Much is said about confidence, and yet, it can elude us at the worst moments. I've written about my take on it earlier, as well. It's a rather cruel thing, to want to be more confident, and feel even more fear.
Confidence is also confusing.
When we know everything we need to know about being successful at something, we draw away from it. Has this ever happened to you? We fear we might fail, even when we know we could very possibly succeed instead. Have you experienced how the fear of success is more confidence draining than the fear of failing?
Where does confidence sit in the larger scheme of things then? Is it innate, and therefore, a matter of luck? Or any of us could grow more confident in leading ourselves and others?
Confidence is not a personality trait. It's a behaviour, which means, we can learn it. Confidence is a skill that can be mastered if we really want to, that is.
I've discovered a few unusual ways to boost my confidence over the years. Sharing five of them with you.
Would love to hear back your favourite hacks to be more confident.
#1 Stop playing within your limits and capabilities
If we aren't within our limits, won't we fail more often and feel even less confident? Not really. Playing small means we continue to perform at least one notch below what we are capable of, if not more. It's like this bit of wisdom in Maureen Dowd's quote: "The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for." Playing small means we not just underperform now, we also fail to stretch our capabilities to lift our performance in the future. The best way to play hard at our current level of capabilities is to overreach a bit, and feel the unfamiliarity of that mental stretch. If we are too comfortable and cushy, we might be playing safe and small.
#2 Feel the discomfort and don't stop unless it becomes a habit
We are hardwired to seek pleasure and not pain. I am no different. At first, being uncomfortable was upsetting and intolerable even. Over time, as I kept pushing myself to do things I wasn't used to, the discomfort started to become familiar. I am not a gung-ho networker, I like to choose who I network with. Sadly, I got too picky and kept missing out on knowing great people. Turns out, even the ones my old self would have avoided were lovely people to know. It was me who was standing in my own way of having an empowering network. Now I go right up to people I want to speak with, and a few I hadn't expected to, and I don't feel as uncomfortable anymore.
#3 Question your sense of humility and modesty
Ever caught yourself brushing away a complement? Women are especially skilled at deflecting appreciation and knocking themselves back. What would it take for us to stop equating modesty and humility with never taking credit? Not accepting a compliment is also ungracious. If you are worried about bragging or tooting your own horn, that's a line only you can draw based on good judgement. It shouldn't stop us from accepting a genuine complement that helps us feel and appear poised and confident. We all deserve to be appreciated for a few things we do well. So, why not enjoy the moment and use it as an affirmation of our efforts and hard work. The more we deny ourselves appreciation, the more we fumble with confidence.
#4 Dare to step into what you aren't prepared for
I use the word 'dare' very sparingly in life. But without that extra dose of adrenaline pumping through our veins, we'll likely talk ourselves out of a big opportunity. Think of when your heart thumped, but you still put your hand up for a challenging assignment. You first accepted the opportunity and then sat down to figure out how you'd make it happen. Most likely, you figured it out and succeeded beyond your wildest imagination. Our brain is meant to keep us safe. Hopefully, we know how to differentiate between real risk and perceived fear. We will never ever be fully prepared for the next big step in our career and life. Yet, we must keep moving forward. As we do, the answers begin to come to us. I bet you can think of at least one example in your life when that happened.
#5 Read two hours everyday, you might be one of very few
Our confidence doesn't appear out of thin air, we expect it to, but it doesn't. Reading helps feed the brain with so much good stuff that it eventually begins to flow out. When it does, we feel confident. Confidence can be very concrete and tangible if we give it a specific place to grow from. For me, that space has been reading, writing and reflecting. Think of what's your space? I read a lot and think a lot. I also read and watch very diverse topics. As a result of this continuous preparation, I am often surprised by my thoughts and insights, not in a boastful way, but in an affirming way. I don't look for a reason why I must keep learning, I just do. The raw material for confidence is information & learning. And learning is survival. So, keep learning.
Confidence can be a reliable ally if we are prepared to disrupt ourselves before our circumstances or people around us disrupt us. Are you disrupting yourself?
Confidence doesn't grow from comfort, but our willingness to be comfortable with discomfort.
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I am am Inclusive Leadership speaker, writer and facilitator. Check out www.equalityconsulting.com.au for how I can help your organisation build Inclusive Leaders.