by Allan Waddell
June 30, 2017

A lot of people come to our Martial Arts school to learn how to or work on building their confidence.
Over the years some things have become very apparent to me and I would like to share them.
Confidence is, according to the dictionary – Confidence definition, full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities.

Looking at these definitions, the result is that we are looking for a particular feeling in ourselves or we want to see that feeling in others i.e. our child.
No wonder the pursuit of confidence can appear fleeting. Relying on your feelings to support your view of yourself and others is tricky stuff. Why is it that someone can appear confident in one setting and be little more than a baby in another? Notice I said appear – I’ll come back to that. The trouble with feelings is that they are largely governed by perception and our collection of experiences up to date. For some people looking confident is natural and for others It can be a daily battle.

In the definition, it mentions belief. I have come to know belief as our values tested. What this means is that our belief system is formed largely through our experiences and how those experiences played out. The younger we were when these things happened the more important it was to our value system and something we have labelled as important becomes hard to shift, especially if there is a lot of emotion around the experience. I also think that some of these feelings in our values are handed down to us through our DNA.

[btx_quote author=”– Sensei Allan” style=”border”]COMPETENCE EQUALS CONFIDENCE.[/btx_quote]

So, what are some practical ways we can build confidence.
Because our confidence is tied up in our emotions, our belief system, and our values, for some people it will take a lot of work. The first thing I have come to know is that COMPETENCE EQUALS CONFIDENCE. Becoming good at something is always a great place to start. The problem is that to build confidence through competence you need to start and you need to commit. This takes strength of purpose, realisation that the goal is important, and more than likely a motivated support team. What it doesn’t need is sympathy. Sympathetic people sink goals. They sink confidence. They sink a person’s future and self-worth. Not because they want to, but because they confuse sympathy and empathy. I liken the two like this. Imagine a ship is sinking and you’re on it. Sympathy is where you are willing to go down with the ship – there’s no use trying, it won’t work, we are all doomed. Empathy on the other hand is being in the same situation but looking for solutions to the problem -usually the empathetic person is launching the life boats.

So many people- parents especially- rescue the person/ child trying to become confident by taking away the experience instead of calmly helping the person/ child move through it and build new emotions around their experiences. They want to take all the emotion away. They relate their own feelings of helplessness to the event and they tend to think that these feelings are going to harm their child’s/ friend’s confidence. This is very short-term thinking. In the Dojo, we say” Don’t wait to feel strong to be strong.” There must be a time where we work through our weaknesses to become strong.

[btx_quote author=”– SEnsei Allan” style=”border”]There must be a time where we work through our weaknesses to become strong[/btx_quote]


Not everyone is born to do a push up and for a lot it is an uncomfortable thing to learn but with a lot of practice, mentoring and some meaning, it can become quite an easy thing to do. But it will never happen if, when you feel uncomfortable, you stop every time, manifest convenient excuses to avoid the feeling or worse still have someone support your excuses through sympathy. I explain to my students that they aren’t going to “100 push up” themselves out of a self defence situation but there is a lot of mental and emotional growth between where they want to stop a push up and the ground. The closer they get to the ground the stronger they will be emotionally and mentally. Getting closer to the ground will also demonstrate their resilience and competence in the skill. By staying the path, they will have walked through a lot of growth. For some it will take longer and never before they start to believe in them self. Given the chance and the support, my experience is that everyone gets there eventually.

The other thing to really understand when we talk about confidence is that of “perceived confidence”. When we see someone dong an act that we feel is worthy, we label them as being confident and thereby implying that some-how they do it with ease or that they aren’t troubled in anyway. We say” look at him isn’t he so confident I could never do that”. We compare our own experience and feeling and immediately judge that we are not as confident.

[btx_quote author=”– Sensei Allan”]Don’t wait to feel strong to be strong[/btx_quote]

We look at someone’s competence and decide that they are doing it easy. We neglect to consider the thousands of hours they have been working on building their competence. Of course, someone is going to say, well he’s only 6 and he doesn’t do it much but is still confident. For these few gifted people whose brains and body were delivered the type of DNA to handle this, they are not being any more confident than you are eating a sandwich. They’re not even thinking about it.

Instead let’s talk about a great Orator, Peter Daniels. A man who never finished school, came from a background of poverty, had a broken home, had dyslexia, and was told he would never amount to anything. A person who in his late 20’s decided to change things. A person who now has written over 20 books and read over 5000 biographies, talked to millions of people at conventions, was awarded an honorary doctorate, who has been the CEO of many huge organisations and at over 80 now, still does public speaking engagements. It would be easy to look at him on stage and say wow he is so confident. You would be surprised to know that even to this day he still has feelings of wanting to vomit before each performance, something he has done since he started public speaking. He will tell you he still gets the same sick feeling before he does every public speaking event, the only thing is, he has learnt to work with his feeling. And I say selfishly, that I am ever so glad he did. His presence in this world has inspired millions and changed the lives of more than that.

[btx_quote author=”– Sensei Allan” style=”border”]confidence is learning to move through fear not to avoid it. [/btx_quote]

I, like Peter Daniels, feel these same feeling every time I go to a new school to do a safety class or speak publicly, even meeting new people. I’m often glad that my Martial Arts pants are baggy so the students don’t see my shaking legs. My guess would be that they would feel I am confident, that I have authority – that is their perception. Once I get started however, I kick into a gear that I have trained over time and these feelings go away. In this case, confidence is learning to move through fear not to avoid it. I would add that unless a little fear is present, more than likely you’re not being confident, you’re just turning up.

Don’t rob the world of what your presence has to offer, move through your limiting beliefs so that you too can use confidence to inspire others. If your responsible for the up-bringing of a child, I ask you not to rob them of their self-worth by rushing to rescue them from their feelings. Instead, walk along-side them calmly and guide them through their feeling allowing them to build trust in their ability to handle uncomfortable situations. Put your heart strings to one side – no don’t cut them – but be bigger than them.