Confidence is a state of mind. One that can be learned and improved upon, says life and business coach, Izak Strauss. We spoke to him about what’s really behind a lack of confidence and how, like any muscle, it can be built over time.
According to Strauss, what’s behind a lack of confidence is fear and self-doubt. “The fear of failing, being criticised, the fear of the unknown – all of these things can take a knock on our confidence. Yet it is at this moment when we need to feel the fear and persevere anyway. To quote Nelson Mandela, “I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave person is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’”
Strauss says that very few people are born with high levels of confidence; it is something we learn over time. Once you begin to focus on improving yours on a daily basis, you will get better at it. And while some people are naturally more confident than others, Strauss says that once we begin to have faith in our abilities and skills, confidence grows. “Like with learning to ride a bicycle, you first need to take the training wheels off before you can progress to doing wheelies – if you have faith in your abilities, you will back yourself up in the face of adversity because you know what you are capable of doing.”
This may mean working on improving self-esteem by taking the time to analyse your strengths and weaknesses objectively – very often we downplay our skills and overemphasise our weaknesses. And a lack of trust in our abilities can make people doubt our skills. “Perception is everything, as fickle as that may sound. The moment people perceive us as not being confident (and we all know that you make an impression on someone within the first few minutes of meeting them) they lose faith in our abilities. Yet, if we are confident in ourselves and in what we do, we immediately create trust and earn respect, translating into success,” says Strauss.
How to boost your confidence
Career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman says that the reality for many people is that without confidence you can’t stand out, get assigned the good projects, and are less likely to get a raise or be promoted.
Learning how to boost your confidence then will go a long way in improving yours self-esteem and workplace success, here are some ways that you can boost your confidence:
Take stock of your strengths
Your strengths are your unique selling points and finding ways that you can use these in your everyday life will automatically boost your confidence.
Make work the focus
Author of Tame Your Office Tyrant, Lynn Taylor advises taking a step back from office politics and any unproductive behaviour by focusing on the job at hand. This can promote a great work ethic and self-confidence.
Work on your weaknesses
Some weaknesses can wreak havoc on your confidence. Find ways to work on these, so that they don’t take away from your strengths or cause you to doubt yourself. Yet be careful not to make your weaknesses your focus.
Monitor your successes
Taylor advises keeping a list, or creating a folder or file to record the times you’ve been praised for something you’ve done well. Too often we run a seemingly unending reel in our head of our failures and during moments of doubt, so it’s good to challenge those with evidence of past successes.
By monitoring your successes you will begin to trust that you will have more successes in future.
Preparation is key
The biggest confidence boost comes from preparation. Whether it’s a keynote speech or sales pitch; think of all the scenarios that can pan out and ways to deal with each one. This will leave you calm and in control, advises Strauss.
Look after yourself
Exercise decreases your stress hormones and increases your body’s natural feel good chemicals, helping you to feel better about yourself. Strauss also advises eating a balanced diet. “If you feel good about yourself your confidence grows. It’s a simple but effective formula.”
Real confidence comes from choosing to believe in yourself, concludes Strauss. “It’s not about bravado – although to a certain extent bravado can help – but long-term confidence grows when we decide to trust in our abilities and in ourselves.”