The Quest for Confidence

This is the time of the year when businesses conduct employee performance reviews and make forecasts and plans for the year ahead. These processes require taking a hard look at what is working and what needs fixing. Meetings and discussions involve candid conversations and constructive criticism that leave some participants feeling depleted, defeated, and even hopeless.  

When I hear my coaching clients talk about these thoughts and feelings, and others such as indecision, boredom, and self-doubt, it is often symptomatic of lost confidence.

It happens to all of us from time to time. The business is going through a rough patch, and we start to doubt ourselves. That nagging voice in our heads that inspires doubt, “Are you sure that is the right choice?” Life’s uncertainties, family, health, money, politics, can contribute to feelings of self-doubt.

Or, you may have a harsh inner critic like I do. You know, the one that criticizes all your imperfections and judges all your decisions. Over time, that kind of negative self-talk can result in a loss of confidence.

If you are feeling as though you have lost your mojo, don’t despair! You can reverse the downward spiral rather quickly. After all, you were once confident, and you can be so again. Here are some things I do with my clients to help restore confidence.

Know Your Why

Take some time to reflect on why you feel the way you do. For example, perfectionism seems to be a chronic issue for women and young workers. Many are overwhelmed by comparisons to others. Comparisons that they often seek on social media. You know those before-and-after stories or rags-to-riches stories of young, rich, and famous social media influencers that are all earning a billion dollars a year.

Are your expectations of yourself realistic? Are you trying to be the perfect, mother, spouse, and business-owner? Do you think you should have attained a particular status or position in life by now? Are you measuring your success by your net worth, the house you own, or the car you drive?

Maybe you just passed a milestone birthday and are feeling too old or keep hearing that you are too young. Humor can be an antidote. During the 1984 presidential debates between incumbent President Ronald Reagan and his Democratic rival Walter Mondale, Reagan’s age – 73 at the time – became an issue. When asked if he was too old for the job, Reagan said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes, my opponent’s youth, and inexperience.” Even Mondale laughed. Reagan Mondale Debate on Age

What kind of company do you keep? Who do you surround yourself with at work and play? Do they flatter you and withhold the truth? Or are they constantly criticizing you, disrespecting you, or beating you down?

Getting clear on the root cause of your situation is the first step to making positive changes.

Find Your Pride

I am the daughter of a proud Irish immigrant father. He was a humble man who came to America to realize the dream of freedom and prosperity. Whenever I came to him, defeated, scared, or uncertain, he would say, “Remember who you are.”

Simple and profound. We are more than the thoughts in our heads. Work is what we do, it is not who we are. Make a running list of your accomplishments this week, this year and as far back as you can remember. Keep adding to it over time and review it often.

Think about your childhood. When did you first learn to swim or ride a bike? What kind of sports did you play? What about hobbies and extracurricular activities? If you find it hard to find positive things in yourself, think about people who influenced you and what you did as a result of the inspiration.

Write down all the things you did to get where you are today. What are some difficult things you did, choices you made?

Some objective self-reflection will help you realize that you are capable and successful. If you are on LinkedIn or other social media sites, review the endorsements that colleagues have made about you. As you get more comfortable, consider asking friends, colleagues, or family to share a few qualities that come to mind when they think of you. You will start to reconnect with your strength and abilities.

Stand Tall, Sit Up Straight

My mother nagged me about my posture. “Stand tall, sit up straight, stop slouching.” Turns out Mom knew what she was talking about. Body language is an important way we communicate with each other. Research has shown that changing our stance and posture can help us feel more confident and powerful.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy is a best-selling author and award-winning Harvard lecturer who advocates for power posing expansive, open space-occupying positions. Think of Wonder Woman or Super Man – feet hip-width apart, hands on hips, chin up, chest high. Cuddy conducted experiments that suggested hormonal changes could result from two minutes of holding these postures , including increased testosterone, decreased cortisol, and an increased appetite for risk.

I haven’t found conclusive proof of the hormone changes, but I do know that most performers, public speakers, and athletes have a ritual that involves strong body posture and visualization techniques that help boost their self-confidence and calm their nerves. This is a great technique for sellers and presenters.

Physiology is key when learning to be confident. Think about a confident person you know. You knew they were self-assured by the way they carried themselves, the way they moved. They made eye contact, extended a firm handshake, and stood up straight. You can change how you are feeling by controlling how you present yourself. Take a few minutes before you walk into the meeting room and harness your positive energy.

Change Your Focus

Instead of worrying about all the things that could go wrong, focus on all the ways that it could go right. Think about how you are going to crush that presentation and how pleased your boss will be to hear it. If you are a chronic Debbie Downer or Sad Sam, it doesn’t have to be that way. We all have the ability to control our feelings and emotions, including whether or not we feel confident. Building confidence comes from a feeling of certainty that you can accomplish what you set out to do.

For example, if you are one of those who can’t say “No” to any request for assistance, then you will find yourself needing a self-confidence booster on a regular basis.

You don’t have to say yes to everything and everyone that comes into your space. An easy place to start is with social media. All that scrolling, texting, liking, and commenting is a big sucking time drain and also can leave you feeling psychologically depleted. Don’t worship the ping.

Practice keeping your power and start with something small. For example, I have a rule about texting. If the text requires more than two responses from me, then it is a phone call or an in-person meeting. If the other party persists, you can just stop engaging.

It is often hardest to say “No” to ourselves. Is that to-do list you make each morning helpful, or a constant reminder of what you failed to do? Are you “shoulding” all over yourself because of unrealistic thoughts or expectations? Don’t agree to take on a new activity, hobby, or social engagement unless it fills you with joy and excitement. If the very thought if it fills you with dread, then politely decline. Then stand back and take a deep breath. It feels good to know that you get to choose what to think, feel, and do. No one else but you.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes we have to endure a little discomfort in order to get a better result. If you have read any stories about saints or biblical figures, you know that suffering and endurance are two prevalent themes. No one wants to suffer deliberately, but avoiding all discomfort does nothing to build confidence and self-esteem.

Facing physical and psychological challenges and overcoming our own negative mindset is how we grow. Consider something you would like to challenge yourself to do that would make you feel proud. Maybe it is giving a talk or speech, singing or dancing in public, finally learning how to swim.

Imagine starting with something small, like declining the invitation to that holiday party that you drag yourself to each year. Suppose fear and shyness are keeping you isolated from making connections with others. Show up, strike a pose, take a risk, and watch your confidence soar.

Confidence is important in business and in life. Confidence is non-negotiable if you are to be considered convincing and trustworthy. No one will follow a leader who appears unsure of herself. Confidence helps build business and personal relationships. It helps us effectively handle conflict and seek new opportunities that foster personal and professional growth.

If self-confidence is holding you back, let’s talk about how coaching can help you get back on track.

#Coaching #Management #Leadership #Confidence

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