Walking into the doors of Stoke-on-Trent’s King’s Hall at 8.40am, I initially thought Kirsty’s picture of confidence was 90s pop music played on loudspeakers, colourful flashing disco lights on the ceilings and a good, strong helping of coffee.
As the day went on, speaker by speaker, it became very obvious that Kirsty believes true confidence is looking beyond the bold or the loud and that confidence, is actually, in the quieter, more content moments. In those moments that define who you are and what you can do.
But, let’s take a deeper look at what Kirsty Hulse’s Confidence Live defined the true meaning of confidence as.
A Growth Mindset
If you’ve had the pleasure of training with Kirsty Hulse you’ll know all about the growth mindset. If you haven’t then the best way to define it is the use of the word ‘yet’. Think about the moments of real fear, the moments of “I can’t do it” and “I don’t know how to” and consider the huge gap between these phrases and adding the word ‘yet’ at the end.
Growth mindset is the space between the can’ts, the won’ts, the have nots, this small word (yet) flips the way you see barriers and, instead, situates them as small setbacks or hurdles rather than brick walls.
Breaking Through The Bias Barriers
The first talk from Shani Bhanda set the tone of the conference. Discussing her differences, the extreme narratives she’d suffered and highlighting bias as the impairment, not her condition, this talk demonstrated a new type of confidence to me. This was a particular confidence that doesn’t naturally come to my mind as a privileged, able-bodied person and was, arguably, one of the most inspiring interpretations throughout the day.
An activist for disabled people, Shani discussed the work she was doing on breaking down systematic barriers, challenging perceptions and teaching others to have the courage to make the right choices. She taught us that confidence is recognising your strengths and making a life around them, not allowing people to define you by what they see as your weaknesses.
Thierry Alain’s talk discussed the process of turning your ideas into a business whilst Jess Jones discussed reframing your fears to live a fuller life. What I took from both of these is that confidence is having the ability to validate yourself, speaking to yourself in an affirming way and making something beautiful from the seeds of doubt you plant in your own head.
It’s the belief that you can be the answer to despair or desire and create something niche out of your own self-doubt.
In The Not Knowing
There’s a lot of fear within the “what if” that sits at the heart of any feelings of anxiety – and so, another form of confidence is acceptance of the not knowing.
An inspiring talk from Ukrainian entrepreneur, Natalia Pilgui, highlighted an extreme case of fleeing to the UK from the Russian war, leaving the world she’d built with her family behind and facing adversity with strength. Now a motivational speaker and having set up her business online, Natalia showed her confidence by kicking the ‘what-ifs’ to the curb.
Similarly, James Routledge discussed how he recognised his brittle confidence – much like the bright lights and loud music first impression the conference gave us – and realised, for him, confidence is actually the feeling of contentment. It’s being happy to just be. Not seeing being content as stagnant, not knowing what his next big break will be or when he will next be in the limelight and instead allowing his mind and body time to rest. That is confidence.
Doing It Anyway
In the words of Glastonbury’s Poet in Residence, Desree, confidence is in doing it anyway. A more refined way of saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, this concept of acknowledging the fear, recognising any differences and gaining enough understanding to continue reaching for your aim despite it all. This confidence is in the action of ‘taking the lead when no one else will’ according to poet Gabriella Gay.
For men’s health advocate, Mark Briant, it’s carving out your own days of happiness – whatever that looks like – even when the weight of the world is sitting on your shoulders or when the stress is taking over.
For Harnaam Kaur, it’s trusting in the change as you begin working on yourself rather than trying to conform.
Pretending To Be Judy Garland?
Finally, I felt the fireside conversation with the Caitlin Moran summarised Kirsty’s view of confidence.
A woman who has turned down Sir Paul McCartney’s second chances, interviewed Robbie Williams in a TGI’s and who rocked up to her first ever journalist interview with a bottle of vodka and a gone-off cream cake, Caitlin epitomised the rawness of true confidence in her conversation.
Making a career of confident conversations with strangers, Caitlin advised that rather than her original plan of confidence as a sixteen year old, which was pretending to be Judy Garland, she now sees that building confidence in those around you is key to becoming confident yourself. She said, “People are waiting for other people to do something positive,” and suggested if you become a part of that you will bloom in confidence with those you surround yourself with.
Overall, Kirsty Hulse’s Confidence Live hit the nail on the head. Confidence is having the big conversations, recognising the difficulties, acknowledging the fear and choosing to be a good person anyway; it’s validating your own creativity or feelings, it’s disregarding the bias or barriers systematically put in place and, instead, making the stand, doing the thing and aiming for your goals anyway. It’s community, being a confidant and building a support network that works both ways.
According to Kirsty, confidence is making a safe space for others to be creative, succeed and do well and using that to fuel your own success, too.
In the meantime, if you need a confidence boost, check out our monthly newsletter – Friends in the NORTH. Aside from marketing campaigns, we discuss topics like: psychological safety, self-awareness, fatigue, mental health, emotional intelligence, confidence, and vulnerability.