“I Have Confidence” – 4 helpful tips from Fräulein Maria

{{UPDATED TO INCLUDE SONG LINK! SCROLL DOWN!}} Reminder: we’ll be bringing you all of March’s Musical Theater songs on Saturday the 30th.  In addition to today’s song you will be getting the links for “Ten Minutes Ago” from Cinderella,On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, and “Better Than I” from Joseph: King of Dreams. In the meantime you can listen to our previously released songs here

By Naomi Bird…

Is confidence something you grow out of? Will I ever get to a point where I don’t need to be putting on confident airs? It’s tiring. And energizing. I’m not sure how that works but I would love for someone older and wiser to tell me when I can stop pretending to be confident.

Basically, “I need someone older and wiser telling me what to do…” Oops. That’s the wrong song! Right movie though!

This week’s featured song is “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music.

Right now around our country there are so many 30- and 40-somethings trumpeting the importance of being brave and courageous and confident even when you’re scared and don’t really know what you’re doing.

Part of this message is something that I completely adore – the empowering idea that what you choose to believe about yourself is the hugest (that’s a word, right?) factor in how you succeed.

The application gets a little murky though. I like more concrete examples. Believe it or not there are scientific studies that show biological effects of various confidence-inducing behaviors.

Saying the words “you can do this” actually releases testosterone, a hormone tied closely to strong and confident choices.

Holding your shoulders back and chin up leads to similar results.

A professor at a California university asserts that holding yourself in a tall “expansive” posture makes one feel more powerful:

“When people feel powerful, their limbs are more open and their body language is more expansive. They literally take up more space. Postures aren’t just an expression of how we feel. They can also inform the brain by changing our physiology. If you hold an open and expansive pose for a few minutes before an important situation, it can increase the dominance hormone testosterone and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.” [1]

Even pain tolerance can be increased by simply standing up tall, as explained here:

“The study, ‘It Hurts When I Do This (or You Do That)’ published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people feel more powerful, in control and able to tolerate more distress. Out of the individuals studied, those who used the most dominant posture were able to comfortably handle more pain than those assigned a more neutral or submissive stance.”[2]

As the above article goes on to assert, this is a basic case of “Fake it till you make it!” Acting strong (big) literally makes your brain send all the signals of strength and changes how you perceive pain. Crazy!

Even crazier is that one person faking it can make others believe it too.

One of my favorite classes in college at the University of Minnesota School of Music was Basic Conducting, with professor and marching band director Jerry Luckhardt.

Two lessons from that class resonate with this theme of confidence.

First was a comical instance when, part way through the class a student entered late, slinking in through the doorway that was conspicuously at the front of the classroom for all to see. Luckhardt seized the moment, illustrating the power of body posture. He proceeded to replicate the scenario, playing the role of the late student – except he strode in the room walking stoutly, chest up, eyes gazing around at everyone. The effect was palpable and hilarious.

Tall confident Luckhardt vs. crouched timid latecomer did something to the entire room. Of course in this case the student wanted to not bring attention to herself with a powerful pose, but it still makes for an interesting example of just how much body posture effects those around you as well as yourself.

The second recollection was that of carving butter. No, we didn’t do this during conducting class. Have you ever carved butter? Was it cold and hard, or warm and gooey? Of course you can’ t form any design from a soft glob of butter. It has to be hard, firm, resistant.

The purpose of this analogy was to inspire the student conductors (and all of us as musicians, really) to be confident about how we were intending to shape the music. It’s so easy to tend toward deference to others and belittling of our own ideas. This gets us nowhere. If you present a musical idea with resolve and are met with resistance, there is born a beautiful opportunity for the synergy of creative development. It is something akin to “iron sharpening iron.” This simply can’t happen if one of the parties involves hasn’t got the guts to own an idea and present it with confidence.

I’m sure you can see how this can play out both in and out of the musical context. I’ve always loved this image as a reminder of how important it is to be clear in my position on something so that there is the chance it can be shaped into something even more beautiful.

I bet you didn’t expect this lighthearted song to carry such weight, but it’s clear that Maria has presented all of these qualities throughout the song:

  1. Make your body take up more space to feel more powerful. Just the title “I Have Confidence” probably conjured images from the film of her side-skipping across the road, swinging her guitar to fill as much space a possible.
  2. Stand tall to reduce pain. The whole scene begins with her sad and despondent exodus from the abbey and confusion about her future – not a physical pain, but certainly an emotional that she tackled with gusto!
  3. Acting confident effects the people around you. “Somehow I will impress them…” And we all know how that turned out.
  4. Being confident and teachable sets you up for becoming the best version of yourself. “Let them bring on all their problems. I’ll do better than my best. I have confidence they’ll put me to the test, but I’ll make them see I have confidence in me.”

We hope you have a wonderfully confident week!

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[1] Dana Carney, assistant professor at University of California’s Haas School of Business. Quoted in blog post “Adopt One of These Postures To Reduce Stress and Build Confidence” at www.lifehacker.com

[2] Quoted in article “The Link Between Posture, Effectiveness And Pain Tolerance” at www.medicalnewstoday.com

LYRICS for “I Have Confidence”
Words and Music by Richard Rodgers

I have confidence in sunshine.

I have confidence in rain.

I have confidence that spring will come again;

Besides which, you see, I have confidence in me.

Strength doesn’t lie in numbers.

Strength doesn’t lie in wealth.

Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers.

When you wake up, wake up! It’s healthy.

All I trust I leave my heart to.

All I trust becomes my own.

I have confidence in confidence alone;

Besides which, you see, I have confidence in me.

Let them bring on any problems.

I’ll do better than my best.

I have confidence they’ll put me to the test,

But I’ll make them see I have confidence in me.

Somehow I will impress them.

I will be firm but kind.

And all those children, heaven bless them,

They will look up to me and mind me.

With each step I am more certain.

Ev’rything will turn out fine.

I have confidence the world can all be mine.

They’ll have to agree I have confidence in me.