On my 22nd birthday, I graduated as a Constable of Police with Victoria Police in Australia. The day was somewhat surreal, and I remember sitting on my bed in the dorm at the Police Academy, with my shiny new uniform on, wondering what was ahead for me in this chapter of my life.
Now I’m over 50, which seems like a lifetime ago, but I had many great experiences and powerful lessons that serve me to this day. To succeed in that role, one of the core requirements was confidence. Not only was I working in a male-dominated field, but I also faced demanding, unpredictable people and situations daily.
As I was generally a confident person with an outgoing personality, I felt lucky. But that job taught me that confidence is a very broad concept: having abundant confidence in one area does not equal the same dosage in all situations.
Today, I work with women through the Truth Sisters Academy. Building confidence to speak up, step up and show up is a core thread in everything we do.
Lesson #1: Have the Confidence to say ‘No,’ and Move away from Anything you know is not Ok
I want to share a story from all those years ago in the police force: I kept it to myself for over 20 years.
It was about six months after graduation, and it was time to get my police driver’s license. I’d been driving for a few years, having only one accident, so I was confident this would be a walk in the park. After completing the written test, it was time to jump in the police van with a driving instructor for the 60-90 minute drive.
A 40-something, happy guy with sergeant stripes on his arm greeted me. He asked me to jump into the driver’s seat and said, ‘we’ll head off to the west’. As I didn’t know the area very well, I took directions from him. He seemed friendly enough and was chatting away, asking me about how I had found the job so far and what my ambitions were.
We drove around built-up areas. After about 45 minutes, I found that we were a fair way out of town. A new housing estate was going up, but it was just cleared land and gravel roads so far. Nobody was around. He asked me to speed up on the gravel road and stop suddenly, as he wanted to watch how I handled the van in a skid. That was fun.
After that, he told me to pull over for a minute. I thought he was filling out paperwork or something, so I was gazing out the window. When I looked back, I discovered he had something else in mind. He had unzipped his pants, and he was holding himself. He said to me, ‘Hey, you want to help me out here, and we can have some fun?’ I was in shock, and it was like the world stopped turning for a moment.
Naturally, I said ‘no’, but he persisted a few times before giving up. He said, ‘Come on, it will be fun’. Even as I write this, I can feel my heart rate increasing. My body still stores the shock and fear from that day.
So, let’s loop back to the topic of confidence. Here, you need the confidence to say no and walk away from something that’s not ok. I couldn’t physically walk away, but I knew no was the only answer. He dialed up the pressure by saying, ‘Do you want to pass your license or not?’
Being under pressure tests our decision-making skills. Building your inner strength to move away from anything that is not ok in your life is critical. In my experience, many women put up with things, people, relationships, jobs and more that are not ok. They fear the unknown or lack the confidence to make the change.
So, I had the inner confidence and strength to say ‘no’ to this creep of a man. Unfortunately, as you will discover, I lacked confidence in another area. And I kick myself today that I allowed fear of the unknown to take over from what I knew was right.
Back to the driving lesson. We were returning to the police station, and the sergeant chuckled and said, ‘Hey, I was only joking back there’. I ignored him. My brain was fuzzy, and my heart rate was still up, so I went through a stop sign without stopping. I didn’t crash, but he told me that going through a stop sign was an instant fail. I think he even showed me on his page where it said that.
As we pulled up to the station, he said, ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine to get your license next time, just watch out for those stops signs. Of course, you won’t tell anyone about the fun we had out there’.
Lesson #2: Have the Confidence to Speak Up and Stand Up for anyone or anything that is not Ok
You and I both know I needed to report this jerk. But this is where my lack of confidence to speak up came in. I went back to my station and told them I missed out on getting my licence because I went through a stop sign. While that was true, I didn’t mention anything else about what this guy did. For years, I kept it to myself.
Confidence to act in a manner that moves you away from bad people, situations and choices are vital in life. I had that, but I was lacking a different kind of confidence in this instance, speaking up. I allowed my fear about what might happen to take over. ‘What if nobody believes me?’ ‘Will people say it was my fault?’ ‘Will I be labelled badly in my career that was just kicking off?’
To this day, I regret not having the confidence to speak up. I’m certain this guy would have tried the same disgusting behaviour on other women.
Lesson #3: Have the Confidence to Step Up and Go after your Dreams and Back yourself on that Journey
I only stayed in the police force for about five years. I had learnt a lot about human behaviour during that time and discovered there was a whole lot more to discover. I wanted to go deeper on understanding and reading human behaviour, share my knowledge and protect people differently.
After the police force I worked in sales and management roles for a few years, then in 2001, as a single mum of two young daughters, I left my job, and I started a business. It was a training and consulting business focusing on teaching people interviewing skills. There was an underlying theme of uncovering the truth and protecting from harmful deception.
