Confidence, English Speaking, and Malaysian Students

Confidence (or self-confidence) is one of those topics that I love to learn more about. One of the reasons why I love it because I see a need for it today. Many people, especially young people, whom I’ve interacted with on some level have self-confidence issues.

It is one of those things that you realize after much exposure, like a pattern. Perhaps you are the only one who notice it because you are paying attention to it. Perhaps you attract certain people with certain problems. Whatever it is, I see it happening enough times to draw a safe conclusion that many young people have a confidence problem and it needs to be addressed.

In many cases, people think that confidence is something that you get from the outside: from the clothes you wear, to the people you hang out with, to the jewelries you have on, to the cars you can (or can’t) afford to buy, and to the skills that you have.

Undeniably, one can feel more confident by having those external things. But the confidence is temporary; once the external things are gone, they take one’s confidence with them. The thing is, confidence is an internal trait.

Take skills as an example.

Many people think that if they have a certain skill, then they should be more confident than they are. But confidence has little to do with the skills that you have. You could have amazing abilities, but you could still be anxious and unsure of yourself.

Lack of confidence has more to do with how you view yourself, and it is more emotional than intellectual.

Despite what reality says, your emotions rule your perception of reality, and your perception of reality rules your life. The key is your emotions. How you feel will colour how you see, and how you see will in return colour how you feel. It’s a vicious cycle, beginning with how you see things.

The key to stop the vicious cycle is to take control of your emotions. That doesn’t mean that you prevent yourself from feeling, because that is impossible. We’re humans. We feel things. What that simply means is that we control how we process what we feel.

If we feel that today is the worst day of our lives, then that becomes our reality. But not necessarily. Reality is, we can choose to process that negative feeling, and come up with a different, more positive conclusion. Take English speaking among Malaysian students as an intimate example.

With English speaking, many students I met have adequate skill. They might not be expert English speakers, but they could speak. They could express what they mean, and isn’t that what language is all about?

But despite having the skill, they still lack confidence. One time a woman asked me how to improve her English speaking. She asked me in full English and without grammatical errors. Even her pronunciation was superb!

So, her question didn’t make sense. Because she asked me as if she has a bad English. But reality is obviously different. She has a good English, but her emotions have distorted the reality. Despite having the ability, she still lacks confidence.

She is not the only one. I’ve met others like her. Those instances suggest to me that confidence issues are deeper than having (or not having) the skills. If you think that your self-confidence will automatically improve if you have the English speaking skill, then you might want to think twice about it.

You might cure the symptom, but the disease is still there.

How many people with flawless English speaking who are not confident with themselves? On the other hand, how many people with not-so-flawless English speaking who are completely confident with themselves?

Clearly, English speaking is not the root of the problem.

The root of the problem is how you view yourself. Confidence is the delicate balance between superiority and inferiority. Having superiority could lead to arrogance. That’s not good. Having inferiority could lead to self-loathing. That’s not good either.

Confidence is somewhere in between, where you don’t view yourself as above anyone else and you don’t view yourself as worthless compared to anyone else. Confidence means to be comfortable in your own skin and to be comfortable with being yourself.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we are happy with our flaws. It means that we accept them as a part of ourselves, while having the intention to change ourselves for the better. Confidence is not the same as complacency.

There’s more to say and more to do with regards to confidence, especially among students. The reason why I focus so much on students is because they are young adults who are becoming more and more involved with the community, whether they like it or not.

Students and young adults everywhere are glimpses of our future. The world as we know it is throwing at us new problems everyday, and we need people who are able to solve these problems for a better future.

Having confidence is a must for problem-solvers. They need to be able to work under pressure, interact with vastly different people, explore the unpredictable world around them, and be true to who they are as an individual.

Problems exist to shake you, and you can’t solve them if you can’t stand firmly on your own two feet.

Do you want to master your confidence?

Speak Up! Project focuses on creating a strong foundation of inner confidence. We apply the confidence in practicing essential soft skills: English speaking, public speaking, and debating.

Click here to get updates about our next confidence-upgrading programs.