Don’t believe the hype – confidence is a skill, not something you’re either born with or without.
While to some it feels innate, and to others intangible, just like leadership, learning a language and sharing your goddamn toys with your sister, how to be confident is 100 per cent something that can be taught and honed.
So, if you feel like your self-belief has grown flabby over time and is long overdue a gym session, read on. We’ve assembled a motley crew of individuals from disparate vocations, yet with a common thread – all have hurdled obstacles both personal and psychological in order to emerge more rounded, more self-assured, and more confident.
Tirernan Douieb is a stand-up comedian, actor and podcast host. He has supported Frankie Boyle on tour, and once had his back shaved by Gillian Anderson as part of Mark Watson’s 27 Hour Show for Comic Relief.
“I was definitely an annoyingly confident kid. I wasn’t the class clown – there were other kids that were much funnier than me – but I liked being a performer and being funny when I was given a platform. Looking back, I was clearly irritating, but I was also very sociable, so I guess that helped.
“With acting, you’re performing someone else’s words, or as someone who’s not you. So, if the audience hate it, they don’t hate you, they hate your character, the direction or the writing. With stand-up, it’s all you. If they don’t laugh, it’s because you’re shit. In terms of self-belief, that’s a pretty big leap.
“I was terrified before my first gig. I was pale and wobbly, feeling nauseous and unable to think of anything except getting it over with. It went well – the audience were supportive university friends, so I was lucky – but I knew within 30 seconds of being on stage that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
“When you do stand-up, confidence becomes a really useful tool. You can use it to persuade audiences to get onside, luring them into giving you space to talk to them about, well, anything. If an act is nervous onstage, the audience worry for them, but if you stride on with confidence, they sit back and relax, and are yours to entertain.
“Dealing with hecklers takes confidence, but it also takes remembering where you are and how it all works. You’re the comedian, you’ve got the microphone, the lights are on you and the audience have paid to be entertained.
Nine times out of 10, the heckler isn’t funny and is probably annoying and/or wasted. So you take a breath to get a retort ready, then dish it out with the assuredness that you’re in charge. If a heckle is genuinely good and you can’t top it, then crediting them for it and saying it was funny shows you’re a good sport, and also removes any power from them, because if they keep going, you’ve been courteous and they haven’t.
“Confidence can build. When I started, doing five minutes in front of a crowd was terrifying. Within five years, gigging to hundreds was fun and, by eight or nine, thousands was fine. Now I’ll happily walk out in front of any size crowd and it’s not a problem.
“I’ve also learned that having confidence about one thing doesn’t mean you’ve got it about everything. Standing in front strangers and performing has never been a problem, but if someone tells me off or I get in trouble, all of it ebbs away. I’m still terrified of bungee jumping or sky-diving, but maybe if I did those things enough, after a few years I’d be ok.”
- Rally supportive friends and family to your side
- Fake it till you make it – act like you’re in charge, people won’t doubt you
- Know that confidence grows with every step you take