The idea that we SHOULD be confident all the time is a story.
So drop it.
Instead, build a healthy relationship with fear.
Because fear can be a good thing.
It is a sign that we are growing as a person. It is a sign we are trying something new.
We are here to grow. We are here to learn. Often, fear comes with that.
And that’s OK.
In the words of Deepak Chopra: “Step into the unknown and you will step into the field of all possibilities”
The unknown (or ‘the new’) is where we grow. It is where we challenge ourselves. It is where we become more confident.
So I would like to ask you to do something new today.
This is why I have started MTG’s Confidence Challenges.
Every two weeks, I will post a challenge for you to explore. I will ask you to share your experiences with me so we can grow together.
And I will ask you to share this challenge with others.
Let’s challenge each other. Let’s see what we can do. Let’s build a relationship with fear together.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel and let’s start your Confidence Challenge today.
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This is my dream: that EVERYONE feels confident to learn another language.
I am speaking to more and more people about MTG.
And it is becoming clear to me that it is not just my students who have little/no confidence in their language… it is my friends too. My English friends who want to learn another language.
So this is why my idea has changed. This community is now here for EVERYONE.
English, German, French, Mongolian… whoever you are. Be Language Confident.
https://morethangrammar.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/morethangrammar-logo-english-teacher-berlin.png00morethangrammarhttps://morethangrammar.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/morethangrammar-logo-english-teacher-berlin.pngmorethangrammar2016-08-20 13:38:532016-10-04 13:16:09Be Language Confident
Phew! It’s summer in Brighton and I am working NON-STOP
At first I thought I would find this too difficult. I thought ‘it will be too tiring. I’m not ready. I’m not good enough. Maybe next year.’
Do you ever find yourself thinking this? About an exam? About an interview? About a presentation? About taking English lessons???
Well, I have good news for you.
The good news is: you 100% CAN do it.
A challenge is there for you to take. This ‘difficult thing’ is here to show you how strong you are.
So if there is a chance to do something hard: TAKE IT!
You will be surprised how ready you are and how ‘good enough’ you are.
I am still a bit scared about the work I have to do this summer… but so far, I am doing really well.
What is more: I am ENJOYING it.
What is the lesson I have learnt from this?
Don’t tell yourself ‘I can’t’ before you try.
Maybe you will be surprised about what you can do. Maybe you will learn more. Maybe you will have fun. Maybe it will all just be OK. Maybe you will make mistakes and maybe you will learn from them. Maybe you will make new friends. Maybe you will learn some new skills.
Whatever. It’s all good.
And it is much better than telling yourself negative things and doing nothing.
We are here to live and you can’t do that sat in your room.
Go out there. Make a change. Try something new. Learn.
I used to believe that ‘I can’t’ was a thought that I needed to write again. It was a part of me that I didn’t like. I needed new thoughts.
But then I began to listen to this voice.
‘I can’t do this. I can’t write. I can’t teach. I can’t I can’t I can’t.’
Then I had a strange experience. I SAW myself saying this. It was like I was out of my body and I SAW myself saying these things.
When I saw this, I also saw that I needed help.
So I asked: ‘how can I help you?’
Suddenly I felt OK again. I felt someone had heard me. I felt that I could DO something to help me.
The first thing to do is to ask: is this true?
For example, you may believe that you can’t give a presentation… but then you remember that you gave a presentation before and it was OK.
OR maybe you think ‘I can’t’ because you haven’t done it before. Then WHO SAYS that you can’t do it? You don’t know! Every time I say to myself ‘I don’t think I can do this,’ another part of me says: ‘Hang on, listen to yourself: I don’t think I can do this…. so how do you know? Have you tried? No? So try! Then see.’
The second thing is to remember: ‘Can’t isn’t forever’
So, maybe you ‘can’t’ understand relative clauses in English. Or you need to look up words when you read this. That’s fine. When we learn something new, maybe we can’t do them, because they are new. Of course you can’t do it! It’s new, you’re learning!
‘Can’t’ isn’t forever. It’s hard at first, then you study, you learn, and it becomes easy and suddenly YOU CAN.
So be patient with yourself. Know that you can learn and it will be OK.
Oh, and it’s OK to ask for help. Asking for help is a part of learning. Sometimes if we don’t ask for help, we don’t learn. So that’s OK too.
Now I like it when I say ‘I can’t’
Why? Because now I see: I am just in a place where I am learning something new and there is a part of me that is scared about that.
