Wikipedia defines self-confidence as the positive belief that one can accomplish what one wishes to do.
Most of us are confident in certain areas of our lives, and not so in others. You might be great at business deals and terrified of intimacy. Perhaps you’re assured when delivering presentations and a complete mess when it comes to dealing with conflict.
The areas of life in which you lack confidence can hold you back in your career, your relationships and cause a great deal of suffering. So how do you build confidence in those aspects in which you are currently lacking it? Here are seven suggestions:
1) Define success
For example, if you lack confidence in presentations, would success look like delivering a presentation to over 100 people and receiving an enthusiastic applause? Would it be doing a stand up comedy routine in public? Doing five presentations?
2) Take action, repeatedly
The things we don’t feel confident at, we naturally want to avoid doing. They make us feel uncomfortable, anxious, fearful or stressed, so of course we do. If you want to be able to accomplish something that you’re currently not very good at, you need to feel that fear and do it anyway. Repeatedly. This takes courage.
I have a client who was stuck in the same job for ten years because he lacked the confidence that he would be good at anything else. I challenged him to ask for the secondment he wanted and he got it straight away and found he was good at the new job. It revolutionised his confidence in applying for new jobs and now he’s planning to start his own business.
3) Ask for feedback
If you’re like most people, you love compliments but find ‘criticism’ harder to stomach. To get better at something you need to have the courage to ask people to tell you how you could improve, and to listen with an open mind, without getting defensive.
Billionaire investor Ray Dalio puts this down as one of the keys to success.
4) Have nothing to hide
One of the worst things for your self-confidence is when you feel there is something you fear people finding out about you. Something that you’re ashamed of. One way to get over this, is to tell someone you really trust about the thing you’re most afraid of people knowing.
I asked a group I was working with to share with their partner one thing they wanted to be more confident at, which is quite a vulnerable thing to do. Most felt a huge relief from being able to share it and see that they weren’t judged.
5) Use a positive mantra
When you lack confidence it’s normally because you are holding on to negative beliefs about yourself in that area of your life and this gives rise to negative, repetitive thoughts. One way to counter this is with positive thoughts that you repeat to yourself on a regular basis, for example, “I excel at sales”, “I radiate success”, “I do work I love and am paid well for it”.
6) Find evidence for the opposite
After the group had shared their perceived weakness with their partner, I asked them to give three examples when they’d had success in that area of their life. People who claimed they weren’t confident at managing people were remembering times they’d been told they were a great leader. Fearful presenters were recalling standing ovations.
This immediately helped them recognise their existing strengths and triumphs in this area of their life, and made them feel more positive about it. The key is to do this repeatedly, and especially when the memories of failure come back in.
7) Be with the feeling
If you’re afraid of making sales calls, what you’re actually fearful of is the way they make you feel, or more often that not, how they might make you feel.
With the same group I asked them to bring to mind the aspect of the area of their life they’d like to be more confident in and notice what sensations or emotions arose.
I then invited them to ask my favourite question, “Can I be with this?”, as in, can I allow this feeling to be in my awareness?
If you can’t do that, you’ll always be afraid of the thing and therefore lack confidence at it. If you can, you’ve got nothing to fear and therefore you will feel confident.
Simple to say, tricky to do!
Call to action
Self-confidence isn’t something that you change over night (or even from reading one blog post!), it’s something that develops over time.
One way to do this is through coaching. Next month, I’m offering five free one-hour coaching sessions on building your confidence. You can book yours here.