Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash
There is no doubt that self-confidence is a well sought-after ingredient to success – after all, the more confident you feel and the more assured you are of your capabilities the more driven and motivated you are towards achieving your goals. But confidence can be an elusive and fickle quality to master, and sometimes even the most competent of us can struggle to step forward into our potential if this one key ingredient is missing. Research is also showing that gender and age play a role in confidence levels, especially in the workplace. So how do we go about increasing our confidence, and more importantly, harnessing it to increase our likelihood of success?
Before we answer that question, it’s important to first understand what confidence is and isn’t, as it’s easy to confuse self-confidence with self-esteem. Self-confidence is a sense of trust or assurance in one’s abilities and qualities, whereas self-esteem refers to one’s overall sense of self-worth. Basically, it is “I feel capable of succeeding,” vs, “I feel worthy of success.” People often misidentify one for the other, assuming that their lack of self-esteem is a lack in self-confidence, and while often these two go hand in hand they ultimately point to very different things. Confidence deals more with skills and competencies. So, if you sense that you could do with more confidence, or more esteem, which one truly is it?
You may have heard before of the ‘Four Stages of Competence model – that learning any new skill requires you to go through unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and finally unconscious competence. For example, when you are learning to drive a car. At first, when you’re a child, you’re not aware that you can’t drive a car (unconscious incompetence). It’s not until a little later in life that you become aware that you can’t drive a car (conscious incompetence) and you need to learn. You may start taking some lessons and over time, with effort, you acquire this skill, yet you need to consciously think about how to change the gear, how far to depress the accelerator etc (conscious competence). Over time and practice though, driving becomes second nature and no longer requires so much of your conscious thought (unconscious competence). What is being demonstrated in this example is confidence in full swing. Not necessarily the confidence to drive (this will develop over time) but the confidence to learn. Which brings us to one of the most important characteristics of self-confidence…
Self-confidence should be dependent on variables. It is healthy to feel confident in some things, and unconfident in others.
Let me explain that further. Would you feel confident performing brain surgery on someone? My guess is that unless you have studied and practiced this specific skill, the answer is “no.” And that is what it should be. It would be unhealthy to feel confident in performing brain surgery if this is not something you have studied and trained in, just as it would be a problem if a brain surgeon with 10 years’ experience didn’t feel confident in their abilities. In understanding this, we start to see that confidence is dependent on variables such as our past experience with a specific skill/ability. If I was to ask you though if you feel confident in learning how to perform brain surgery, then your answer should more of less be “yes.” This denotes your confidence in being able to learn a new skill over time and practice.
Often if we don’t feel confident in learning a new skill it is because our past experience is telling us we won’t be able to do that. We are looking for evidence in our past to tell us whether that is something we would/wouldn’t be able to achieve. But sometimes we are looking to a story that is well out of date and needs some updating.
This brings us to the practical aspect of thing – how to build more confidence…
How to build more Self-Confidence
Identify the skills you need
This may sound like a no-brainer, but so often people are unaware of what specifically they need confidence in. For example, if you want more confidence in sales, what specific part of the sales process are you feeling unsure of? Is it building rapport with a client? Knowing your product/service inside out? Do you feel uncomfortable with the idea of ‘selling’ to someone? Perhaps you have ‘imposter syndrome’ and feel like a fraud when selling? Whatever it is for you get more specific about what particular skill it is you need to work on.
Get to know the stories you’re telling yourself
I mentioned before that we look to our past experience to tell us whether we would be likely or unlikely the achieve something. These are the stories we are telling ourselves. If you’re scared of public speaking, chances are you are remembering all the times you have had to talk in a public space and felt uncomfortable/think you made a fool of yourself etc. Or you are telling yourself a story about why speaking in front of 10/100/1000 people is any different to talking in front of 1 or 2. Truth is, it’s no different. It’s speaking. If you know how to do that you know how to do public speaking.
Practice the skill
Wow ground-breaking stuff, I know. But it works. Even if it’s with yourself, a friend, a pet, whoever. If you are looking to build your core confidence in a skill, start practicing that skill. If you want to get better at creating videos for your business, get in front of the camera and practice. Look over your videos and identify what you like/what you want to improve. If you want to get better at talking to strangers, get out there and have conversations with new people you don’t know. Then take note afterwards about what worked for you and what didn’t. Talent is over-rated, practice is under-rated. I cannot stress this enough.
Stockpile your achievements
Take 5 minutes each day and actually recognise what you have achieved. So often we focus on what we can’t do or what we haven’t done. Well how about all the wonderful things you have already achieved? By bringing these things into your focus on a regular basis you will train your brain to recognise your achievements, therefore raising your overall feeling of confidence and accomplishment.
Let go of other people’s opinions
It may be easier said than done, but what other people think is none of your business. Spending time and energy worrying about what others think is a guaranteed way to shoot your confidence in the foot. In fact, these worries are simply projections onto other people of your own insecurities and fears, so if you spend time worrying about what others think, perhaps you can divert the attention to inquiring into what that projection is all about.
Drop the comparison game
There will always be someone better than you at certain things. Sorry about that. This doesn’t mean that person is a better human than you, or worth more, it simply means that they have mastered the skill of XYZ better than you have. So maybe with practice you could master that skill just as much, if not more? Dropping the comparison game really means taking your ego and sense of identity off the table. It means you’re no longer equating your skills with your identity or value as a person.