Everyone faces moments in their lives when their personal confidence is challenged. For leaders, these moments can be especially daunting, as the success of their businesses often hinges on their ability to project a sense of self-assurance. While there is no single silver bullet for gaining confidence, there are definitely tactics that will work for everyone.
How well do you know yourself? Many people who lack confidence also lack self-awareness for the simple reason that they don’t like themselves and therefore avoid spending any amount of time thinking about themselves. If they do direct their thoughts inward, it’s usually to repeatedly flog themselves over their perceived flaws or past mistakes. If this sounds like you, give yourself a break. No, you’re not perfect, but who the heck is? Invest some time to intentionally work on your self-awareness. There are plenty of tools to help you, including assessments (I recommend the StrengthsFinder test), books, and feedback from trusted family and friends. Only when you know your strengths can you fully magnify them, and only when you’re aware of your weaknesses can you minimize their impact.
Turn Down Your Inner Critic
We are all harder on ourselves than we would ever be on other people. I discovered how vicious my inner critic is when a therapist asked me if I would say the things I say to myself to someone I love, and I was horrified at the thought. I would never! It was a stunning revelation to me. I’d lived my whole life mentally flogging myself for every mistake and flaw, real or imagined, without ever realizing how toxic it was. While you may not be able to silence your inner critic altogether (nor would you want to, as some criticism is constructive), there are steps you can take to tone it down. Affirmations are a great way to inject positive self-talk, and journaling can help clarify your feelings and recognize which internal feedback is accurate and rational. When in doubt, ask yourself if someone who loves you would agree with your criticism. Chances are that the people who want you to succeed won’t be found rehashing your embarrassing moment or absentmindedly pinching your love handles. Those are things we only do to ourselves, and we have the power to stop them.
Develop Positive Habits
One of the biggest misunderstandings in the world is that confidence comes as a result of success or achievement. That is patently false! Confidence is a by-product of past behavior, therefore the best way to build confidence is to execute consistent behaviors that support your goals. There are lots of habit-building programs out there, but the one that I use is Streaking. Streaking works for me because I have clearly defined goals and “laughably simple” behaviors to support them. So simple, in fact, that there is no excuse not to do them. As an example, one of my goals is to be a lifelong learner and one of my streaks that supports it is to read at least one paragraph in a book each day. One paragraph by itself is trivial, but reading at least a paragraph each day for 838 days in a row (and counting!) has propelled me through more books and fostered much greater learning.
Personal Confidence Requires Consistency
Consistency is the key. Consistency is what creates sustainable confidence. A big promotion or major achievement can absolutely make you feel confident for a time, but unless you can get promoted or published or win a trophy every day then you’re setting yourself up for short peaks of confidence and long valleys of trying to get by on willpower alone. Spoiler alert: willpower doesn’t work.