May 10, 2020

How Not To Be Confident

Are you willing to turn the idea of confidence on its head? To think about it in a totally different way? To be open to the possibility of creating sustainable confidence (see, am being environmentally friendly)?

Then you are in the right place. 

I have worked with countless women over the years and by far the most common theme we come to is the old monster, Lack Of Self-Confidence. 

A lack of confidence is the most often cited reason I hear for not doing something that matters to us  - not necessarily something we like - but something that we value. It might be pitching for a new project, asking for a raise or public speaking - things that are out of our comfort zones. 

There are several mistakes people make  about how to become more confident, most of which only work in the short term. Here’s what they are and more importantly, I am providing you with an antidote. 

Think of yourself being stung by the scorpion of low confidence, and picture me running to your aid with a little vial to kickstart real confidence. Obviously this is an analogy. Probably best not to contact me if you are stung by a scorpion as I will be hiding up the nearest tree. 


Mistake 1: Confidence comes first

Does this sound familiar? When I feel better/stronger/happier then I will ask for that promotion /write that article/do that thing that freaks me out. Unfortunately waiting for confidence is putting the cart before the horse. You won’t feel confident at first but are you willing to make room for those uncomfortable feelings and just take the actions that get you towards your goals even when you don’t feel confident? This is not just ‘faking it til you make it’ because as long as you are acting in accordance with your values you will always be authentic in what you do. Don’t wait to ‘feel’ confident, you’ll be waiting forever. Just take action. 

Antidote: Actions of confidence come first. Feelings of confidence come later. 

Mistake 2: Positive affirmations will give me confidence

On the surface, you’d think that this one can work. ‘I am amazing! I totally deserve it! I can do anything!’ However, however...positive affirmations can actually make you feel worse and inauthentic. Telling yourself something often enough might work in the short term but they will fall flat when you are hit by your next tidal wave of self-doubt. The more you push thoughts and images out of your head, the more they will bounce back. 

Our minds love to tell us a good story about ourselves. Sometimes it’s a lovely story, sometimes it’s a horrible one. Maybe these stories are true, maybe they aren’t. Think of the emotional energy you could waste to try to figure that out. 

Instead of falling into analysis paralysis, take a step back for a second, and ask yourself ‘If I opt in to this thought, does it help me TAKE ACTION in line with my values?’ See the big caps lock there? That’s to make the point that it’s about what you do, not just about what you think and feel. If it’s not helping you then label your self-criticisms as stories your mind likes to tell. 

Antidote - Replace positive affirmations with acknowledging that this is a story your mind likes to tell. Say or write down ‘I notice my mind is telling me I can’t do this’ instead. You’ll be surprised at the space it gives you. 

Mistake 3: I need to feel confident

What happens when you do something out of your comfort zone? Do your insides feel warm and cosy, like they are wrapped in a big fluffy blanket, watching Netflix, with excellent snacks? 

No they do not. 

And there we have the crux of it. We tell ourselves we need to feel safe in our bodies first - only we call it feeling confident - before we actually do something challenging. So we go round in circles chasing our tails - I’ll do it when I feel confident then wait for ever to do something important to me because I don’t feel confident. Ad infinitum. 

That’s normal and, FYI, anxiety should feel uncomfortable or the human race would have died out. The point of the fight or flight response is to help you punch a lion on the nose or leg it. I’ll bet none of you come across lions often but I am sure you feel anxiety in your body when you do something out of the cosy zone - heart racing, dry mouth, tense muscles. These physiological responses don’t feel good but they can’t harm you. 

Interestingly, anxiety is often the same thing athletes call being pumped. It’s just a different label. Try to relabel feelings of anxiety so that they are your ally. 

Antidote: Break this cycle of seeing confidence as fuzzy feels and accept uncomfortable feelings of anxiety in your body by sitting with them and breathing into them. Label them as normal feelings that tell you that you care about what you are trying to achieve. 

If you like that then ​my article on When I...Then I thinking and why you shouldn't do it. Click here. 

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