Congratulations! You have just been offered that new job or leadership role; or you are about start your own business or launch a new product or service. You are feeling good about yourself (and rightfully so). You are super excited and motivated to get stuck in and get started. Your mind is racing with creative ideas, concepts and plans of action to implement. You have landed an opportunity worth celebrating…a chance to step up and do what you know you are capable of doing.
However, a few short steps into the new role, the self-doubt starts creeping in. At first, the thoughts whisper: “What if I don’t succeed? What if I am unable to make the changes I had in mind? What if my team members don’t like what I am implementing? What if I make mistakes?” ‘What if’ vultures begin to circle....
A few more steps into the role, the flock of thoughts gets louder, turning into self-defeating, unexamined belief statements: “I am not cut out for leadership! I obviously don’t have a head for business. I am not suitable for this role. I am never going to succeed.” Before you know it, your motivation and enthusiasm has spiralled downwards into gurgling, murky waters and you are listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Hello Darkness My Old Friend on repeat play.
While a series of thoughts and incidents led you to this point, what you may want to consider as a next step is to lift your head, throw your shoulders back, breathe deeply, and learn a few strategies to get you back on an upwards spiral and into a growth mindset that will help you grow your self-confidence and teach you how to flourish.
Developing self-confidence first requires a level of self-awareness. Some starting questions may include: What are my strengths? What skills and abilities do I want to further develop? What do I want to learn? What themes and patterns in my life are no longer working for me, and why do they keep repeating? What lights my fire? What leaves me cold? What drains my energy? What replenishes my energy? What are my core values?
If you don’t really know who you are, and what you want…. if you don’t know what you will accept and what you will not…. if you don’t know where your personal and professional boundaries begin and where they end…. then how can you reasonably expect others to know these things about you? Amit Ray, author of Nonviolence: The Transforming Power said “When you know the knower within, you don’t need to know further.” How well do you really know yourself? Knowing the answers to similar existential questions, taps into a depth of self-knowledge that enables you to express yourself in self-assured and confident ways, and allows you to make emotionally intelligent decisions, even when under pressure.
Personal and social competencies (e.g. self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management) demonstrated in balanced and meaningful ways, strengthens one’s emotional intelligence quotient – a fundamental ingredient for life, career and leadership success. In The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace Cherniss & Goleman identified 6 key competencies that leaders first want support with, and self-confidence is a front runner on the list (followed by emotional self-control, teamwork & collaboration, communication, developing others, and empathy). In Leading With Emotional Intelligence, Reldan Nadler refers to self-confidence as an essential building block for success throughout one’s career, and a key competency that is developed through self-awareness.
Below are 6 strategies you can apply to help you improve your self-confidence for personal and professional success:
1.Become aware of your inner dialogue.
Pay attention to the constant stream of thoughts you keep asking yourself. Are they helpful or unhelpful? Are they building you up or knocking you down? For example thoughts like “What is wrong with me? I keep making mistakes! How could I be so stupid?” are neither helpful nor constructive and inevitably lead to a downward spiral. Instead, learn to ask yourself better questions by changing the inner dialogue to a constructive line of questioning that is solution-focused e.g. “What can I learn from this? What is positive about this situation? What worked well here? How can I explore potential solutions? What other approaches can I try? ”
2.Take some quiet private time.
Carve regular dedicated ‘me’ time into your work day. Take a ½ hour at lunch time and go for walk or sit quietly in the park. Engage in mindful breathing. Take notice of what is around you and find 3 things in your immediate environment that you can be grateful for. Reframe the problem you are grappling with. View it as an opportunity for growth and development. Reflect in a ‘stop – think – change’ approach. Stop what you are doing. Think about your current thoughts and actions. Change what needs to be changed.
For those most challenging situations you know are coming up (e.g. an important meeting), create the best case scenario using visualization techniques. Nadler’s advice is to:
‘imagine yourself in the situation, performing exactly the way you want to perform. This kind of pre-practice informs your nervous system and helps create neural pathways to make the performance more natural.’
Focus on the outcome you want, and visualize it happening the way you want it to happen. Include as much detail as possible, envisage what others are saying, and how you are feeling and imagine a successful outcome.
Being decisive does not mean you should jump straight in and make a quick decision without first gathering the data. Seek feedback, allow others to contribute possible solutions, listen carefully for multiple perspectives. Strong leaders are good listeners and consensus builders. They act mainly as facilitators, contributing their views at the end. The benefits of this approach are twofold. Firstly, you will have gathered necessary information through the discussion process, and secondly, because the group contributed their ideas to the discussion, you are more likely to have their agreement as you make the final decision. In making your decision, it is crucial that you:
- Cross-examine every precedent. Just because an approach worked before, does not necessarily mean it will work now. Don’t rely on old data for insight on a current decision.
- Clarify assumptions. Are we taking information for granted? Are we believing without proof? Are expectations too high?
- Have others challenge your thinking. Don’t be afraid to be wrong or to admit to making mistakes.
Read your people and keep them motivated. Engage with them by asking them questions to find out more about how they think and what they do. Acknowledge and support their efforts. Successfully building confidence in others helps to build confidence in your own abilities.
6.Create realistic expectations.
Learn to know the difference between ideals and goals, and beware of unrealistic goals, as these set you up for failure or frustration, and reinforce a negative self-talk cycle. Striving for an unattainable goal causes anxiety on a sub-conscious level as the mind becomes overwhelmed with the task. A typical response to being overwhelmed is to procrastinate and this disguises itself as “I need more time!”, in turn leading to more procrastination and more negative self-talk like “I don’t have things under control! Why didn’t I get this done sooner? I should have been better prepared!” Become aware of unproductive thought patterns, understand what causes them and how this influences your behaviour and performance. If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting the same results. Know what to change to get different results.
B.Ed (Teaching), Cert Tertiary Teaching, PGDip Ed, MEd Leadership
Reach. Teach. Lead.
Reach Education Ltd
Teacher Leadership Mentoring and Life Coaching. Personal and Professional Development.