Confidence is not a personality trait. It’s not in your genes. If you don’t have any you shouldn’t just give up and say it will always be this way.
Confidence is a skill that can be trained. It’s a mental muscle of sorts that can be worked and strengthened. Just like any skill some people are more naturally gifted in the confidence department, but that doesn’t mean that they are ALWAYS confident. Nor does it mean that if you are not one of those people, that you’ll never be confident.
While confidence may feel like it’s all or nothing – either you’re confident or you’re not – it’s more situational than that. Confidence isn’t an emotion that we seemingly have no control over. Confidence is just the expectation that we will have a positive outcome.
“Confidence is an expectation of a positive outcome. It’s not a personality trait…”
– Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Think of a place that you go to a lot – your office, the coffee shop, the park. If I said to you, “do you feel confident that you could take me there?” You would say “of course, I go there all the time.”
This is a place you know well, you’ve been there a million times, you barely have to think about it. Your confidence is founded in your belief in yourself that you will arrive at the destination with no trouble.
Your ability to get to the right place has nothing to do with who your parents are, where you grew up, or what schools you went to. Most of the confidence stems from that fact that you have made the trip so many times before and arrived every time, that you have a foundation of positive results on which to base your belief in yourself.
The beauty of confidence is that it’s so motivating. If you believe that you can accomplish your goal then you are motivated to try and you will put in the time and effort.
If instead, you’re not sure of yourself, you’ll waffle and hem and haw. You’ll probably spend more time procrastinating or doubting yourself than it would have taken to just make an effort towards that goal.
Confidence isn’t just appearing calm and collected speaking your ideas or feeling in control of a situation. It’s a deeper belief in your ability to not only achieve a positive result, but also that you have the skill to deal with whatever hiccups come up along the way.
Fostering this kind of confidence in yourself will help you stay motivated through your struggles and help you keep yourself aligned with your goals.
If you have an area where you would like to build your confidence then read on for tips on how to give yourself more reasons to believe you’ll get that positive result.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
As I just talked about earlier, that location you were confident you could get to became like that because of practice. On the flip side, if you think about a place that you rarely go, you might not have that same level of confidence in yourself.
In order to build that confidence you need to practice. If you’re a weak swimmer, staying dry isn’t going to make you any more confident in your abilities. If you’re afraid to speak, typing up the speech and then avoiding thinking about it until the day of won’t help you.
By putting in the time to work on your skill you will become better and better at it. You will also create a history of good practice sessions that helps remind yourself of your abilities.
ASK FOR HELP
If you think about every skill there is out there most people are great a few, average at some, and bad at most. This just makes sense. There’s only so much you’re interested in and so many hours in the day.
But if you’re really great at a few things, then other people are really great at other things. That means that there are others you can look to for help.
Many a CEO struggles with the idea of looking weak or naive by asking for the input of his/her staff; but the good ones get passed their fears. No one likes a know-it-all anyway (particularly if they’re often wrong!) and the staff feels validated when their ideas are requested and heard.
If you feel weak in an area, look around for help. Getting input around you from those that know what they’re doing is being resourceful, and it will help you feel more confident in your ability to get the job done.
SEEK OUT HONEST OPINIONS
I don’t recommend seeking validation by going around to anyone and everyone asking them how they like your project. However, if you aren’t sure how something is coming across, don’t be afraid to ask for input.
By talking to a trusted friend or co-worker you can get some distance from what you’re working on. But only check in with someone you know will give you honest feedback. The whole truth – not just the good, but the places you can improve as well.
Getting this feedback will help you determine whether you’re on the right track and help build confidence in the yourself and the direction you’re heading.
DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR STRENGTH
Many people, especially women, will suffer from imposter syndrome at one point or another. The belief that they will suddenly be unmasked or found out that they really aren’t as good at their jobs as others have been lead to believe.
Unless you actually cheated your way to the top, the people that put you in the position you are in believe in your strengths. And you should too.
If you continue to struggle in this area, consider who the people are that benefit from your work. Remembering those you serve will help bring you back to your reason why you do what you do. This takes the stress off you and your performance and brings the focus back to your purpose.
Now it’s not about confidence, it’s about purpose.
TAKE RISKS IN SAFE ENVIRONMENTS
Since practice is one of the antidotes to fear and getting honest opinions is another, it’s logical that we could clump those together and practice with the help of others. While this might seem scary, it’s really about the environment that everyone creates that matters.
We are only willing to take risks like practicing a speech if we feel psychologically safe. We know that even if we flub a line or even botch the whole thing, no one is going to make fun of us.
This concept is what has been touted as making the writing crew from the original Saturday Night Live be able to come up with such hilarious skits. The group may not have always loved each other but when they were together they felt comfortable putting forth all their ideas. Those ideas might not make it on air, but the person that came up with it wouldn’t be made fun of for their “stupid ideas”.
This is the sort of safe place allows you to work through your ideas and hone your skill, while getting outside input. That is the very condition that will help build your confidence.
PS – if fear of speaking is one of your big ones – check out Toastmasters.
MAKE BIG GOALS BUT DON’T IGNORE SMALL WINS
Big goals are awesome to have, but if we look at everything all at once, it can often become so overwhelming that we lose confidence and give up. Breaking goals into smaller milestones and even smaller wins along the way helps take the overwhelm down a bit. You may not know how to do all the steps to your goals, but if you focus on just doing the next step you can do it with confidence.
Don’t forget to celebrate your small wins and milestones too. Celebrating helps reinforce that you’ve arrived at a positive result which helps build your confidence.
BE AWARE OF POSSIBLE ROADBLOCKS
While confidence is the belief that you will reach a positive result, it’s NOT blind optimism. You can’t go forward just assuming everything will go your way. This is where over-confidence and cockiness are founded. In addition, if you do hit roadblocks with no plan, it can suck out all the confidence you had previously built.
While self belief is a big part of confidence, it’s not the only part. Being aware of what the possible roadblocks are and thinking about ways to work around them will help you greet challenges effectively.
Maintain an expectation of success, while continuing to do the work along the way.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you go from living in self doubt to exuding confidence over night. But you can take steps in that direction every day so that you build that expectation of your success into how you operate. And that will lead you to be the confident person you want to be.
If you’re struggling with your self confidence and need a more personalized plan, please contact me. I can help you work through the things that are getting in your way.