by April M. Stewart, Special MWAF Contributor
Confidence can be the fuel that lights your fire, sparks your grit and gusto, and helps you navigate an uncertain or biased professional environment.
But not everyday.
Some days are just HARD.
Some days are decidedly UNconfident. Your end goal is hidden in a thick cloud of doubt, imposter syndrome, self-criticism, too many to-dos, a distinct absence of grit and gusto, and tiresome microaggressions.
The official definition of confidence is “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.” (www.dictionary.com)
On a personal level, confidence means that I feel in control of my life; that I feel good about what I’ve accomplished that day/week/month/year; that I’m constantly building my skills and nurturing important relationships; that I’m finding ways to support my networks (hello FSGwomen community!), and that I’m making an impact in the world, no matter how small. When combined all these elements make me feel good about myself and create a feedback loop that further boosts my confidence.
What intrigues me the most about confidence is how sporadically elusive it can be (usually when you need it most!) and how easily it can be shattered.
If only accessing your confidence was as easy as flicking a switch in your brain to Confidence Mode!
Luckily, confidence is not a fixed characteristic; you can build it up over time with daily practice and use simple hacks to restart Confidence Mode in the event of a momentary outage.
Build it and it will come
- Set goals and follow through: Think about a time when you achieved an important personal or work goal. How did that make you feel? Probably like you could take on the world! Our sense of confidence can come from personal and professional accomplishments – and better still, we can access those feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence long after the moment has passed. Consistently setting and meeting goals (no matter how big or small) can empower your feelings of competency and belief in your capabilities. These feelings feed into future success as you stack one win on another.
- Hone your resiliency skills: Being resilient means that you recover quickly from setbacks and challenges. Wikipedia says that “Psychological resilience is the ability to cope mentally or emotionally with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.” A beneficial trait on its own, resiliency can also help you maintain consistent levels of confidence because it teaches you how to mange and adjust your emotional responses. A resilient person won’t let a setback tear them down completely, because they’ve learned what emotional responses are not helpful or healthy. Resiliency helps shatter-proof your confidence.
- Try in-the-moment confidence poses: There is science to back up and refute the fact (and more recent research that’s bringing the idea back again) that using power poses provide a shot of confidence boosting hormones like testosterone and reduce stress-inducing ones like cortisol. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy refers to these moves as “body-mind nudges.” Her research has shown that body-mind nudges help you remove “psychological stumbling blocks” like telling yourself that you’re awesome, confident, and perfect – the things we tell ourselves, but we may not fully believe. “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes,” says Cuddy. (Personally, I like the Wonder Woman pose and doing a few Warrior yoga poses, but you’ll find a few more poses here and here.)
- Make failure your friend: Fear of failure can be crippling. But it’s not the failure itself that breaks our confidence; it’s the fear that we might fail. “Every single wildly successful person has been afraid, and they’ve kept working and taking risks anyway, because what they are trying to accomplish is more important and urgent than their fear they will fail,” writes Frances Bridges in this Forbes article. It can be extremely difficult to work through your fear, but confidence develops when you have a deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face or pursue.
It’s also important to remember that you can be super confident in some areas of your personal and/or professional life, and unconfident in others – and that’s okay! You can leverage that awareness to confirm what you already know: that you can draw from that well of self-assurance to keep developing confidence.
Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you fail at something or don’t try to do something because you feel unconfident, you end up feeling even less confident which causes you to hesitate the next time an opportunity or challenge comes up.
But the flip side is also true: those who nurture their confidence can ‘trick’ their brain into thinking that they are. They accept the challenge or the opportunity with sites set on a positive outcome. In short, they succeed because they believe or know that they have confidence (or work at developing it) rather than assuming it’s an innate ability.
Now, go get’em!
P.S.: Have you ever heard this song? https://youtu.be/hjPLkPsLxc4 I play it sometimes first thing in the morning for a jolt of confident go-get-‘em!