I’ve been talking to a friend about confidence, and asking myself what really constitutes it.

I think true confidence, as opposed to bravado, is linked to sincerity. It comes through like a tone in all your dealings.

It can’t be faked, and in fact I think trying to fake confidence is a sure way of appearing insecure.

The faking confidence is what I call bravado, like the used-car salesman with the flashy toupe and the fast-talk.

We can read the cues and know that it’s all a front.

I’ve been rereading Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and the main character is about one of the most ‘un-confident’ people you can meet in literature. She’s shy, self-effacing and utterly charming because she is so sincere about her lack of confidence.

She’s the kind of person who shrinks into the wallpaper if the spotlight is to shine on her. But if you look at her internal dialogue–which is what the whole book mostly consists of, it’s filled with astute, rather biting remarks about other people.

I have a theory that this condemnation trait in her leads to her own lack of self-confidence.

A while ago, during that infamous children’s writing workshop I took where I got kicked out, I met this very smart, vivacious utterly charming actress who was also dabbling in playwriting. She was a very good writer and a very good actor, very nice, or so I thought, to me.

Frankly I find it hard to imagine that anyone would waste time bad-mouthing me, I just don’t think I’m worth their notice, but apparently, another friend of mine told me that this same charming vivacious actress routinely said some pretty mean things about me. She and the intructor, the one who asked me to leave, would often laugh at some of the students and apparently I was a favourite target.

Of course it coloured my opinion of her. And after, whenever we’d meet, I’d be on my guard.

Then, when I got kicked out of that class, I never saw her again for years and years till one day she was giving a workshop for another organization I belong to.

I have to admit I was curious about the workshop, I wanted to see what she would teach, and I still, despite my friend’s warnings, had fond feelings for her.

When I saw her she hadn’t changed much at all. Same vivacious self, and yet there was something amiss. She wasn’t quite as confident as she had been before, and then during the course of the workshop she made a revelation. She said how she’d begun having anxiety attacks before she performed. Even when she was just doing a little workshop in a school up north or something, she’d be overcome with nerves.

Then she told the workshop people that it was silly, that the audience was always rooting for you, they WANTED you to succeed because the alternative, seeing you fail publicly was almost as awkward and painful for them as it was for you.

Now I don’t believe that for a second.

I’ve been to many venues where I’m sure the people expected me to fall flat on my face. In fact one of them was at an international venue where the hostility was palpable!

It puzzled me that she would say such a thing, and then I realized that she was saying this more to reassure herself than anyone else. And I remembered that nameless heroine in Rebecca and I came up with a theory, not sure if there’s any merit in it, but so far it hasn’t failed me. I think people who get anxious and anxiety attacks before performing do so because they have often snickered and made fun of others on stage. So now, their imagination is running rampant with all the things people might be saying about them.

Think of it. This vivacious actress wasn’t as young as she was when I first met her. Youth has its own confidence. She was just as slim and attractive, but that edge of youth was gone. Maybe she’d felt some barbs along the way, and maybe they’d struck home.

Oh I’ve felt barbs too. I’m not confident when it comes to anything physical, like if I had to run a mile or anything like that. But when it comes to what I do… I am confident because deep down, I sincerely think that I really am that good at it. I would pay to seem one of my presentations.

Now that can sound incredibly arrogant, but I don’t mean it that way.

In fact it’s one of the reasons why I like presenting to students. I find presenting to students is a way of pumping up my confidence in light of the fact that my work does not always receive starred reviews and the kind of attention I wish it would from the powers that be.

And it’s not just the way the students react. It’s me hearing my stories as I’m telling them. Old stories that I long ago finished with, and it’s me, sincerely liking them again. Thinking they’re almost, well…brilliant.

Geez, I just know that sounds arrogant, but again, I don’t mean it that way.

And that sincere admiration of my own work comes through, I’d like to think, as confidence.

So my advice to anyone who struggles with confidence is know your place in the world. You won’t be better than everyone at everything, but you can shine at a few things.

Know what you do well, keep working at your craft, be grateful for opportunities that come your way, and be happy with yourself. Do all that and you can’t help but be confident.

I’m not the kind of person who’s overly critical of others, at least I don’t think I am, so maybe that’s one reason I don’t get up there and imagine people saying and thinking really mean things about me. Oh they might be doing that, I just don’t dwell on it.