I often hear from clients – ‘Oh no, I could never do that’, or ‘I’m not confident enough’. Or, ‘I’ll do it when I feel more confident’.
This is often one of the biggest reasons that people hold off pursuing their dreams – their lack of confidence.
What they don’t realise is that confidence doesn’t come just because you want it. Sitting around waiting to feel confident enough before you start something new is never going to work. The only way to build confidence and feel confident is to do something.
I had a beautiful client, Wendy, who I worked over a 15-month period that was a classic example of this. She was a participant in a Leadership and Management Development program that I was running. The program was structured so we would meet once a month for a full day workshop and focus on one topic area for that day, be that effective communication, leadership skills, presentation skills, conflict management, etc.
At the end of each session, several actions were identified that each person was required to implement over the coming month. Then, the following month, each person was required to stand up in front of the group and give a presentation on how they went with their actions – what worked, what didn’t, the impact, etc.
One of the first workshops was on presentation skills, and throughout the session each person developed a presentation that they had to give to the group at the end of the day.
Most people found this a bit daunting and were nervous at the thought of getting up in front of their peers and presenting, particularly because they were required to be open to constructive feedback at the end. Wendy, however, was so scared at the thought of presenting and public speaking that she didn’t even show up to the session! She admitted at the following session that she was too scared to come. This was because she had no confidence when it came to public speaking because it wasn’t something she normally had to do.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Wendy, not showing up didn’t mean she was let off the hook. She still had to present to the group, every month.
When she started, she was scared. She was almost in tears, stumbled on her words and kept apologising for making mistakes. But, despite how nervous she was, she still stood up in front of everyone and gave her presentations, month after month.
Gradually, she made less mistakes and stopped relying so heavily on her notes. This thing she had been so, so terrified of a few months earlier was becoming less terrifying.
Then, one month, she came into the workshop with her face beaming and couldn’t wait to give her presentatio. During the month she had voluntarily put her hand up to give a presentation to the entire Sales team at their annual conference. She was beside herself with pride and even admitted that she enjoyed it so much that she had spoken with her manager about wanting more opportunities to do this.
I was so proud of her. What a long, long way to come and what a beautiful example of over coming a lack of confidence.
How to overcome a lack of confidence:
As I mentioned earlier, many people wait for confidence to come before they try something different or new, but they’ve got it the wrong way around. As much as you want to, you can’t think yourself confident. Confidence comes from taking action and from trying that thing you don’t feel confident about. Wendy, without realising, demonstrated this beautifully.
When you try something new, you will probably feel scared and nervous and may even be terrible at it to start with.
The reason you feel scared is due to what’s known ‘spotlight effect’. It literally feels like spotlight is on you. As a result, your brain goes into over-drive and fear of the uncertainty of the outcome cause worry, stress and fear to take over your thoughts. Your brain fills with cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone. This magnifies the situation and the risk of doing something now feels way too big for you to take action, so often you don’t.
This response was necessary for our hunter, gather ancestors where the unknown, or something new or uncertain, meant danger. The rush of cortisol to their brain was required so they could get into flight or fight mode because trying something new or coming across something new could mean life or death.
But, life’s not like that anymore. Most of the time, doing something new doesn’t mean life or death, despite our brain responding that way.
So, what if you did take action, even though all your brain responses are telling you not to? Well, really all that can happen is you succeed, or you don’t. You won’t die! You will survive.
Thinking of it this way, when you try something new, the only two outcomes are success or survival. The worst that will happen if you try something new, is you might experience a feeling that is uncomfortable, and really, anyone can handle a feeling, right? Once you know you can handle any feeling, that it’s not going to kill you, then to try something new, particularly something that will lead you towards you goal, doesn’t seem quite so bad.
The confidence-competency loop:
So, how do you overcome a lack of confidence. You become more competent. And, how do you become competent? You take action, despite your fear and continue to take action until you build the skill and competency and then confidence (note 1).
This is known as the confidence-competency loop and it basically states that in order to get confident at anything, you first have to try it. You have to take action.
1 – When you try something new, you will be scared, nervous and fear the uncertainty of the outcome. But, to build competency and then confidence you need to try.
2 – When you try something new, you will either succeed, or you won’t. Remember, you won’t die. The options when you try something are success or survival.
3 – When you keep trying (keep taking action), you learn and build a new skill.
4 – As you continue to develop that skill, you build competency.
5 – With competency, your nerves drop, your anxiety drops, the spotlight effect goes away and you feel confident.
It really is too easy to hide behind the excuses of ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I don’t have time’, ‘It won’t work’, etc. etc. But really, all you are doing is letting your lack of confidence hold you back.
But, what is this costing you? A job you hate? Great relationships? Your own business? A gym membership never used?
What has your lack of confidence stopped you from doing in the past? Now, imagine your life if you did that thing. How different would your life be and how different would you feel about yourself?
Don’t let lack of confidence stop you. Build your own confidence by taking action, today.
Note 1 – Mel Robbins