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9 Confidence Myths That Only Quiet People Will Truly Understand

Timid woman

Quiet is the new loud.” ~Patrick Stump

 Isn’t it ironic?

When you need it the most, your confidence is nowhere to be found.

When you’re freaking out at the thought of meeting new people, speaking up or going for that job interview, you’re only ally has gone AWOL.

And even though you’ve tried all the standard advice on how to be more confident, more self-assured, if you’re anything like I used to be, it’s left you even more anxious. Even less sure of yourself.

And all your efforts to be more confident have got you worrying that there’s actually something wrong with you.

Because the advice on building your confidence that works for others just doesn’t seem to work for you at all.

Take heart. There’s a really good reason it doesn’t work for you…

…you’re quiet.

Some people might say “introverted,” but labels are often only half the story. Simply put:

  • Shouting above everyone else to be heard just isn’t your thing.
  • A busy diary feels like you must have been a bad person in a former life.
  • You love being social and then suddenly you want to be home. In pajamas.
  • And alone time, well that’s level pegging with oxygen.

The rub is a lot of advice on how to be more confident works for a lot of people. It does make them appear more confident. And it can boost their own feelings of confidence.

But as a quiet person, trying to improve your self-confidence by following this type of advice, however good, can leave you less self-confident and more self-conscious than ever.

I know, I did just that…

Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“All eyes on me, I can do this,” I mumbled inside. “Speak up girl, dammit.”

I seriously mis-sold myself at that interview. And every day that followed because of the persona I thought I needed to put across—a loud, forceful, heck aggressive if that’s what the situation needed, “Go get ‘em Laura.”

“Maybe I’ll grow into this louder me…please,” I stressed inside.

Instead, I became a caricature of my true, quiet self.

Colleagues that the authentic quiet me would have got on great with shied away from the person they saw me as. But equally I wasn’t comfortable with the people who liked the false loud me they saw and heard.

Pretending ate away my confidence and devoured my self-esteem.

And yeah, it got messy at work. And I left… quietly.

It’s a myth that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to being more confident. We are all unique, with different stories and challenges, but there is some advice that directly conflicts with quiet tendencies.

So here are nine confidence myths that only quiet people will truly understand.

 1. Speak louder.

To get on, you’ve got to speak up, get loud, right? Folk need to hear you over all the noise in today’s hyper-busy, hyper-competitive world. And they need to hear you fast.

But if you’re quiet, trying to speak louder feels uncomfortably rushed. I found I was consumed by the way I was saying my piece, not what I was saying.

Someone who speaks quietly, and only when they have something to say, can command greater attention than the loudest, most vocal person in the room.

Ghandi never raised his voice, and a whole nation heard him just fine.

2. Walk faster.

Walking faster makes it look like you’re filled with purpose, assured of your direction.

But for me, walking faster, well that just got me there too fast. I felt like I was hurrying, scrambling even. By forcing myself to quicken my pace, I set my quiet confidence running in the opposite direction.

Bottom line, I felt like I wasn’t in control.

Instead take your time. Taking things at your pace is a sure sign of a confident person.

After all, can you imagine the Dalai Lama rushing?

3. Be busy.

The idea of making yourself extra busy because it adds to the image of you being in demand, being successful, works for some.

But I found that there’s an extra, more troublesome dimension if you’re quiet. Making myself noticeably busier meant I had to engage with lots more people to attract more tasks. And ironically, I also had to say no more because soon I’d taken on way too much.

But worst of all, I was too busy doing everything badly, rather than one thing well. And quiet people like to do a good job. It’s a critical part of our confidence.

So rather than be the go-to guy or gal for any and every project, be known as the one to call on when the task needs care and attention.

4. Dress sharp.

The way we look can have a profound effect on our level of confidence, and dressing sharp seems good advice.

So I smothered my quiet tendencies and took the dress sharp class.

Oh boy! I felt like the Emperor and his new clothes. More self-conscious than if I’d been naked. I felt like my clothes were shouting “look at me!”

You don’t need to obsess over how you dress. Get your confidence from being your true self and knowing that long after they’ve forgotten what you looked like, they won’t have forgotten how you made them feel.

“I don't want to be just known for the way I dress. I want to be known for how… I treat people” ~Rickie Fowler

5. Smile. 

Smiling says I’m relaxed, confident, at ease with myself. And easily approachable.

