Do you have days when your confidence deserts you?
I’ve noticed confidence - or lack of it- isn’t tied to position or job title; some senior executives shy away from situations that require putting themselves out there.
Natural confidence is distributed unevenly across the population; some have lots of it, many can find it sometimes but not always, and a percentage struggle to latch onto it at all. In my programs, I've found the number one issue that hinders effective communication is lack of self-belief.
I’m not talking about a specific situation that makes you nervous. I’m referring to a deep inner feeling that can undermine your ability to perform at your best. That nagging voice in your head keeps questioning whether you’re up to the task.
Based on my own journey, I know there's no quick fix for a self-belief reservoir that’s run low. It’s more like a life’s work to make sure it’s constantly being refilled. What I’ve learned, though, is that small, daily steps make a huge difference.
I discovered this after a particularly nasty relationship breakup many years ago. My confidence evaporated and I could barely manage to function, let alone behave confidently in a professional setting.
Clutching for an anchor, I stumbled across some writings by Louise Hay. I’d never heard of her, and I was completely new to the concept that your thoughts have a dramatic impact on what happens in your life.
I devoured her entire library; it was like discovering an immense revelation. I realise some people consider Ms Hay's work too simple to be effective, but I found the opposite was true. The very simplicity of her message made it work.
A concept that changed my world was the notion that suggesting thoughts to yourself could shift your mindset and behaviour. I was skeptical at first - I mean, what a naive idea - but decided to give it a try.
One recommendation was to repeat the affirmation “I approve of myself”. The first few times I did it, I felt like an idiot and was glad no one was watching. Louise suggested saying it hundreds of times a day, regardless of whether it felt true. If negative thoughts cropped up, she recommended repeating it even more.
I figured I had nothing to lose, so over the next few weeks I became a self-approving parrot, repeating my mantra over and over.
Nothing dramatic happened at first, but gradually I saw changes. I began to look at myself differently. I actually felt different. What was even more convincing was that other people began to notice. My friends commented that I looked happier, the "vibe" about me had changed. Then, various personal and professional relationships started to improve. Conversations I’d found difficult became much easier.
Ultimately, I began to have an incredible sense of what I now recognise as joy bubbling up inside me. It's the biggest life shift I've ever experienced - from such simple beginnings.
In the intervening years life has taken many turns. Another big lesson is that building self-belief is like having a shower; you can’t do it once and forget about it. It’s an ongoing practice; something you need to experience daily.
Saying affirmations is a starting point. It lays a firm foundation for many other actions that build confidence and self-belief. It's about getting the inside right, setting a platform that enables you to layer many other skills like effective networking, public speaking and leadership.
You might be able to fake some communication abilities, but it won’t mean much if you don’t feel good within yourself. If lack of confidence resonates with you, work on the inside as well as your external skills and you’ll significantly boost your results.