And that’s ok.
It’s OK it be scared. It’s OK to learn. It’s OK to ask for help.
You have 1000+ words to learn, timed papers to practice, grammar exercises to complete AND homework.
I understand. I’ve been through this experience too.
… But what if I told you that confidence was both essential AND easy???
You know them: the students who do not try but always get really good results.
I wasn’t one of these students.
I worked and stressed and cried and worked some more. I felt really bad.
I was intelligent but I didn’t believe it. So I worked really hard to get better, but all I did was become more stressed. At the same time, I had friends who were confident. Because they believed in their abilities, they studied without stress… and sometimes they got better grades than me.
From my experience, too much stress can make you…
Work too hard
I don’t want you to do any of these things. I want you to relax. I want you to feel good about what you CAN do.
Because when you believe in what you can do, you feel good. When you feel good, you feel confident.
The fact is: you need confidence to get through an exam. A little bit of stress is OK. It is understandable … but I would also like you to know that you CAN do it.
If you believe in your abilities, you will study more effectively AND feel ok when you walk into that exam room.
Luckily there are loads of very easy ways you can feel better. Here are two:
1) Positive self-talk:
Self-talk is the way you speak to yourself.
What do you think is better?
‘Oh no, I can’t do this. I’m going to fail and it’ll be a disaster’
‘I can do this. I know what I can do, I know what I need to do. Let’s do this!’
I like the second one, don’t you?
Find some positive things to say about yourself and say them often. It can be even
better if you say them in front of a mirror. It’s like giving yourself a little pep talk (a talk to motivate you and help you feel better).
Here are some examples:
‘I am a great student’ ‘I can do this’ ‘I have passed exams before, I can pass this one too.’ ‘I am cool, calm and confident.’ ‘I believe in myself’
(These are just ideas. You can say whatever you like but make it positive.)
I like saying these things when I feel like I want to give up. Every time I hear myself say ‘oh no, I can’t do this,’ I stop, think and say ‘no, I CAN do this, I just need to keep practicing.’ This helps me to feel more motivated.
I understand if you find this difficult. When I started this, I felt so embarrassed! It felt stupid to say things about myself that I didn’t believe.
However, after some practice, I began to see the difference in the way I saw myself. For example, after saying ‘I am intelligent’ for a few weeks, I began to see times when I WAS intelligent. This felt so good, I began to believe it too!
So keep going, you CAN do it, you ARE intelligent and you CAN believe in yourself. Yes.
Bonus tip: the best times to do this are early in the morning and late at night. It’s a wonderful way to start and end the day.
2) Can-do list
When you are studying for an exam, it often feels like you have a lot to do.
So you write ‘to-do’ lists, right?
Fine. I do too. It helps me organise what I need to do.
But you could also write ‘can-do’ lists.
Write a list of the things you know already. It can be small things, it can be big things. Both are important.
If you’re finding this hard, ask someone to write one for you. Ask someone in your class or your teacher. I find other people often see good things about you that you don’t see. Plus, when someone tells you something good about you, you feel…. GOOD!
Conclusion: study + confidence = exam success
I’m not saying don’t study. Studying is important.
All I’m saying is: study isn’t the only thing to think about when you are preparing for an exam.
With confidence, studying becomes easier, the exam is less stressful and you feel much better.
I think we all know that your body language* can change the way people think about you.
For example, we know that it is better to stand tall and open during a presentation. This shows your audience that you are confident.
Did you also know that your body can change the way you think about you?
There is a talk on ted.com that is given by a brilliant woman called Amy Cuddy.
She is a social scientist and studies how our body language changes our communication with other people. One day, she decided to look at another way of communicating: the way we communicate with ourselves.
So she did her research and discovered something amazing:
If we stand in a ‘power pose’ (see picture) for two minutes, our testosterone goes up and our cortisol goes down.
In easy English, we feel more powerful and less stressed!
From this, we can go into an interview feeling great about ourselves. When we feel great about ourselves, we show our ideas in the best possible way.
She also talks about ‘faking it until you become it.’
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ which means pretend that you can do something until you can really do it.
‘Fake it until you become it’ has a similar meaning, but the focus is on how you feel, not what you can do.
Basically this means you can fake that you are confident until you really feel confident inside.
I love this idea because it means that all we need is practice.
Before an exam, we often focus on the words we need to get the grade we want. This is important, of course.
