As a career and leadership coach I’ve met with hundreds of clients representing multiple jobs and sectors. Their coaching goals vary widely. But there is one common focus area evident in most of my clients. And that focus area is confidence. The desire to have it and/or feel it is universal and spans genders, salary, and success level.
What is confidence
So what is the deal with confidence, why is this a common struggle? Confidence feels like one of those things that is easy to spot. You know when someone has it. If I asked you to name 5 people you have worked with who exude confidence – you could likely bullet that list out in 2 minutes. If my followup question was “how do you think they achieved their confidence” – you might feel a little stuck on the answer. It’s less clear for us to describe how confidence is developed. As an observer we are only seeing the effects of someone’s confidence. Unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to sit in on the “brain chatter” that convinced them to take the action and do the brave and bold thing.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines confidence as ““A feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances.” Not sure about you, but that sure seems like a word salad way to simply say – confidence is when one believes they can do something. In this blog I am sticking with a theme of simplification and hoping that I can help you realize there are some practical and simple ways to start working on your confidence. Because the good news is that you aren’t born with confidence. Yes, that IS good news. This means you have the potential to increase whatever level of confidence you are sitting with today.
Why is it so hard
So while we can be pleased that confidence can be gained and grown – unfortunately it does not happen overnight. One achieves confidence via self belief, competence and experience. When something is new to us (like a new role or new job), we usually have a limited amount of competence and experience. In this instance we have to rely on self belief. This looks like affirming your ability to learn/try the new thing AND believing that you can handle any impact. This is what is required to take action when competence and experience are not yet present. Once you take action, experience and competence follow (even if failure is part of your action). You repeat this cycle – and begin to take bigger, bolder actions by creating more powerful affirming beliefs based on what you are learning through your actions. This rinse and repeat cycle builds your confidence.
“If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”Muhammad Ali
How can I work on my confidence
Your beliefs either propel or stall your actions. Many of us get stuck on the beliefs and need to reframe them. I would like to share a few things I do with my clients in support of finding new and more affirming self beliefs.
- New thoughts/beliefs
Begin to notice negative thought patterns. If you see yourself doubting or downplaying your abilities – it’s time to consider some new supportive thoughts. You can begin by working on self compassion, evidence, and your acceptance of weaknesses. Self compassion is critical because it cushions the inevitable mistake or failure that comes along with trying new things. Start getting in the habit of reflecting on current/past mistakes and saying things like…”I did my best with what I knew, I learned from that, I see things differently now because of that.”
An evidence list can be a simple bulleted list of facts that directly contradict the negative thoughts in your mind about your abilities. Your brain will like to see the visual “proof” that the list provides. And you will calm some of your anxiety by going through the effort of creating the list.
Accepting your weaknesses is about experimenting with new thoughts about yourself and your actions. These are thoughts that are more positive, empowering, have a hint of grace for your humanness, and are growth oriented versus perfection oriented. These thoughts sound like…“I can do this”, “I am capable”, “I will be ok if I make mistakes”, and “I have done hard things before.”
If you want to explore more about the power of a positive self-talk you might find this video from Ama La Vida coach Jill Dreisilker helpful.
Use your values to guide your beliefs. I have my clients take an assessment that identifies their life and operational values. We use this to help them articulate what is important to them, how they are living in alignment with them and what are different choices they want to make to be more aligned with their values. When we are living in alignment with values, we are living more authentically and feel more comfortable with ourselves and our actions. We are clear on who we are, what we stand for, and act accordingly. So spending time with your values and intimately knowing them is a great place to start when trying to build confidence for new challenges. If you can tie your self beliefs to your values – your actions will follow, and your actions will feel more comfortable because you are honoring your values with them. I think this article by Larry Boyer does a great job of making the connection between confidence and values.
Visualization is a powerful tool to support new thoughts and beliefs about oneself. Spend some time imagining yourself doing the “thing” you want. Use your mind to clearly see what the reaction/impact will be and how your life will be different. Use all your senses to describe it and feel it. Then put this visualization somewhere you can reference –it could be a journal entry, a vision board, a photograph, a drawing, or some other thing else that represents your effort. Then use that visual to create new thoughts about yourself and who you are to pursue such a thing for yourself. Notice I said who you are – not who you need to be. Your new thoughts should include self-fulfilling words like…“I am,” “I can.”
- Taking action
We have established that confidence comes from changing your belief patterns, using affirming self-talk, and taking action. I am hoping you feel inspired to work on your affirming self-talk. Remember confidence isn’t gained overnight, but it IS achievable. Enlist the support of a coach if you need some personalized support to address your limiting thoughts. Use this link to schedule a call with a team member to learn more.
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