Which is commendable.

But as a quiet person, sometimes I don’t want the whole world to approach me, to engage in conversation, to look for a deeper connection than maybe I want.

Unfortunately, by trying to wear a permanently over-enthusiastic smile, I gave out a confusing message to others about how involved I was comfortable being.

It’s better for your confidence to preserve your quiet space when you need it than wear a false “open all hours” smile.

6. Make and hold eye contact. 

Winning the staring contest supposedly shows that you are confident, accessible with nothing to conceal.

So I gave the “hold eye contact” advice a really good shot.

So tiring! Embarrassing even. I felt like a weird stalker, hanging on every nuance of every word, yet ironically I heard nothing because my thoughts were totally taken up with winning the staring contest.

Sure, totally avoiding eye contact suggests that you’re either very shy or very guilty. But eye contact is way more intense than words will ever be. So if you’re a little reserved, holding someone’s gaze needs to be as natural as possible for your confidence to flourish.

7. Adopt power poses. 

Similar to eye contact, your body says way more than your words. “Power poses” might include:

  • the self-assured lean back in the chair
  • the standing with legs shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips stance
  • the steepling fingers together and resting elbows on the table

These can increase testosterone, which in turn increases confidence.

Now, even though I’m quiet it doesn’t mean I’m a mouse. I’ve given talks to groups of a dozen to several hundred. And I’ve tried those poses.

I felt like a second rate actor in a bad B-movie. One I wouldn’t have paid to watch. And the stress of trying to pose nearly killed me.

You see as a quiet person, the testosterone fueled confidence boost is more than likely to be offset by the extra increase in stress. Having to consciously adapt your body language can feel like a daunting performance.

Instead of trying to contort yourself into unnatural poses, boost your confidence by playing the only role you’ll ever win an Oscar for—you.

8. Shake hands firmly.

A first impression can be difficult to turn around. A firm grasp, two or three pumps up and down can persuade the other person you’re James Bond confident.

Unless of course you’re a quiet person. And then it’s likely to be quite the opposite. Sure, I shake hands, I’m British after all, but my consciously firm hand shaking attempts left me feeling pushy and competitive.

That’s not the way my confidence feels good on meeting new people.

Instead of forcing your handshake, offer the genuine quiet greeting your confidence is comfortable with and let the other person meet the real you first off.

9. Make physical contact. 

A touch can say so much. It can be warm, assured, reassuring even, and can make you seem more confident.

And I was well aware of that, but every time I tried to pat someone on the back, or touch them on the shoulder, it felt more like I was taking a liberty than offering a friendly gesture. It felt way too intimate.

As a somewhat reserved person, gentle or friendly physical contact might be well intentioned but if it’s uninvited, that gentle tap can feel more of a Zap.

So instead of fake physical intimacy, let the authenticity of your personality affect them instead.

Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.” ~Iain Duncan Smith

True, all our lives we’ve been shown that loud is better, that loud wins.

Which is why you hoped so hard that the good advice you tried was going to be the answer.

It’s still good advice… for anyone not like you.

But if you can stop seeing quiet as the chink in your armor of confidence, you’ll leap a thousand steps in being more self-assured.

Your own unique version of confidence is quiet. Quiet confidence.

Make peace with your quietness.

Because quiet confidence can conquer the world.

If it wants to.

About Laura Tong

Laura Tong is a regular contributor on The Huffington Post and other top blogs. Grab her free cheat sheet: 5 Guilt Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict). Laura also hosts the Re-write The Rules In Your Life interview series where she shares awesome happiness and positivity tips from experts around the world. Click here to listen free to the latest episodes.

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  • Fran

    Thank you Laura.

  • Smiling and being more measured in everything you do are massively helpful. Thanks.

  • Fabulous Post Laura, Every Point Have Deep Meaning. Thanks For Sharing This Lovely Article…

  • Tony Casillas

    I love this thanks for sharing!

  • David Edwards

    Thank you, I now understand my quiet side better and can embrace it better.

  • Thank you Smugg Bugg, I’m delighted this post spoke to you. Enjoy your authentic confidence 🙂

  • e_monster

    I”ve made peace with myself.

    I’m confident enough in my own style of quiet. Have been that way for decades. I never needed to make noise or project bravado to prop myself up.

