Confidence has nothing to do with the genetic lottery. It’s a trait that you can choose to generate and bring to any aspect of your life.
The evidence of action generates confidence. Confidence is not one bold move but incremental nudges over time that keep you moving towards your goals.
What happens if your confidence levels are low and you’re trying to operate on fumes?
It could be a manager at work, a colleague, an illness – some external factor has shattered your confidence, and you tell yourself that you cannot move forward. This becomes a vicious cycle that keeps you stuck.
The truth is that your inaction reinforces the story; this makes you feel even more powerless to move forward and change it.
What if you could mine confidence in other areas of your life and transfer it to the parts you feel are lacking? Here are some ways to cultivate confidence capital:
Keep the promises you make to yourself.
Why do you trust someone? Chances are they are consistent and keep the promises they make to you. The same is true for you.
If your confidence is at an all-time low, change your focus to creating small wins you can celebrate. You need a mechanism to generate self-trust and a sense of accomplishment if you are not achieving this in your work.
Introducing an exercise practice is a great starting point. It’s not enough to think that you will go for a walk today; you have to schedule it into your calendar. Scheduling is less about time management; it is a declaration that you have committed time in your day to yourself.
Showing up and following through with your commitment is crucial to creating confidence. Start at small as possible; you can do five jumping jacks, take your dog for a ten-minute walk, or do three minutes of mindful breathing – it’s not how long you do the exercise for, it’s building the habit of keeping your promises.
Don’t break the agreement with yourself by hitting the snooze button. Your confidence is low because your actions demonstrate you are not worth showing up for, or you don’t have any evidence that you can rely on yourself to do the hard things.
If someone arrives late to a meeting with me, I assume they don’t respect my time. Therefore if you ditch your appointments, you indirectly communicate that other people are more important and worthy.
You may have the intention to go for a walk but what tends to happen is you open your inbox, see a few new emails and convince yourself you can’t possibly go because their urgencies are above your goals.
Creating confidence capital is a three-step process – schedule in time, show up to yourself and create a micro win. Progress generates motivation, while a lack of action fuels your insecurities.
It doesn’t have to be a self-care activity – make any promise to yourself and keep it. You could commit to cooking dinner twice a week or reading for fifteen minutes daily. That’s how you generate confidence capital. The more you can demonstrate self-trust, the more capital you have to invest in other areas lacking.
If you’re in a low place, start as simply as ‘when I wake up, I will get up immediately and not hit the snooze button’. Or take it a micro-step further and commit to making your bed daily. This simple action creates a trajectory of positive reinforcement because you have taken ownership of how you start the day. No matter what happens that day, at least you made your bed.
Find a courage outlet.
Courage supersedes confidence. You can’t wait to feel confident to take action on something. It’s the courage to take the step that comes first. Once you take the step, guess what? Your confidence builds, and you are inspired to do it again. You can build the courage muscle by achieving the win and celebrating it. You need to prove to yourself first with action that you are capable of anything you put your mind to.
When I say an outlet for courage, I don’t mean you need to skydive or do something drastic.
Hobbies are excellent courage outlets because it allows your creative side to emerge. Even if you don’t think you are creative, you are.
What does creativity have to do with confidence? Everything! Life cannot be purely about work. If you tie your entire identity to work, any time spent outside work feels unproductive or a waste of time.
Is there a hobby you enjoy that completely absorbs you? You don’t think about anything else other than what is in front of you – this could be painting, cycling, riding, martial arts, photography, you name it!
It doesn’t have to be something arty, but a means to show yourself that with time and effort, you can get better at anything you put your mind to. Whatever this is for you, it requires the courage to feel out of your depth initially.
This growth mindset is the most important thing I try to instill in my kids. When my son started cricket, he was frustrated because he was still developing his batting and bowling skills, and the ball would go everywhere except the wickets. A few months later, we were at a cricket match, and he played kids that reminded him of where he was initially and how far he had come.
His lesson is that if you persevere, you can improve your skills. When you acknowledge and internalise your growth, your whole perception of what’s possible changes. Remember, the feeling of being a beginner is only temporary; this should not form the foundation on which you base your confidence.
Find something you love doing, give yourself permission to be a beginner, and start from scratch. Over time you show yourself that you can improve, which is how confidence is generated.
Develop your own life curriculum.
A lack of confidence shows up when there’s a disconnect between where you are now and where you would like to be. Let’s say you want to move into a marketing role but are currently in sales or project management.
Take charge of the situation and start developing the skillset so you can shift into a new role. You can meet with your head of Marketing and share your career goals – understand what’s involved and ask them what they suggest for you to study or read.
If you are naturally a shy person and fear the spotlight, why not empower yourself by doing a public speaking course or watching some TED talks on how to best project yourself. Success leaves clues – not every change requires a degree, but you can always boost confidence with knowledge and action.
Adopt an ownership mindset when it comes to your career, and take charge of filling in the gaps so you can create your own opportunities. Don’t let self-doubt interfere with the willingness to try and expand yourself; sometimes, that’s all confidence is—the willingness to try and put yourself out there.
Read more about Lori Milner About — Beyond the Dress