But I also encourage you to practice feeling confident about the exam before you go into the exam. Then when the exam day comes, you really do feel completely confident. This can make a BIG difference in your result.
And all you need to do is to stand in a power pose for two minutes.
Here is a personal example:
This is my third attempt to write this post. I was totally enthusiastic about sharing this with you but I just couldn’t find the right words. I almost gave up. Today, however, I said ‘no’ to that idea. I got up and stood in a power pose for two minutes.
I don’t know how to explain it, but I suddenly felt POWERFUL. I felt that I could do it.
So I sat down, watched the video again and wrote this.
I did it, and you can do it too.
Watch it here and learn the amazing things that you can do with your body.
Change your body, change the way you think, change the way you speak.
Then go out there and ‘share the science’ – tell other people about this. It is so easy to feel confident when you know how and we all need to know this. Together, WE CAN DO IT.
*’Body language’ is the way we use our body when we speak, for example, the way we stand or sit.
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This is a good question, but it is also a very broad one. I find it easier to think through examples. So I would like to ask instead: Who is YOUR favourite speaker?
Are they famous? Or are they someone you know?
Do they speak English or are they from your own country?
What do you like about their voice?
Do they speak quickly or slowly?
Are they loud or quiet? Or are they somewhere in the middle?
Do they have a low voice or a high voice?
Do they have an accent?
I ask all of these questions because it is very important to think about what we like. The thing is: different people like different things. Plus what we like changes in different situations. For example, I like folk music, my friend likes rap music. I like to listen to dance music on the bus, but I like to listen to classical music before I go to bed.
Does that make one kind of music better than the other?
No. I don’t think so.
So, do you think that one speaker is better than the other?
Is your favourite speaker the same as mine?
When I think about my favourite speakers, I can’t think of the ONE thing that makes them great. They are all so different. Both in the way they speak and how they sound. Yet, they are all great. I like them all.
So it makes me wonder: we are all so unique. You have one voice to speak to the world. Only you can speak the way you do. So maybe it’s possible to like the way you speak too.
This is not always easy when you are a non-native speaker. I know the pain and embarrassment of having an accent that people a) don’t understand and/or b) find ‘really cute/funny/stupid.’ So, it’s ok, I’ve been there.* But please don’t let this stop you from speaking. You will never improve your speaking skills if you are embarrassed by the way you speak.
So now I have realised: the thing that makes my favourite speakers great is that they just speak.
That’s all you have to do to become a great speaker. Of course, there are other things that are nice (being clear, speaking with passion, speaking at a nice speed). These are qualities that I want to talk about in later posts.
Until then, though, just try speaking. Speak to your friends, speak to your family, speak to your colleagues. If no one is there, speak to yourself! You are your ideal partner: you don’t need to get embarrassed about your mistakes (no one can hear them). Plus no one can tell you to shut up, so you can talk as much as you want!
So go on, give it a go, have a try. Just speak. You are already great. Now practice being great.
* ‘I’ve been there’ is an expression which means ‘ I have had the same experience so I know how you feel.’
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It’s so easy to get lost when you’re learning a language. There just seems to be so much STUFF to learn! So many words, so many structures, so many phrases… So much grammar…
It’s easy (when you’re lost) to forget that learning a language is actually about fun. It’s actually about the opportunities it gives you. It’s actually about feeling really cool and sexy when you FINALLY master that phrase / structure / whatever.
So I’m here to tell you….
YOU ARE MORE THAN GRAMMAR.
Say it now. ‘I am more than grammar.’
Now say it louder.
Now say it louder while smiling.
Now say it LOUDER while smiling at yourself in the mirror.
I don’t know what your opinion is about affirmations. Some people think they’re stupid, some people think they’re amazing. Some people don’t know what they are.
Let me tell you a secret. I didn’t know what they were. Then I thought they were stupid. Then I thought they were amazing. Now I know that they can help when learning a language.
An affirmation can help you change what you believe about something. So if you believe that learning a language is difficult / boring / stupid / unfair, then this might be the affirmation for you.
So next time it all feels too much, say this: ‘I am more than grammar.’ Say it and remember…
… you are more than the mistakes you make
… you are more than your grades
… you are more than your homework
… you are more than the list of phrasal verbs you don’t understand
Say it and relax. You are more than grammar. So go and have fun with the language and don’t stress so much. It will be OK.
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