dog and a small cat, where she uses the knowledge she gained in her television years and beyond, to help online biz owners step in front of the camera and connect with their audience.


In this episode

It’s probably not a surprise to you to hear that helping people with confidence is a thing I like to do, specifically confidence around getting on camera. But what I love about confidence on camera is that it translates to everywhere else. Once you start working on your confidence the results aren't confined to just the area you’re working on, it has a ripple effect, and those are the bomb … pun intended because I really do have that childish a sense of humour.

But before we get stuck into this episode, let’s start by agreeing just what confidence is in the first place, and in this I agree with Vincent Van Gogh - that confidence is belief in one’s ability to succeed.

Or, to put it into modern parlance, it’s about trusting you know your shit.

We all have confidence in some things and not others. Simple things like putting on socks, I’m pretty sure we can all agree we’re confident in our ability to rock the shit out of a funky pair of socks with little to no drama, I mean it’s not like we don’t know where they go or how to put them there. For some people, getting on camera and looking like a BOSS is easy, but for those like me, just walking into a crowded room can suddenly turn me back into a teenager with a Mean Girls phobia. 

Our confidence comes from our experiences, and that’s different for everyone. What’s happened to us in our past, how we’ve processed that (or not), and our mindset about what we've experienced, and will experience, all have their part to play in our overall confidence levels. But typically, it comes down to trusting you know your shit in any given situation.

For me, confidence is about mastery. It’s about believing I know enough to be able to complete the thing I’m setting out to do, and trusting in my ability to learn as I go. I don’t know about you, but that last part is what I find the hardest, despite the years of evidence to suggest that learning is something I can do reasonably well. Because no one knows it all, and whenever I’m trying to do something there’s always something whacky that happens that I wasn’t expecting, which is when trusting that I can roll with it and learn what’s needed for the situation I’ve suddenly found myself in kicks in … or not, as the case may be.

Interestingly, this outlook seems to work for pretty much every situation I can think of: video, meddling mothers, new experiences, surprise nudity from drunk housemates who didn’t put a sock on the door, talking to strangers, and everything in between. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t … well, there was that time David Tennant kissed me on the cheek and I completely and utterly failed to roll with it and instead ran away … I had a horrible crush on that man, don’t judge me.

So. Confidence. Let’s agree it’s about trusting you know your shit. Why is that so darn important anyway?

I don’t believe you can really grow without it. Lack of confidence keeps us small, stuck where we are, with this self-defeating mindset running through our heads. We don’t try things, we don’t push ourselves, we don’t stretch our wings. And we certainly don’t get on video. As Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM once said, growth and comfort don’t coexist. Not only does it stop us from experiencing life as we want to live it, it keeps us frustrated and with feelings of inadequacy, coupled with a solid helping of beating ourselves up, because living small isn’t enough, we have to feel really shitty about it too.

But what I like about confidence is that it’s like a muscle, you can exercise it and get better at it, until you’re as ripped as the Rock … confidence-wise.

Here’s where things get interesting though, because confidence isn’t about not making mistakes, let’s be clear on that. Confidence is about knowing that when you make a mistake, because let’s face it, you’re human, it’s inevitable, but when you do, confidence is about knowing you’ll be able to handle it. And by handle it, I mean handle the emotions that mistake will make you feel, because how you feel about a mistake is totally up to you. You can choose to beat yourself up and never try anything like it again, or you can choose to learn from it and keep moving forwards.

Of course that means that in those situations where you have no experience, that’s when lack of confidence really becomes noticeable, and I doubt there’s a single person on the planet who’s high achieving, self-aware, and conscientious who hasn’t experienced that at some time or another. 

But that’s not the point, the question is, how do we cope with that?

Unsurprisingly, I have a couple of thoughts on this.

If confidence is about mastery, then figure out what is it about the situation that’s new to you. Step back from the panic, work out what’s triggering it, and then put together a plan of action to tackle it. For example, if you’re afraid of going on camera, identify what exactly it is that’s making you afraid.

