How do you feel about getting up on stage and speaking in front of 300 people? Would you get a knot in your stomach? How about the sickening feeling of nausea, dry mouth and sweaty palms? Would your heart start pulsing faster as the fight-flight kicks in??
It’s hard to not have noticed the plethora of self-confidence articles and social media memes that have been posted up on the Internet in the last few years. Adding to these are numerous self-confidence boosting seminars and online programs to help you ‘overcome your fears’, step on the stage and find your voice. It has been suggested that speaking on stage is one of the greatest fears we can face in life. I definitely know. Years ago I would stutter and stammer, go bright red in the face and have a near panic attack if I was asked to speak in front of 3 people!
These days I feel comfortable stepping onstage in front of 300-500 people (although yes there may still be a little flutter inside) but the fear has reduced dramatically. What has changed? Most self-confidence boosting courses and confidence coaching is focussed on building up your ego so you will feel courageous about the confronting situation. In this article however, I will be taking a very different approach. This is not about building up your ego so that it’s bigger than the fear; rather it’s the complete opposite. Our goal here is not to strive for a bigger ego.
True confidence as opposed to self-confidence, is when we reduce and even eradicate the ego. Ideally to the point where there is no more ego. When there is no ego, there is no fear. Fear is only experienced by the ego. If there is no fear, then we are free to BE our true Self.
A very shy friend of mine would criticise confident people saying they had BIG egos. Yet shyness, and the fear of being seen is also a function of a big ego. Ego isn’t just confidence, it is all human traits from greed, shyness, shame, guilt, lust, anger, sadness and on and on. It’s that part of us that likes or dislikes being seen. It’s the entity in us that loves it when we are admired and also that part of us that hates it when we are criticised.
So who are we when this ego is reduced or eradicated? We are the peaceful, uninfluenced observer. It is the Inner Being. It is the deep sweet serenity that watches silently. This is the you that is untainted by the vasanas or fluctuations of the mind. Here there is no fear and no bravado. It’s simply you, or in the Vedic World View, it is AMNESS or SELF. Here you are free. You are unaffected if you are in front of 3 people or 300 people.
So in essence, it is total presence. When you are on stage, you are simply standing on stage. Nothing more than that. True confidence is when we are acting from a place of egolessness and free in each moment. True confidence doesn’t need courage or bravado because there is no fear to be brave about.
How do we eradicate the ego to experience this pure liberated state? This is our work. And yes, it is not easy! It’s been many years work for me and it still continues. That pesky ego is still lingering around and wreaks havoc at times in my life. But our work is to continue to reduce its influence in our state of peaceful presence. To do this meditation plays a HUGE role. In the stillness of meditation we connect with that unbounded state of peaceful presence, beyond the limits of the ego. The work is to put aside time to meditate, and then outside of meditation, to observe the difference between that which is ego and that which is not. This is a daily vigilant process. Receiving ongoing support in this work also helps, as the ego can be virulent and stubborn, so finding a coach or guide to assist you is also beneficial. When your ego starts dissolving and your peaceful presence prevails, then walking on stage in front of 500 people will be a much calmer and truly confident experience!
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