To feel confident requires overcoming a lot of failures. But DESPINA NICOLA says it can be achieved by tackling the problems life throws at you

I am sitting in class waiting for my maths grade, my heart is beating, my hands are sweating and a feeling of dizziness runs through me. I gaze round the room and see all my classmates receiving their grades. Then my body goes cold as I see my teacher holding my test and wondering if he is going to reveal that I am an imposter who is too dumb for the class.

The footsteps of my 7th grade teacher are now clunking towards me. He is an old hard-hearted man with a sneer on his face. He places the test unforgivingly on my desk. I begin to sink deeper and deeper and wish my chair would swallow me up. Thence he stoops and mutters, “Despina, 3 out of 20, what do you have to say for yourself?” “Sir,” I say in a weak shaky voice, “I am ashamed.” And here marks one of the defining experiences of my endeavors with lack of confidence.

At 11 years old, my family moved from New Zealand to Cyprus, which led to my grades suffering.

Lack of confidence can lead to feelings of insecurity, feelings that you are unseen and unheard? But you can work through them to achieve confidence. My experience taught me that even when you are put down and humiliated, it does not need to define you.

It needs to be stressed though that gaining lost confidence takes work. There is no short cut. Confidence is a prerequisite to success. It helps you focus on what you desire, and work towards it. Even if you are not confident, fake it until you make it.

My wrestle with confidence shadowed me for many more of my school years. Fortunately, though, while I worked on improving grades, the journey truly blessed me with confidence.

These experiences impelled me to become a teacher and life coach. At times, not obtaining as good a grade as others taught me to tolerate my academic failures to become more confident. The more difficulties you come across, the more resilient you become. It is a continual cycle of trying, learning, adapting and then failing or succeeding.

Confidence and assertiveness can be built by boldly addressing the problems life throws at you.

I can give you a brief story of confidence using frogs. Two frogs find themselves in a farmhouse kitchen. Exploring the benches, they accidently fall into a massive tub of cream, both are frightened and splatter relentlessly to escape. Soon, the first one gets fatigued and gives up the fight and drowns. The second keeps splashing but even more powerfully. It becomes even more exhausted but remains in the tub kicking and trying to survive. After an hour of splashing around, the cream becomes thicker and buttery. He is then able to jump out. This is confidence, it is built on consistency and not being afraid to fail.

One of the frogs was confident enough to save its life. It adapted itself to a new situation by using a process of trial and error.

Confidence is trusting yourself enough to become competent and skilled at something new. You can learn to use it to speak publicly, achieve goals, place boundaries and claim what is rightfully yours.

Confidence though, is not one size fits all. It has to be cultivated to resolve each new situation. To give you an example adapted from Piaget: a fly lands on a toddler’s hand. The child looks at the fly in wonder. Next, the child gets annoyed with the fly, and flicks it off which makes the child feel relieved. Then the child has learnt to shoo the fly off next time it lands on its finger.

The next experience for the child is when a bee lands on its finger. After having tested that flicking the fly off the finger, the child uses the same technique. This time though, the bee stings the child. The child has tried but failed. Now the child has learnt he has to reprogramme the behavior towards a new species, the bee. If the toddler gives up instead of trying to learn a new technique, then the child will be traumatised and uncomfortable around insects.

You can develop confidence when you face trials. By overcoming adversity, you may have to tolerate failing many times, but you can then build the skills to respond. This will then be your saving grace to challenge scarier issues in the future. Confidence has given me the feeling that I can learn, I have faith that I will have many lifelong academic successes no matter what people may label me.