All high achievers have two attributes in common. The one youhear about is their self-confidence–the inner sense they can overcome challenges more often than not.What is often forgotten (or ignored)is that most people who enjoy self confidencewere once plagued byfears born of imagined or actual inadequacies. The truly confident manage to flush much of that self doubtfrom their systems.In this sense, building self-confidence is a two-phase process. The first phaseinvolves purging yourself of self-doubt; in the second, you build up your confidence. It’s like erecting a skyscraper: First you clear the site and lay asolid foundation, then you stack the superstructure. How high you go–how much confidence you muster–is up to you.
Self-doubt crept into your system as a baby. As toddlers, we all looked at the power our folks had and thought: “Gotta be like them.” This wish isn’t the problem; putting our parents on pedestals is. It’s complex, but from the moment we crave power akin to what we feel our parents have, we continually contrast our sense of self with our ego ideal—an imagined, perfect self, derived from our image of our “super-powerful” parents. Since no one can live up to the standards set by ego ideals, we spend the rest of our lives (to greater or lesser degrees), plagued by doubt. This is irrational, of course, but true.
There’s a school of psychotherapy—called “acceptance therapy”—based on the insight that admitting you suffer from a problem reduces the distress it can cause. (Conversely, denying the existence of a problem, or beating yourself upfor having a flaw, is always debilitating.) Everyone, even superstars, feels like a fake or failure at times. We all have imperfections. Recognizing that those whom you admire most have them, too, is the trick.
You’re probably not done with Step 2 yet. Chances are that real acceptance won’t kick in without sharing your anxiety with someone you trust. Think you’ll flub a presentation? Give one to friends. Doubt you command respect?Ask someone you admire (but don’t report to) if all is okay. Worst case is that whomever you confide in will give you negative feedback that you can use to improve. Admitting what plagues you (and then learning that others feel thesame way) will help you realize that while self-doubt is vexing, no one dies from it.
If a claustrophobic person gets stuck in an elevator, it’s hard for them to focus on the certainty that, any minute now, it will be moving again. Fear and panic simply take over. The same tendency is true with self-doubt, but unlike withclaustrophobia, a few hard facts can help. Example: If you’ve been promoted somewhat recently, remind yourself why you were tapped. Make a list of all your valuable skills and accomplishments. Read them aloud if you have to.But–and this important–don’t lean on a pre-packaged pep talk, a la the old Stuart Smalley character on “Saturday Night Live.” False self-praise will do more damage than self-doubt.
If possession is nine-tenths of the law, then perception is 100% of the truth. A dreadful event can be made manageable if you tell yourself you have the stuff to cope with it. Remember that.
Okay, for most people, that last Jedi mind trick isn’t enough. Fear, no matter its source, is a formidable adversary. That’s why you have to pick a fight with it. William Jennings Bryan claimed, “The way to develop self-confidence is todo the thing you fear.” Setbacks are inevitable–suck it up. Resilience is the steel skeleton of self-confidence.
Specifically, this means taking on challenges that are egosyntonic–that’s shrink-speak for behaviors and feelings that match your view of who you are. It is much easier to boost self-confidence by confronting challenges of yourchoosing than by tackling what someone else tells you to do. If you pick the battles you engage in because you believe in their aims, your self-confidence will increase along with your winning percentage.
Nothing erodes self-confidence like shooting fish in a barrel. Add more challenge to every task you tackle and your self-confidence will grow in lockstep. Level off for too long and you’ll be on the slick slope to burnout.
“How am I doin’?” may a good question for politicians to ask their constituents, but it’s a bad question for those looking to boost confidence— mainly because it smacks of insecurity and probably won’t lead to honest feedback.
In all things, too much is no good. That goes for self-confidence, too. Believe in yourself–just don’t be a jerk about it.
Session 2: Building business confidence
Just what is