As a confidence coach I naturally get asked a lot about how to boost confidence. So many times though there is an attachment to this illusive feeling of confidence and what clients imagine those who appear confident will be experiencing internally. Normally this feeling of confidence is imagined as utter calm, minimal to zero fear or apprehension. Giving a speech to an audience of hundreds for these otherworldly exalted icons of confidence is imagined equivalent to an intimate fireside chat….Hmm…
When I ask them to describe someone they admire who they consider highly confident though, they typically don’t describe how they imagine the person feels (how on earth could they know?). What they do describe is how this confident person acts and therein lies the key to confidence. We consider someone confident because of how they act and we mistakenly assume that they act confidently because they are experiencing our view of the feeling of confidence. Not so!
The confident person before giving that performance may describe themselves as “amped” or “pumped”. If you feel nervous and apprehensive before giving that work presentation, speaking up in a meeting, sharing that idea with others, then you may in fact be feeling very similar to the confident person but they have rebranded their feeling to support their actions.
Here’s what I consider genuine confidence to be –
It is the ability to act on your values, regardless of what you are feeling in the moment. Genuine confidence is all about learning to trust and rely upon yourself to do what truly matters even if you feel downright terrified.
Usually when I share this description of genuine, authentic confidence with people I get a mixed response. Those who were looking for the fairy dust, quick fix, magic potion solution to their feelings of discomfort, self-doubt, and fear are disappointed that there may be some actual work involved in getting where they want to be and that they’re clearly going to be feeling no insignificant amount of discomfort on that journey – bummer! Others pause and absorb what I say a little more slowly and reflect, responding with a sense of acknowledgement that they realize they probably always knew this on some level. Either way we get to work and below are five tips that I’ve drawn from the more comprehensive work I do with my clients, which will support anyone on their journey to building genuine self-confidence.
Know what you truly want!
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Recently I was working with a client who spoke about a colleague who they really admired for how confidently they moved through a large group of people. My client wanted to be able to do that. I asked them why – why that room and why with those people? My client didn’t know exactly…. I put it to my client that I was pretty sure that the person they admired knew exactly why they were in that room and what they wanted from the experience. If you don’t know what you want, or why you want what you think you want, you will naturally struggle.This is where knowing your values – what makes life meaningful, fulfilling and purposeful for you – is crucial. Values and having a vision for your life are game-changers. Self-doubt will be your constant companion unless you commit to this work.
See when your mind baits you and learn to unhook.
Your mind is like an awesome storyteller and we are naturally wired for story. But your mind is like that person who hates to admit they don’t know it all so they just make stuff up and pass it off as fact – you know the type! Your mind though evolved to protect you from threats so its story reel is tilted just a tad on the negative side. The mind story reel theme tends to be pretty heavy on the fear, failure and “You’re a fraud!” messaging. Yeah, not so fun! Just consider doing something that you’re avoiding because you think you’re not confident enough – bring something to mind right now. What is your mind saying about that? Get quiet and just watch the thoughts that your mind offers up to bait you. I bet it’s all fear, failure, fraud material! When you learn to relate to these thoughts as merely thoughts, products of the mind, hypotheses not facts, you can separate yourself from them and “unhook”. The mind is just doing what minds do but you are not your mind and you get to choose if a thought is helpful or not.
Make space for discomfort.
The people you consider confident feel discomfort. They just don’t let the discomfort run the show. I often share this metaphor of the Life Bus with clients which helps to illustrate this practice. If you think of your life as a bus and throughout your life your bus picks up passengers – memories, thoughts, experiences, feelings, sensations – and some of these are very pleasant, but others are not. Others might be very painful or uncomfortable and unwelcome yet they are all on your Bus. Now the unpleasant passengers can get very noisy and disruptive. You wish that they’d just sit at the back quietly and that you’d never have to deal with them. But they are disruptive and noisy and when you want to drive your Bus, in the direction of your values towards meaningful goals your noisy passengers start complaining and so you might decide to turn your Bus in another direction so that they’ll quiet down. This works to quiet the noisy passengers but at what cost? When we make space for discomfort we choose a meaningful, fulfilling life where we are the driver of our bus, traveling in the direction of our values, regardless of the noisy passengers.
Connect and Engage Fully.
The mind loves time-travel and if you allow it to hop around ruminating on the past before jumping to the future, stopping only briefly for a little mind-reading, you are not fully engaged in what you are doing here and now. The actions of confidence always come first and if we are not engaged fully in the present we are compromising our ability to execute to the best of our ability. This takes practice of course, learning to allow thoughts to come and go without attaching to them while in the meantime attending to the here and now. The rewards though are immense. You may have heard of the term “flow” or people describing performing at a “peak state”. This is where a person is so fully engaged in the task at hand that time seems to pass unnoticed, performance is optimized, and the experience is hugely rewarding. It’s impossible to access the state though if you’re not fully present.
Redefine your Relationship with Failure.
Failure gets a bad wrap for something that is foundational to success. Social Media is unhelpful here as it’s typically a highlight reel of sparkly success and perfectly curated content. Even when failures are mentioned they are typically spun and re-worked into some Hollywood-esque, saccharine soaked learning experience on the road to heroic and epic success – barf! Losing sucks! It feels crappy and we can feel like curling up into a ball, retreating and feeling sorry for ourselves. All of that is normal and fine in my book. Some losses hurt more than others and we need some time and space to process them and recharge at our own pace. We do need to get back up though and get back in our game of life because no one else can play it for us. So, for the times when you do feel like crap after a loss, here is my go to catalog of “Failure Sucks but is F*cking Normal” Inspo to help you Get Back Up:
Walt Disney’s first animation studio, Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists, went bust after just one month.
Oprah lost her job as news anchor on WJZ-TV in Baltimore. They told her she “wasn’t fit for television.”
Albert Einstein wanted to attend the prestigious Swiss Polytechnic Institute, but he didn’t pass the entrance examination
Steven Spielberg applied to the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film, and Television on three separate occasions – each time he was unsuccessful because of a C grade average.
The first business venture of Microsoft co founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen was called Traf-O-Data. It analyzed traffic flow – and it flopped miserably.
Abraham Lincoln was defeated in this first bid for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. He then opened a general store, but within a few months, it went under.
And finally contemplate the words of basketball legend Michael Jordan;
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost over 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.MJ
Genuine Confidence isn’t an act where you “fake it to you make it” but it is most definitely action – values-aligned action, taken over and over again, in the presence of discomfort, which you allow like those noisy bus passengers, and the results are a life of meaning, fulfillment, and purpose. If you’d like to learn more about how to take this life path why not book a call with me to see how I can help? You might also enjoy my book, The Little Book of Good Enough, if you’d like more tips and tools to deal with self-doubt and the noisy bus passengers.