Many people told me it was a bad idea to leave my well-paying job to start this business that was still relatively undefined. Here’s where another form of confidence is required: the confidence to move toward what feels right and then back yourself on that journey
I’m sure you’d agree that everyone has their own opinion on just about everything, and most people would prefer it if you shared their opinion. My well-meaning friends and work associates told me it was a crazy idea to start a business with no business experience and no guaranteed income whilst paying a mortgage as a single mum.
On this occasion – and many before and after – I listened to my gut. It may have been easier to stay at a secure job with guaranteed money and relative predictability, but there was something inside me telling me there was more out there for me in this lifetime. The confidence to listen to your inner compass is crucial, and you don’t always have to know exactly where it will lead. Most of the time, we cannot be sure where our decisions will take us.
Starting my business over 20 years ago was one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve had up years and down years, I’ve changed my branding twice, and I’ve trained or spoken to thousands of people in seven countries. I know I have made a positive difference to the lives of many and that is what lights my inner fire.
Lesson #4: Show Up to the Fears you have and Take Action to Conquer them
The decision to start training, coaching and speaking business meant that I was going to find myself in all sorts of situations with clients, peers, students and the different audiences I was training or presenting to.
I’ve helped women who had a severe lack of confidence to do anything resembling public speaking, although they wanted to. I was fortunate to feel comfortable walking into a room to teach. Even when I speak on a stage, my nerves are mild. But there was one thing I lacked confidence in that I needed to fix about seven years ago.
I was a mess when I was presenting or being interviewed on camera. For some reason, my confident self flew out the window when a video camera was involved, and I would immediately start sweating and lose all command of the English language.
These nerves were a problem because I knew that creating videos for marketing and teaching was the only way forward in the busy digital world. Plus, I knew that my career direction could involve media interviews, and I was not ready to pull that off without looking like a mess.
Let me ask you two questions:
Is there something you want or need to do in your life, but a lack of confidence is holding you back?
What steps are you taking to change your thinking, grow the confidence to conquer your fears and tackle anything else thrown your way?
For me, I knew I needed to lose the fear and grow my confidence to present on camera. The lack of confidence didn’t make sense: I was confident in most other settings, but something was holding me back.
I learnt that lacking confidence is not always logical or explainable. I don’t know why I was such a mess once someone tried to get me to say something intelligent to the camera.
The great thing is there is ALWAYS something you can do about it. Always. So, I enrolled in a five-day course called ‘Shine on Camera’. Each day, I had to show up, knowing I would have to do all sorts of super uncomfortable things as I battled the voice in my head and the fear pulsing through my body.
But I did it! Today, I enjoy presenting to a camera, which is just as well. My business would have come to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit if I wasn’t camera confident by then.
If there are areas in your life that you would like to be more confident in (and there are for just about everyone I know), commit to doing something about it. You may need some help or support to get there, and there’s no shame in turning to people who know how to build confidence.
When you let fear hold you back, you miss out on experiences and opportunities. Whether you lack confidence in talking to strangers, changing your job or starting a new business, you can do something about it.
In 2021, I stepped out of my comfort zone once again to follow my inner compass. I took all that I knew from my personal and professional worlds to join forces with former US Military Intelligence Officer and Interrogator Lena Sisco.
I reached out to Lena a few years ago after watching her TED talk and reading her book called ‘You’re Lying’. For decades, on opposite sides of the world, we have both been all about protecting good people from bad things. We have both widely studied human behaviour and worked to help people build skills to uncover the truth from others and within themselves. When our paths first crossed, I said to myself, ‘She is my truth sister on the other side of the world’.
Late in 2021, we started a community together called The Truth Sisters Academy. Our mission is to empower ambitious women with a life-changing awareness of human behaviour. We help them master interpersonal communication, grow unshakable confidence, uncover hidden truth and make more informed decisions on who to trust.
We invite women of all ages and stages worldwide to join the Truth Sisters tribe. What we do changes lives. It can even save lives. Lena and I know the power of healthy confidence levels. One of the many things we do is help women strengthen their confidence to speak up, step up and show up.
As I’ve demonstrated in this article, confidence is not a one-size-fits-all concept. How we respond to situations and opportunities depends on many factors. Still, there is one thing I know for sure: a lack of confidence and self-belief will hold you back from experiencing all that life has to offer. It’s always worth taking steps to strengthen your confidence where you need it most.
Article by Elly Johnson, Co-Founder of Truth Sisters Academy
If you would like to leverage an advanced awareness of human behaviour and develop unshakable confidence, join the private Truth Sisters Academy Facebook Group to connect with us.
If you would like a free tip sheet to kick-start your journey to greater confidence, download the 5 Power Tips to Grow Your Confidence
If you would like to speak to Elly about programs or support that can grow your awareness of human behaviour and transform you into an unstoppable force, you can book a free 20-minute discovery session here.