“Confidence comes from knowing you’re doing the right thing.”

Penny Haslam and Shirley WiddopThat’s what the writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie remarked recently in Radio 4’s The Confidence Trick programme, which is a gentle listen about what makes us self-assured.

When I heard it, I immediately thought of my pal Shirley Widdop who has recently spoken in the House of Lords about her health.

That’s me and Shirley at a conference about poverty, in January.

Shirley has degenerative cervical myelopathy, an under-recognised, progressive and disabling condition – which developed after she slipped a disc in her neck. Loads of people have it, but there’s not enough information or research done about it. You can find out more here.

Before her ‘speaking gig’ I asked Shirley how she was feeling about being in front of such a potentially intimidating audience – in such an unusual setting too.

She told me that yes, she was nervous, but it didn’t matter how she felt. She said she had the confidence to speak in front of the ‘higher-ups’ in society because she knew she was ‘doing the right thing’.

And this fits a theme I return to again and again – because I would say that Shirley’s ‘val-yous’ are helping her to say what needs to be said. The by-product is confidence.

In my keynote talk Make Yourself a Little More Confident I suggest that once you find what you believe in and what you are willing to stand up for, confidence follows.  You don’t have be confident per se.

When I doubt myself, I remind myself that I want to stand up for people who don’t always have a voice, or who aren’t as visible as others. It only takes a bit brain power (your chimp won’t mind at all) to think about your own personal ‘val-yous’ and what you would be willing to speak about, down the House of Lords.

Write your val-yous down, stick them on the fridge or bathroom mirror, so you can fetch for them when you need that boost of confidence. Stand proud.