    But quiet, inner confidence somehow just isn’t enough for others in a loud extrovert-centric culture. The consequences of that are what come home to roost.

  • Thank you for adding your positive thoughts Mike. I find that smiling my real, genuine smile gives me a huge confidence boost – an overbeaming one does the opposite. I love your ‘more measured’ approach too. I find that allows me to do a good job, to take care, without feeling rushed. Also the beauty is that ‘measured’ is personal to each of us, your natural pace could be twice that of mine, but it’s still genuinely you so it allows your confidence to flourish. Delight in knowing how to nurture your confidence.

  • Thank you Fran, I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. Have a wonderfully confident day.

  • Thank you David. You know, it took me the greater part of my life to realise that I’m not shy or anti-social or even socially awkward – I’m quiet! And always have been. The minute I started to embrace the real me, my confidence honestly soared. Acting out of character was an absolute confidence assassin for me. Welcome to the quiet side 🙂

  • Thank you Tony. I’m really pleased you enjoyed this post. Delight in letting your confidence flourish.

  • PJ

    re #9: Some people also react badly to being touched without an invitation to do so.

    It increases my stress and anxiety and can make me physically ill. Sometimes I have a very large ‘bubble’ and dont want even close friends closer than 5 or 10 feet to me. Days like that, an unwanted, uninvited touch could be mentally crippling.

    And if you’re already in this mental state, saying ‘please don’t touch me’ is nigh impossible

  • Love this Laura! I used to be very quiet and completely lacked confidence. But eventually I was able to become more confident in myself, I gradually got louder as a person!

    Dan

  • Lakshmi P Chenchugari

    These kind of posts induce more confusion to me.This is in conflict to what i already learned from books 🙁 :(.

  • Hi Lakshmi, please don’t be confused. If you have read alternative advice and it’s working for you – absolutely keep doing it. The point of this post is that it’s for quiet people who don’t usually respond well to the opposite of what I’ve included here. Hope that’s cleared it up for you. If not, please add a little more information here and I will do my very best to help you.

  • Thanks for adding your positive experience – I’m delighted that you’ve built your confidence up, that’s wonderful. For many of us who are quiet, even when our confidence is in super form, we don’t actually get any louder 🙂 That’s the wonderful thing about TinyBuddha, there is so much wisdom here that each of can find exactly what works for our unique characters. Enjoy a confident life Dan.

  • Hi PJ, I absolutely agree! My sense of personal space is somewhere between big and enormous depending on something that I can’t always predict. I understand what you mean about your ‘bubble’. I’m often very affectionate with my closest friends but once the hug is over, I need some space. I also appreciate it can be difficult to let others know that’s how you are feeling.

  • Thanks so much for adding your thoughts to this discussion e_monster. I’m delighted that you’re happy and comfortable that you’re quiet. I do agree that it can be hard to flourish as a quiet person in an extrovert world but honestly, I think in many areas it takes effort and extra persistence. I don’t doubt there are some professions or social groups where quiet just isn’t going to succeed so well, but likewise with loud or extroverted personalities – there are areas where they will struggle more. I have honestly succeeded so much more since I embraced my quietness and went out as me – I think a fair part may be due to the fact that I follow what I’m drawn to.

  • I love this. In my head I always fought with these contradictions.

  • Melanie Miceli

    Awesome post Laura! You have brought up so many great points. I wish I had been able to read this 20 years ago! I have learned over the years that being quiet is also a huge benefit. People seem to naturally gravitate towards someone quiet because they don’t take over conversations and when they speak it is usually something that has been thought about instead of something off the cuff. Also, it’s always fun to be the quiet one with a wicked sense of humour that keeps people on their toes!

  • Thanks for adding an extra positive dimension on being quiet to this discussion Melanie. And I also wish I’d understood myself better years and years before I did but now we can delight in our quiet-ness and our quiet confidence.
    Enjoy your wicked sense of humour.

  • Thank you Boss Of My Feelings. I’m delighted this post made sense to the way you’ve been thinking. Enjoy being just who you are.

  • Thanks for this post Laura! I really liked the point about Ghandi. Growing up, people often made fun of me for speaking in a low voice and said I needed to speak louder if I ever wanted to get noticed. I ignored them and just kept speaking how I wanted to. I think being authentic and not changing for anyone is the true sign of confidence.