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What Can American Idol Teach Us About Confidence?

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"Let me listen to me, not to them." - Gertrude Stein

Are you watching American Idol this season? I noticed something interesting about the "confidence arc" of this season's contestants.

On the initial shows, many of them displayed raw talent. They got up in front of the judges and sang their heart out. They were in their element. They just let loose and gave it their all.

Look at that language. They let loose of their doubts, let go of their fears and gave it their all. It was impressive because we got to see who they really are.

If they're really good, they got a golden ticket and made it to Hollywood. If they're really, really good, they got through the elimination rounds and made it to the live TV shows.

Then it all went awry.

Why? They got over-coached. They started getting advice from all sides. Do this. Don't do that. Change it up.

They started second-guessing themselves. Doubts crept in. They became anxious and afraid.

See, anxiety can be defined in two words: not knowing. They weren't sure what to do anymore because they're receiving conflicting advice. They're so confused they no longer know what they know.

It was painful to watch because these young singers were out of their wheelhouse. They were tentative, hesitant, uncomfortable, visibly worried about doing it ... wrong.

The good news is that a wonderful evolution took place during last week's show.

Several of the contestants said in their pre-performance interview, "I'm just going to go out there and sing. I'm going to forget about the millions of people watching, imagine I'm in the classroom with my students, and just have fun."

Good for them! They went back to what they knew. They went back to trusting their talent.

In my book, What's Holding You Back? 30 Days to Having the Courage and Confidence to Do What You Want, Meet Whom You Want, and Go Where You Want, I call this ... coming into our own.

Coming into our own is a key to creating a calm confidence we carry with us wherever we go.

Trusting our voice, vision and values is the secret to a sustainable sense of self-esteem that is not situational. A centered self-assurance that does not depend on where we are or whom we're with.

Are you in a situation right now where you have you been taken out of your wheelhouse?

Have you been listening to everyone's advice but your own? Are you second-guessing yourself and don't know what to do anymore? Are you focusing on your fears instead of trusting your talent?

There are times it's smart to seek objective input from experts who know what they're talking about. It's valuable to get outside perspectives that open our eyes to a variety of options to make sure we're considering things from all angles.

After receiving that input though, it's important to run it by your voice, vision and values. If what they're saying resonates with you, run with it. If not, thank them, and then go with what your gut is telling you.

Want more ways to reflect on what's helping your confidence and what's hurting it?

It's as simple as asking yourself a few questions and internalizing your answers.

1. How do you define confidence and what does it mean to you?

2. Are you a confident person? Do you feel that way most of the time, or is it situational?

3. When was a time where you really felt confident? What was contributing to that? When was a time you had little or no confidence? In retrospect, what was causing that?

4. What is one specific action or activity that you are currently doing that makes you like yourself and your life? Playing tennis? Singing in a choir? Giving a fantastic presentation? If you are having trouble thinking of one, are you too busy to do things that give you confidence?

5. Who gives you confidence? What have they done or said that increased your self-worth and self-esteem?

6. What about the opposite? Who is someone that causes you to doubt yourself or second-guess yourself? What steps have you taken to limit the impact this person has on your confidence?

7. What advice would you give to someone looking to increase their own confidence? What's the best advice you've ever received about being confident? Put yourself into the scene, and put yourself in the situation where you were given such great advice.

8. What changes are you going to make to keep more of the things that give you confidence in your life, while removing those that do not?

You might want to print this out, invite a friend to lunch and take the time to answer these questions. It will make for a fascinating conversation that could lead to some keen insights on why you sometimes feel confident, why sometimes you don't, and what to do about it.

Want additional ways to boost your confidence? Check out my book, What's Holding You Back? -- which Jack Canfield says "is a must-read for anyone who would like to be more polished, poised and powerful at work, at home, in social settings, at school and in sports."