In my experience, fear of going on camera comes down to one of two things: mindset or the practical side of things, like equipment or process. What’s causing your fear?

If it’s mindset, then you need to put together a plan that tackles the specific mindset issue you’re experiencing - that might be perfectionism, fear of judgement, fear of visibility, something like that.

If it’s fear of the process, break that down too. What’s actually stopping you? Is it the equipment? In which case start playing with it all, experiment and see what you can make with it without the pressure of putting it online. Ditto if it’s lack of equipment, start messing around with the camera on your phone and see what you can create. If it’s processes, do your research. There’s information out there on how to put together a video following the industry standard pre-production, production, to post production model. Educate yourself. Master the basics.

Often what’s stopping us isn’t the actual thing, it’s fear of failure and the emotions we’ll feel in that moment. And fear of feeling fear, I’m not really sure why we’re all so afraid of being afraid, but it’s a definite thing, if a little meta.

One thing I like to remind myself is that I’m capable of adapting and learning, I’ve been doing it my entire life so I have some experience in it. It’s why humanity has survived as long as we have, our ability to adapt, learn and grow. I might not know what a specific situation calls for, but I’m a reasonably intelligent person and I’m capable of learning, so I can educate myself and implement.

By the way, that last step, implementation, it's non-negotiable. There’s no better way to learn than by doing, so if you’re stuck in the educating phase consider this your kick up the arse to start doing instead of learning. You can’t actually learn unless you’re applying what you’ve been taught and seeing how your situation impacts the information, because we’re all special snowflakes, and there is no such thing as one size fits all, not even in socks. I don’t know why I’ve got a thing about socks today, but I’m rolling with it, as that’s another theme of today’s episode.

Confidence isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we learn and it’s entirely dependent on how we think about a thing. Like everything about our lives, it begins with a thought. It’s down to us to decide that we can experience a new situation and not fall to pieces. And boy is that so much easier to say than to do, because our brains have literally developed with fear as the default setting, it was how it kept us safe back in the day when cave painting was at it’s height of popularity.

Fear meant we didn’t deviate from the norm, we didn’t say or do something that would get us kick out of the tribe. Ostracisation wasn’t something to sniff at, back then it meant almost certain death. Fear also meant we didn’t take too many risks out and about, we didn’t go to new places where a saber tooth tiger might eat us, we didn’t eat new foods that might kill us, and we didn’t fall off any cliffs because we were prancing around on the edge without a parachute.

Out of all the ways fear kept us safe, really that last one is the only one that’s still relevant today. Unfortunately, our brain hasn’t really caught up to modern living, so fear is a thing that still smacks us over the head repeatedly, and often for the most random things. I mean, really, if you sit down and think about the things you’re afraid of, often they’re really stupid. I know mine are.

But if confidence is something you struggle with, then I want you to sit down and write out all the things you’ve accomplished. Start from the day you were born and keep going until you get to today. I’m serious, if nothing else it’ll help you understand that you’re capable of doing new things, of learning, and of coping. Yes, you may not know how to make a video or how to get on camera, but you’ve tackled other things, multiple other things over your life, and you’ve succeeded. Try not to tell yourself those successes were down to luck, or because you had help, you still did them, they’re still yours and they still count.

And then I want you to start doing small things that are out of your comfort zone so you get used to the feeling of growth pains. Little things like try a new flavour of tea, go somewhere you’ve never been before. Small, safe things that still push you, so you can start to feel confident in new situations. It’ll help you with everything you feel scared of, not just video.

Finally, I want to take a quick moment to talk about what confidence is not. It’s not about being better than someone else, it’s not about knowing it all. That’s arrogance, and nobody likes that. Instead, own your shit and get out of your head and into doing, instead of thinking. That’s what confidence is.

What Is Confidence? - on this week's episode of the #videomatterspodcast, I'm digging into what confidence is, and providing some tips on how to grow yours