Recently I posted a blog (called ‘On Confidence’) in which I shared my views about how leaders can influence confidence in others. A number of readers responded with questions, wanting to expand the topic a little further. They asked “how can we influence confidence in ourselves?” Today’s Karen Gately blog responds in kind, and addresses ways to enhance your own sense of self confidence.
Whether you’re attempting to influence confidence in others or in yourself, many of the core principles remain the same. The main difference is that these principles are driven from within, rather than encouraged by others. As I shared in my previous blog, confidence is significantly impacted by our ability to challenge and conquer negative self-talk. More than that, it is about genuinely engaging in positive self-talk. Picture for a moment two voices that live in our heads – one is the “I’m Ok” voice, the other is the “I’m not OK” voice. Self-confidence is reflected in our ability to balance the strength and influence of these two voices. It is the ability to believe in ourselves whilst simultaneously being open minded and receptive to feedback.
The first step to achieving this balance is to recognise that these two voices influence our perceptions and decision making. Listen to the conversations that go on in your mind and pay attention to which of the voices is stronger. The “I’m OK” voice will tell you that you are right, you have what it takes, and that your perspective has merit. The “I’m not OK” voice will tell you to check your perceptions, listen to others, and challenge your “I’m OK” voice. The difference between confidence and arrogance or confidence and low self-esteem is the ability to maintain this balance.
Once we understand the role these two voices play the most powerful way to influence confidence in ourselves is to:
- Choose to see the good in you – Often we focus on the negative aspects of ourselves, and place significant weight on overcoming our weaknesses. Social norms dictate that we be cautious in observing and appreciating our strengths. But the age old saying of ‘learning to love ourselves’ is undoubtedly true. ‘Loving oneself’ does not mean we are arrogant, so long as we maintain the balance of our two internal voices. Appreciate who you are and choose to allow yourself to give credit where it is due for what you are doing well, for the strengths you bring and the fabulous contributions you make.
- Be kind to yourself – There is no such thing as a perfect person, so acknowledge that you will make mistakes. There will be times when you make decisions you regret and (like all of us) you are likely to do things that make you want to run and hide. Remember in these moments that we are all human and everyone, at some stage, has done something less than ideal. It’s OK to make mistakes – it’s what we do after the mistake that matters. Choose to learn from your mistakes and grow from your errors in judgment. When things go wrong harness the opportunity; it’s a matter of choosing to do so.
- Share your successes – Take the time to acknowledge your successes and share those experiences with people you trust and respect. Give yourself permission to enjoy it, to feel the good energy, and to share what is going well.
- Keep the nay sayers in their place – It is important to listen to other people’s points of view – in fact, maintaining a healthy balance of our “I’m OK” and “I’m Not OK” voices depends on it. Learn to listen with an open mind, but maintain ownership of what you choose to take on and what you don’t. Sometimes people are quick to criticise and those criticisms reflect more about their own fears and limitations than the observations they are making about you.
- Choose how you feel – We all have the power to decide which emotions we will allow to influence us. Faced with the exact same circumstances, two people can choose to feel completely differently. For example, imagine that you have poured your heart and soul into developing a proposal for a piece of business that you are desperate to win. You are proud of your work and know without any doubt that what you have created is fabulous. Then you submit the proposal and hear nothing from your prospective client for a lengthy period of time. With trepidation you pick up the phone and make the call you are dreading. You leave a message, but still you hear nothing. You send a well-crafted, carefully thought out email and still you get no response. By now you are starting to wonder what the prospect is thinking. Did they like your proposal? Did you give them the information they needed? Finally you hear back and the news isn’t good. They have decided to engage the services of someone else. At this moment in time you have a very important choice to make. You can either choose to feel that you have failed or you can choose to maintain belief in your work by appreciating there are many factors that have contributed to your prospects’ decision – most of which you are unlikely to ever know or understand. It is quite possible that your prospect has changed their mind about their requirements, but failed to inform you and give you the opportunity to rework your proposal. It is possible they have hired their mate and only went through the process to maintain the appearance of considering alternatives to satisfy their boss. It is equally possible they didn’t quite understand what you could offer and all you needed to do was add a little more information to help them join those dots. The reality is that nothing has changed about the quality of your work, but how you choose to feel about this experience is critical to maintaining your positive self-perception.
Building confidence and self-belief is one of the most important tools for success in both our professional and personal lives. The stress and anxiety that can come from low self-esteem most certainly diminishes the quality of our lives. These two impacts alone make it a priority and a challenge worth tackling.