“Fake it ’til you make it”. “Just do it”. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. How’s that approach working for YOU? How many opportunities have you turned down because you lacked confidence in yourself? I meet a lot of people in my work who are suffering from “impostor syndrome”. They nearly ALWAYS feel like a fake. They lack confidence that they are truly knowledgeable and capable, and fear one day being “discovered”.
Confidence, to me, is that feeling of certainty, that feeling of self-assurance and trusting myself that I know what I know. So why is self-confidence in such seemingly short supply? I think Russ Harris nails it in his book, The Confidence Gap. Harris identifies five reasons we lack confidence:
- Excessive expectations
- Harsh self-judgement
- Preoccupation with fear
- Lack of experience
- Lack of skill
Obviously, in any endeavor, you need to show up and do the work, practice the skills, and put in time and effort. Generally, the actions of confidence come first (when you gain skill competence) and the feelings come after. It is the old “familiarity breeds ease of use” maxim. In my experience, the first three above reasons are the most common for lack of confidence, with fear as the underlying root.
So, what’s to be done? Well, as Robert Frost said, “the best way out is always through”, so let’s unpack the the concept of fear a bit, shall we?
Firstly, that fear you are feeling can be a powerful source of energy, and harnessed and used beneficially.
What is your attitude toward fear?
Do you see it as a sign of weakness?
I am here to tell you that it is NOT; it is a normal human emotion. You need a reasonable amount of fear for basic human survival. However, in managing the fear that erodes your confidence, the key is understanding that confidence is not the absence of fear. Let me repeat that. Confidence is not the absence of fear. Confidence is having a working, transformed relationship with fear. In the confidence arena, it is our ATTITUDE towards fear that holds us back. Yes, fear is a powerful emotion, but what you DO with it is what makes all the difference in the confidence game.
Finding ways to diffuse negative thoughts is your best weapon against confidence zappers. When you start to self-judge, compare yourself to others, think of a zillion obstacles, or invent ominous predictions, grab that thought balloon and mentally pop it with a giant pin. Remember, thoughts are just words temporarily occupying a moment in your consciousness. JUST WORDS. You hear and read lots of words every single day. You certainly don’t believe all of those, do you? Well, apply the same approach to the thought hooks that chip at your confidence, remember that it is your ATTITUDE toward fear that holds you back, not fear itself, and watch yourself blossom with increased confidence.
There are a lot of great authors with thoughts and exercises to help you dig deeper into the topic of confidence. I highly recommend the following titles as a place to start: