As a career development coach, one of the professional skills that my clients develop in our work together is igniting their levels of confidence. Interestingly, these are folx that are highly intelligent, successful, and well revered by their peers and superiors. Yet, they come to our initial coaching sessions reporting feelings of inadequacies and bouts of self-doubt.
In other words, their inner critics wreak havoc on their beliefs about who they are, what they are capable of, and their sense of worthiness. These critics are harsh and tear down their self-worth. The constant internal negative messages make them question and second guess their abilities.
Do any of these feelings resonate with you? Are you someone whose internal voices tell you that you are not good enough? Do you want to present with more confidence? Do you want to build your executive presence and gain more visibility? If you are saying yes to any of these questions, I will share three tips on how to build your confidence muscles.
Let us start with exploring confidence. What is confidence exactly? You can see it easily in others. You know it exists. You can visualize colleagues and leaders that you know who have “it.”
Tip #1 Believe You Can Achieve!
As defined by Dr. Margie Warrell, “confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take. No more; no less. It is not based on your actual ability to succeed at a task but your belief in your ability to succeed.” What a powerful concept. I will repeat, “it is the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take.”
Based on Dr. Warrell’s definition of confidence, believing that you can do something is one of the steps toward greater confidence however it does not paint the entire picture. Our thoughts are the first ingredient in the process. So, counter those negative internal messages with positive ones that say, “Heck Yes”! I can and will do this! It may sound oversimplified and corny however Tony Robbins says, “The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.” So, recreate and rewrite your story.
Tip #2 Visualize Your Confidence!
A powerful tool to aid in this process is called visualization, or a mental rehearsal of what you want in your life. We can picture what we want by using all our senses to capture what it would look like and feel like to achieve our goals.
For example, one of my clients Tina can get very flustered at work when someone says something that triggers her in a negative way. When she is triggered, she can shut down and be silent. A strategy that she uses to set emotional boundaries is to visualize that there is a bubble around her that cannot be penetrated. She works to create a protective shield to minimize the potential hurt and impact. She uses this visualization exercise in private and actively at the moment. Tina has been successfully using this visualization technique to keep her emotions regulated and respond to difficult conversations and people in a more positive way.
Another example that utilizes visualization has been the infamous basketball study conducted by Dr. Blaslotto at the University of Chicago in 1996 where he split people into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make.
Dr. Blaslotto’s study “was conducted by asking a group of students who had been randomly selected to take a series of free throws. The percentage of made free throws were tallied. The students were then divided into three groups and asked to perform three separate tasks over a 30-day period.
1. The first group was told not to touch a basketball for 30 days, no practicing or playing basketball whatsoever.
2. The second group was told to practice shooting free throws for a half hour a day for 30 days.
3. The third group was to come to the gym every day for 30 days and spend a half hour with their eyes closed, simply visualizing hitting every free throw.
After the 30 days, all three groups were asked to come back and take the same number of free throws they had at the beginning of the study.
1. The first group of students who did not practice at all showed no improvement.
2. The second group had practiced every day and showed a 24% improvement.
3. The third group, however, the group which had simply visualized successful free throws, showed a 23% improvement.
The measurable improvement in the group that purely visualized the exercise was virtually the same as the group that had physically practiced.
If you were to ask Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan about visualization, they would tell you that before they take a shot, they visualize success.”
Tip #3: Operationalize Your Confidence!
Get out there and do it. May be another oversimplified technique yet very effective. To gain more confidence, you must practice the heck out of your goal with intensity and consistency. The stark reality is that you will not get better at doing something without building muscle. To build the muscles, you must do it on a regular basis.
One of my clients, Esther, was looking to increase her networking connections and community. However, she dreaded the idea of networking. Esther identified herself as an introvert and feared looking and sounding foolish in front of others. Conversely, she knew that to build her network she needed to get out there and connect with people. She initially felt like she was walking on “Jell-O” yet over time, with consistent practice both virtually and in-person, Esther felt the ground under her feet was getting firm. Esther was becoming an excellent networker and a great connector. She worked networking into her monthly schedule and developed relationships where she became known, liked, and trusted by others. Esther still gets anxious prior to any networking meeting however she knows both scenarios can be true; still feels anxious and does it anyway. Esther has earned veteran networking status.
These three tips, put into motion, will be a catalyst for building your levels of confidence. You may feel it is unattainable and that you need to “be and act” like others who seem to have “it.” Confidence building will become more palatable and doable when you realize that you have the power to define, create, and design your own confident look and persona.
If your career development goals focus on developing and establishing a higher level of self-confidence, here is some homework to get you ready. Start with answering the following questions:
1. In five short phrases or words, what does confidence in the workplace look like to you?
2. Who possesses a level of confidence that you admire and why?
3. In what areas do you already feel a sense of confidence at work?
4. What is one small action that you can take at work to make you feel more confident this week?
Make a valiant attempt at answering the questions above and start the process of elevating confidence on your terms. As Williams Shakespeare said, “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” Attempt on my friends …. That builds confidence.