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What if I told you that you didn’t need to be confident all the time? It’s easy to think that as a leader or business owner, you need to continually project confidence. But that’s disingenuous because no one feels confident 100% of the time. And despite your best intentions (and that of a great many self-help gurus), you can’t believe your way into confidence! But, you can work on conditioning confidence with practice and vulnerability.
Many self-help gurus’ claims that affirmations and just thinking positively is enough to build confidence. While it’s tempting to believe the mere act of constantly saying that “you can do it” will change your beliefs. And while it may work in the short-term and for smaller tasks and challenges, it takes more than a few words to truly feel confident. Beliefs formed through positive affirmations don’t always withstand the tough challenges. It is better to think of affirmations as a coping mechanism than a tool for building confidence.
This doesn’t mean that I am advocating against positive self-talk, far from it, but that thinking alone won’t build confidence. You can’t create confidence from nothing – it needs to be earned through action.
So, What is Confidence?
So, what is confidence? Confidence is how we describe our belief in our ability to perform in roles or completing a task. This is different from self-esteem, which is how we feel about ourselves overall. So while confidence is what we feel about our ability to complete a task or behave in a particular role (such as in your job), we can’t create this belief from words alone.
What Does This Mean?
As confidence is not related to how we intrinsically feel about ourselves, but in how we feel about our competence about a given task, this means that we won’t always feel confident – and that’s ok.It is normal and expected to sometimes feel uncertain. It doesn't mean that you lack self-esteem but can realistically assess your skill gaps and what you need to improve. Click To Tweet
When we first learn a new sport, such as skiing, most people feel a bit hesitant, maybe even scared. But the more you practice, the more confident you feel in your ability to get down the hill without falling. The same holds true in your career – learning a new task or taking on a new role will require you to learn something new. It is ok to feel unconfident or unsure while you learn, this is only natural and a part of the learning cycle.
Practice Makes Perfect
So, how do we build confidence and honestly believe in our ability to perform? Confidence is something that’s on the other side of conditioning – it is what we gain from practicing so much that skill becomes habit. By engaging in deliberate practice, you give up your time and energy, which helps to build quality and expertise, which turns into confidence. You cannot force confidence; you must gain it by developing the skills necessary to master a skill or solve a problem.
Get Out of Your Own Way – Take a RiskConfident people are willing to admit when they don't know because they know that this doesn't lessen their self-worth and is an opportunity to learn something new. Click To Tweet
However, confident people also don’t let modesty get in their way either. Spending too much time worrying about what others think about you or your actions can rob you of both confidence and opportunities to act. Don’t ignore feedback, but know what your values and goals, and act according to that.
This leads to taking risks. It’s scary to try something new or take the leap out of your comfort zone, but you won’t know if you don’t try. Failure is one of life’s best teachers, and as such, an excellent confidence builder. You don’t grow if you never experience stress, failure, or disappointment.
“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”– Brene Brown
Sometimes, being confident is not about being practiced at something, but about being vulnerable with yourself and others. Vulnerability allows us to be ourselves by being comfortable with our “flaws” and in admitting when we don’t know. There is freedom in trusting yourself enough to admit weakness – and courage.
Though beliefs are changing, vulnerability is sometimes still thought of as a weakness. It takes strength to open up when you feel insecure and unsure. When we admit to weakness, we allow ourselves to learn and increase our skills and open ourselves to others, creating stronger networks and bonds. After all as Oprah said, “vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence.”
The Wo/Man in the Arena
Confidence is not always natural, and you won’t always feel it, but confidence can be earned. Committing time and energy in your pursuit of learning will lay a foundation that makes confidence easier to build throughout life. To increase your confidence, allow yourself to get out of your head and take a risk – learn from both your successes and failures and practice vulnerability and openness.Though it’s scary, opening yourself up to criticism means that you are active and engaged in life – and it is through living life that we gain confidence. If we were always confident, we wouldn’t grow. Click To Tweet
After all, as Roosevelt said in 1910, “it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
The Bottom Line
Confidence is how we describe our ability to perform, different than self-esteem, which is how we feel about ourselves. It is, however, normal to not always feel confident. When trying a new activity or starting a new job, it’s reasonable to feel a bit uncertain as you learn and gain skills. To gain more confidence, you need to take a risk and get into ‘the arena.’ Confidence is what we see on the other side of practice after we get out of our own heads and just try.
So take a chance and be vulnerable – it is only then that you will truly begin to feel confident. Take that leap of faith – enroll in that class you’ve always wanted to take, apply for that promotion, or finally launch your business! If you wait until you feel fully confident – you may never get started.