You get the heebie-jeebies? Sometimes? All the time?
Confidence is a crucial ingredient in creating a successful career and life. Successful people are confident to begin with and – more importantly – they have mastered the art of projecting confidence even when they don’t feel it inside.
Projecting confidence is important. Firstly, people pick up non-verbal cues faster than verbal cues. So if you say you’re OK but your body says something to the contrary, people pick up on that. A perceived lack of confidence is one of the key impediments to people not getting ahead at work or failing to have their say. Other people either don’t take them seriously or know they are ‘pushovers,’ people who are easily dominated.
What prevents people from achieving what they want? Lack of confidence is the main reason and it is a result of self-doubt and disempowering stories.
The first rule is to build confidence for yourself. Once you’ve done it for yourself and you feel it, you automatically radiate it to the world and people pick up on it.
With a bit of hard work and proper guidance, anyone can become more confident. After a while, the confident person experiences confidence as an emotion inside them.
We need to understand this simple equation.
Low confidence = low self esteem
Low self-esteem = poor self-management
So Low confidence = poor self-management
That is the number common trait among people who are not confident or who don’t appear confident: they seem to manage their self poorly.
Poor self-management is the result of low self-awareness, lack of self-belief and most importantly, a lack of self-love.
So, Self management = self awareness + self belief + self love.
We talk so much about being aware of others, believing in others and loving others that we are not taught the most essential prerequisite for any of those things: first learning to be aware of yourself, believing in yourself and loving yourself.
I am not talking about excessive self-absorption or egotism or narcissism. There is a big difference between excessive self-love or megalomania and a healthy awareness and deference to one’s own self.
Megalomania leads to cruel, selfish behaviour that alienates others and harms us in the long run.
Healthy self-awareness and self-regulation, on the other hand, is a vital tool to stop dwelling on ourselves and instead get more resourceful in managing the self, and aligning it toward goals. So, ironically, it actually has the opposite impact of narcissism.
Why is this hard? Because, as Indians, we are culturally sensitised to not dwell too much on ourselves. Spending time alone in thought or reflection is considered a loser trait. ‘Don’t think so much, you’ll get analysis paralysis,’ is a common cheerful rebuke from friends, teachers and parents. So we are terrified of looking inward. As a result we become out of touch with the architecture and the rhythm of our thoughts and feelings, and hence, we lack the language to talk about it and control it.
But any religion will tell you this: self-mastery is the first and perhaps, only function of man. He who conquers the self is more valuable than he who conquers a whole army.
So where does one begin? With simple questions that awaken one to the self:
1. What are my thoughts right now?
2. What am I feeling?
3. Why am I thinking or feeling this way?
4. Do I do this often? Is it a pattern?
5. Is it useful or detrimental to my goals?
If each of us pauses and works on understanding ourselves better, we can get more clarity, work through the fog of fear and get better acquainted with ourselves. This kind of awareness automatically reduces unreasonable feelings and raises self-confidence.
Some more things you can do to raise confidence:
1. Know your strengths: A lot of people say strengthen your weaknesses. I disagree. No matter how much we strengthen them, there will always be someone else to whom it comes more naturally. So my mantra is focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses only to the extent that they don’t interfere with your goals.
2. Mend your relationships: Know the people who are important to you and clear all misunderstandings with them. You can’t be confident at work or at home, if you had a misunderstanding with an important stake holder. Start with a clean slate.
3. Everything begins with a small step: Even those who scale Mount Everest, begin with small, tough milestones. Do not try and think of all of it at once. Understand that many small steps add up to the goal.
4. Be assertive and say ‘no’ when you have to: Confident people don’t accept assignments and commit to things and activities that are irrelevant to them, and take away time from things they need to focus on. Saying ‘no’ shows confidence. It may be difficult in the beginning, but, if you do it when needed, you will realize that people in fact respect you more. Say ‘no’ when you have to. Speak up, when you want to.
5. Seek a mentor, buddy at work or a support group: People train for marathons in groups or with a running partner. A marathoner knows that he can run farther with a partner than without one. The same principle is applicable everywhere else. Seek a mentor or support group that will keep track of your progress, nudge you to up the bar and cheer you along the way.
6. Include a 45 minute work-out into your daily routine: It has been proven that a 15 minute jog is the best anti-depressant. It has been found that people who exercise twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher. The endorphins that are produced in the brain as a result of the workout create positivity and make all the difference. Schedule your workout first thing in the day so that it leaves you to tackle the rest of the day on a high.
7. Walk the talk: If you want to be confident, look confident. You need to groom yourself and develop the mannerisms of a confident person. It has been proven that if you can fake it for a while, you can actually become confident. Dress as per the image you want to project about yourself. Smile when you are low on the inside. Project control and calm, even when you don’t feel it inside. Remember courage is not the absence of fear but the endurance of fear. All leaders know this.
8. Appreciate yourself: Maintain a journal where you note down one appreciable thing you did in the day, no matter how small it is. Too often we obsess over our shortcomings and fail to recognize what’s there.
At the end of the day, confidence comes down to a very simple but complex thing: it’s all about knowing you can do something even when you don’t have a plan at the moment as to how it will get done. In that way, confidence is a lot like simple, old-fashioned faith.
So today, for a change, be mindful of the obstacles and then tell yourself you can get it done anyway. Visualize your success and tell yourself you are already there. Watch the change.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.