Authenticity vs. Confidence

You know you need to exude confidence: perhaps you have a big presentation, a difficult conversation, or an interview coming up. Yet, you’re nervous. How do you reconcile these two realities?

In any interaction, the higher the stakes or the more personally attached you are to a specific outcome, the harder it can be to let go and show up as yourself. Your desire to control and to “win” can get in the way. And yet, the higher the stakes, the more imperative it is to do just that! Allowing your true personality to shine through creates interest, trust, connection and makes you memorable. A soulless automaton doesn’t make much of an impression. You have to be real.

When I say “be real,” though, I DON’T mean “be transparent.” Being real doesn’t mean you have to put all your nervousness and self-doubt on display. Your character, your personality, your experience, your education, your life story—all of those things are inextricably part of you. They make you uniquely you. Own them, celebrate them, and bring them to your interview, your presentation, your negotiation, or whatever high stakes interaction you’re heading into. Instead of putting on a false front in order to make a good impression, just bring the best version of your real, true self.

People sometimes think that being authentic means communicating their every thought and feeling. But thoughts and feelings are fleeting. Are they real? Yes. Do they define you? No. Just because you’re nervous or embarrassed or frustrated or impatient doesn’t mean you have to share it. And if you choose not to share your emotions when they likely won’t be received well, that’s not inauthenticity. That’s wisdom.

There is definitely a time to show your weak, vulnerable side; sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do to foster connections, encourage authenticity in others, and increase their receptivity to you. However, you must have permission. Usually, you don’t have that permission when you’re trying to sell yourself (in an interview) or a product (in a sales pitch) or an idea (in a speech) or a solution (in a presentation to the board), especially at the beginning. Your audience needs to know if you’re worth investing in. You have to establish credibility first.

To be successful, you need both authenticity AND confidence. That can be tricky, because sometimes those feel like opposites. When your stomach is doing somersaults from nervousness or your chest is tightening from anxiety, being bold doesn’t feel very authentic. But remember: Your identity is much, much bigger than whatever’s going through your mind and body right now. Who are you really? What are you about? Remind yourself of your strengths, your personality traits, your core values… Staying in touch with those will make both authenticity AND confidence much easier to communicate. Balance is key. Let your personality show while still communicating credibility.

You are the only you. No matter how anxious you sometimes feel, you will always be more successful if you bring your whole self to the situation. That doesn’t mean you have to share everything about yourself, but let it be present there with you. Remind yourself of your strengths and values and find confidence in what is true about you.

Change your communication, change your life.

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