Confidence is a choice

A portrait of a young woman looking confidently into the distance

writer icon Kajsa Ingemansson     Suad Kamardeen   |   Culture     🕐 29. Oct. 2018

Confidence is not a fixed characteristic. It is not something a person either simply has, or does not have. It is the result of how one moves through life. It often fluctuates, ebbs and flows, depending on the person, situation and circumstance.

Yet, some people seem to possess ‘confidence stability’. This enables them to face any situation with great integrity, authenticity and resilience.

It is no coincidence that society describes someone with integrity and strength in character as ‘having a backbone’ and someone weak or indecisive as ‘spineless’.

The backbone is the ultimate symbol of integrity, honesty and courage because it is the core of the human self-support system. It is, of course, central in its role to structurally keep us upright and moving. It also helps us take care of ourselves if we let it.

The underlying coordination
FM Alexander discovered that “the relationship between head and spine in movement is a key factor in vertebrate coordination” (…) "Whenever a vertebrate goes out of optimal coordination, the system compensates with excessive work in the relationship between head and spine.” 

When there is excessive work between the head and spine, the pressure effects the system globally and results in limitations in movement and thought. It often results in pain, stress or anxiety.

Going out of coordination is not a major problem. Most of the time it happens temporarily, such as when we are startled. Typically we just carry on and find our way back on track. Yet, sometimes these temporary interferences become patterns and habits solidified over time for different reasons.

Posturing confidence
From the outside we often see the result of these patterns in the physical shape it gives a person - their posture. It tends to shorten one's stature, even when one attempts to do the opposite.

One person could display their non-confidence by drawing themselves back, head and chest angled down, arms tight against their body, stumbling and unsure. Another could try to prove confidence by angling their chest up, head pushed back and chin high and proud.

Both are ways to hide perceived inadequacies and both cause compression through the spine. These are ways one can become stuck in a posture. It cooperates poorly with how the human body is built for continual change and movement.

Nonspecific back pain
Back-problems are one of the biggest health issues in our society.

In America, 80% of people with back pain have what doctors call "nonspecific low back pain". This means that the pain has no detectable cause. Sweden reports that back issues are on the rise with half the population currently experiencing it. Many of them report nonspecific problems as well.

Roger Chou, a back pain expert and professor at Oregon Health and Science University, says that back pain is “a complex, biopsychosocial condition - meaning that biological aspects like structural or anatomical causes play some role but psychological and social factors also play a big role".

When back pain cannot be connected to a specific injury, impact or medical cause, it is usually how people think about themselves and their circumstance, how they move in response to life that is the cause.

This can be a single cause or a multitude of causes coming together. It is simply not connected consciously in the person yet. And it does not stop with back-pain.  A lot of other problems and unease stem from being out of coordination with oneself.

Doctors are not necessarily taught to see these connections as it requires a whole psychophysical approach, rather than only a physical. In many cases, the cause is not necessarily what matters. It might never be uncovered why someone has a certain pattern. What matters is being able to change it.

Habitual hesitating
Mel Robbins, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, founder of the Confidence Project, says in an interview on Impact Theory that “you can truly trace every single problem or complaint in your life back to silence and hesitation”. Our brains are wired to protect us and will come up with all kinds of reasons to pull us away from what it perceives as a problem.

Perception is key. Once someone hesitates they might view it as a failure and if it becomes a habit it can be interpreted as not being capable, successful or deserving. This is an interpretation which will have psychophysical effects throughout a person’s system.

Attention goes to the uncomfortable feelings or thoughts, instead of actually expressing or doing something. It creates compression in the spine, which creates more uncomfortable sensations and a loop has been created. When acting from this place, a person’s actions will often fall short of what is possible. This then reinforces the person’s perceived inadequacy.

It will make the person less likely to act spontaneously and creatively in coordination with what is really important to them. It is also easier to follow the convictions of others and give up on one’s own desires and beliefs. Desire will dissipate along with a loss of direction and vitality.

Listening to oneself
The underlying coordination, the use of our head and spine is vital not only for the physical support but for how we process and interpret sensory feedback and emotion. How we listen to ourselves in a whole way.

When our system reports pain or anxiety it is not because we are imperfect or faulty somehow. It is actually proof that we are perfect. It alerts us via a message of pain or other sensory feedback that there is something we need to pay attention to. It is up to us how we interpret and re-coordinate.

Responsibility vs response-ability
Responsibility is something that might get you stuck, as it often comes with previously attached expectations and other people’s convictions and ideas about how things ‘should’ be done in relation to roles and tasks we have in life.

Response-ability, on the other hand, puts the focus on it being something in motion and allows freedom of choice, moment by moment. It encourages us to respond with integrity instead of reacting out of default. This is the best self-care available to us. The task then, of ’growing a spine’, comes down to the continual choice of healthy functioning self-support. This will also deliver confidence.

Opening the window
Feeling confident is not something you can wait for, as feelings are also a result of an action. To break the habit of hesitation or holding back one has to find a way to take charge of the moment.

This is part of what the Alexander technique helps you do, from your underlying coordination. In the words of Frank Pierce Jones, the technique “opens a window onto the little-known area between stimulus and response and gives you the self-knowledge you need in order to change the pattern of your response—or, if you choose, not to make it at all.”

By opening this window, when our system alerts us we can bring our whole self-expression to a level that ultimately supports our lives and dreams in ways that will make us thrive.

With each decision being made with self-care, self-knowledge and self-expression, confidence stability and resilience will follow. It is simply the quiet result of being closer to the truth. It is acceptance of who we are as whole and moving beings.

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