“A feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances.”- Merriam Webster Dictionary
Scene #1: Yesterday my daughter and I attended a hot Bikram yoga class together. As I stand at the front of my mat, preparing for the grueling 90-minutes in 95 degree heat and 65% humidity, hands folded, eyes closed, I set my intention: “Give your best effort, have fun and don’t judge yourself.” I’m calm but my sore body and the more experienced yogis on either side of me wane my confidence.
Scene #2: Zip lining in Montana, last summer with my husband and teenage children. During the long hike and once on the high platform, I’m shaking like a leaf. We’ve gone through all the preparation and we’ve been told several times how safe and fun flying on a line hundreds of feet above ground will be. Yet, I’m thinking I can’t go through with it and the fear of what’s about to happen is overcoming me. I have no confidence in my ability to complete this.
Scene #3. It’s a few minutes before the start of a two-day seminar I will lead for a new client. A senior executive is saying a few words to kick-off the session. I’m sitting next to him. As I listen to him and await his introduction of me I’ve got butterflies, but the good ones. Their fluttering around my stomach but flying in unison. I’m nervous and excited. I’m confident that since I’m prepared and I know the seminar content is valuable, once I begin speaking everything should proceed well from there.
Three different circumstances with three varying degrees of confidence. What gives us confidence? As a health and fitness trainer I see so many women who lack confidence. As a mother of a teenage daughter I observe her and her friends either beaming with it or doubting their capabilities.
We all want to be confident and to appear confident, especially in those situations that might make or break our career or might allow us to experience something outside our comfort zone. Confidence isn’t a skill that we learn, it’s a feeling that we can grow and develop. From my personal experience I’ve realized I’ve been more confident when certain best practices or circumstances are in place- as Merriam Webster defines above.
- Celebrate your successes. When leading communication skills workshops we often conduct role-plays. I always find it interesting that at the conclusion of these practices people will immediately start talking about everything they felt went wrong instead of what they did well. To build confidence you must tame the inner critic and start with a positive self-appraisal. For whatever New Year’s Resolution you’ve set, set out smaller goals or milestones and celebrate those minor successes along the way. If you want to lose 50 lbs. this year and you completed 3 workouts this week, congratulate yourself (not with junk food, of course) and feel good about your progress.
- Surround yourself with positive influences. I’ve been blessed. My mom instilled confidence in me on a daily basis. My mom was beautiful, intelligent and ambitious but she came into adulthood in the wrong era. Women in the late 50s and early sixties were not encouraged to pursue a career or use their brains. She took every opportunity to recognize my successes and encourage me to take advantage of all the opportunities that were not available to her. I credit my ability to exercise daily and eat right to the people in my support and accountability group that I’ve been leading for over 5 years. Without their positive comments, encouragement and the “no judgement” culture we’ve created together, I would have quit long ago. Find people whom you admire and work to nurture those relationships. For me those are people whom are credible, caring and confident themselves.
- Be prepared and don’t dwell on the outcome. We’re typically more confident in any situation we’ve prepared for. If I’m going to lead a workshop for a new client I learn about their challenges, business model and goals. Even If I’ve lead the workshop 10 times before, I still take time to practice my words and get mentally prepared. If you practice and prepare for any big venture whether it be a presentation, asking for a promotion or making the leap to change careers, it makes no sense to dwell on the potential bad outcomes outside your control.
How are you going to build your confidence this year? How can you feel good about who you are and the God given gifts you have? I’d love to hear your ideas.