Confidence. It’s that elixir that all of us want more of. That feeling of being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s sometimes hard to describe, yet you know when you have it. And you certainly know when confidence is lacking as it can stop you dead in your tracks.
On the surface, some people appear to be more confident than others. What is their secret and how can we build more confidence ?
We often associate confidence with a feeling. Yet in reality, our confidence (or lack thereof) is linked more to doing or taking action. When you feel confident, you go about things without thinking twice. If you’re confident about your driving, you get into your car, start the engine and off you go. And all of us know that feeling when we’re not confident. That sense of hesitation, the self doubt and questioning that plaques every step … that gets us stuck in a constant stop/start loop and freezes us into inaction.
Every piece of literature about confidence talks about taking action as the best way to build confidence. A bit of a paradox, isn’t it ? After all, isn’t our lack of confidence the very thing that’s stopping us from taking action ?
In his book The Confidence Gap, Russ Harris states “the actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later”. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their book The Confidence Code – which by the way I highly recommend everyone reads – asks that we remember one key thing from their book – when in doubt, act !
I’ve unpacked the nuggets of wisdom from both books below –
- The extensive research covered in The Confidence Code indicates that while our genetic make up plays a role in how naturally confident we are, every one can build their confidence over time through practice and mastery. That’s great news for all of us.
- Confidence is all about action. Here’s the radical part – it’s a choice we make. The more we choose to take action despite our fears and insecurities, the more confident we become. So we need to reframe how we think about confidence. Link it always with action, instead of just a feeling. Because if you wait till you feel confident, chances are you may never take that first step.
- Expect to have self doubts. It’s unrealistic to expect no fear. But you can transform your relationship with fear and use the energising aspects of your fight or flight response to your advantage. Elite athletes and performers learn to channel their fear so that they feel revved up to take on the challenge.
- Leverage your strengths to take small steps forward. This will boost your confidence for that scary first step off the ledge.
- Accept that failure is part of the process. Fail fast. Fail small. Learn, let it go, move on.
- Break your negative self talk loop. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. Challenge your self doubts and fears – ask yourself if your fears are absolutely true, or are you just over generalising. Look for evidence that disproves your fears.
- Cultivate a daily habit of meditation. Research has proven that meditation reduces the level of activity in our amygdala (our fear center) and increases activity in our prefrontal cortex, our center for logical and calm reasoning. I’ve always struggled with meditation. I’m now meditating daily using an App from Headspace.com and loving it ! I encourage you to check it out.
Finally, for the women reading this, be aware that our brains are wired slightly differently and we tend to over-think things, which can delay or stop us from speaking up at meetings, putting our hand up for that promotion or asking for a pay rise. Awareness is the first step. Read The Confidence Code for some great insights. Then go and experiment with different ways to quieten the constant worrying and thinking to build your confidence.
As always, wishing you onwards and upwards in your journey … to greater confidence.