The Truth About Becoming More Confident
The 4 small steps you can take to build your confidence muscle.
Posted February 14, 2017
I was recording an interview with a dear client recently for the launch of The Career Toolkit. The topic was confidence. We were talking about her 26-year career journey and how confidence has impacted her throughout – both negatively and positively. It was a juicy and super-helpful conversation, and right before we wrapped up, she said a truth that all women need to hear, something that we had been working on and she had been living for the past four years:
“Confidence changes in baby steps.”
Boom. Right there.
Just like we think that we get struck by purpose, one day waking to discover that we suddenly know what we are meant to do with our lives, we think that the same thing should happen with our confidence: One day, something will change, and all of a sudden we will have the courage to speak up in the meeting, go for the promotion, or start our dream business.
It rarely happens like that.
We build our confidence through taking small steps consistently that move us toward the best version of ourselves. Steps that inch us closer to what we know to be true, not what we worry others think. Steps that help us move into our power.
Here are some steps you can take to support your confidence journey.
1. Identify your triggers.
What are the situations that suck the confidence right out of you? Is it speaking up in a meeting filled with your peers? Perhaps it’s giving a presentation in front of your boss, or your boss’s boss. Maybe it’s being unprepared in a project review. Or not having all the facts on hand for a client. Some of us are full of confidence at work, but when we drop our kids off at school, the other moms are enough to drain all of our confidence and make us feel unsure of ourselves. It can be anything, but most of us have a few triggers that impact us more than any others. Work out what yours are and how to counter them. Not confident giving a presentation? Work with someone to improve your mindset and skills. Often find yourself unprepared? Schedule in time in advance so you have the space to get up to speed. Afraid of speaking up? Work out what sits under that fear so you can address it. Triggers are small things that cause major havoc. Start here.
2. Catch your stories.
We all have stories. Millions of them. You may not always notice, but there is a constant stream of chatter in your head. And here is a revolutionary truth that can change your life: Not only is that voice not you, but it’s also not speaking the truth, and it’s undermining your success and happiness. You must start becoming aware of the voice inside your head, and identify and catch the stories being narrated. You might find this challenging, or you might know exactly what I’m talking about. In that interview, my client shared how it took her a long time to really catch her stories. But once she did, she realized that she was undermining herself by letting this voice run riot in her mind and stop her from doing or saying what she really wanted. It ripped the confidence right out of her, and it will do the same to you until you learn to quiet it. First, just start to tune in and observe what it is saying throughout your day. You may be mildly horrified, but just observe. Be the witness. Don’t judge. Just catch the stories.
3. Ask the magic question.
Once we can catch our stories, we are already winning. Then when we start to challenge them with curiosity, we can really change our game. The magic question is: “Is that true?” Super simple. A seemingly small step. Is that true? When that voice inside your head pops up and tells you that if you speak in the meeting everyone will think you’re stupid, is that true? Invariably, it isn’t. When it pipes up and tells you that you’re hopeless at everything and won’t amount to anything? Challenge it, and you will find loads of evidence to the contrary. And when it hits you with the whopper that we all deal with far too often – "You’re just not good enough" – well, when you ask “Is that true?” to that one, I just know you can find the golden nuggets of how amazing you are when given the opportunity. And if you struggle with that one, ask your best friend; he or she will set you straight. The questions we ask shape our lives and can alter our reality. This magic question, written on a post-it note and put on your vision board, in your notebook, or on your computer screen, is a small step with life-changing implications. Ask it often.
4. Know your confidence boosters.
Get to know the things that boost your confidence. My client talked about ensuring that she had time each morning to feel put together before she went to work. Spending a little more time on her outfit and appearance may sound superficial, but it had a significant impact on her level of confidence throughout the day. When I worked in corporate roles, I felt the same way: That extra 15 minutes in the morning can make all the difference. Just having the right shoes on is a confidence booster that makes me stand taller and in my power. Does that mean I can’t be an effective speaker in ballet flats? Of course not. But if that extra boost puts a bit more spring in my step, so why wouldn’t I do it? Boosters can be anything: Building in extra preparation time before a meeting (which is another one of mine). Phoning a friend before giving a talk. Positive affirmations. Reading a list of your skills before going for a job interview. Thinking about your achievements before negotiating a pay raise. Or even striking a Wonder Woman pose in the bathroom stall before an important meeting. Discover what works for you, then build them into your day in ways that support you.
It’s what we do every day, not what we do sometimes, that changes our lives. Get to know yourself — your triggers, your stories, what lifts you up. And know that it’s the small things done consistently that will make all the difference.