Do you worry that a lack of self-confidence is holding you back in life? Perhaps you run a small business and you know you could get new clients by going to networking events … but you feel too shy. Maybe you want to switch careers to something different … but you know that would mean taking on something really challenging, like speaking in front of big groups.
Some people are naturally self-confident, but most of us have at least some fears and doubts at times. (And a lot of people who come across as self-confident are quaking inside!) The good news is that your self-confidence level isn’t set in stone. You can deliberately become more confident and take on new adventures.
Here are four little steps to take. As you read them, decide on one or two that you could do this week.
Step #1: Consider Times When You ARE Confident
Most people lack self-confidence in some areas of their life (perhaps their career) but they’re confident in others. Think of something that you’re always confident about. You might have to spend a few minutes on this, because it may seem something that’s “no big deal” to you.
Here are a few examples:
- Cooking a nice meal for your family / friends
- Setting up a website
- Writing an essay or article
- Taking care of children
- Going to the gym and working out
All of these are things that some people find really easy and others are terrified of doing.
Write down a few things that you’re confident about (you can pick any that apply from the list above, or come up with your own). What do they have in common? There’s a good chance that you’ve been doing them for a while – perhaps you were scared of doing something wrong when you first had kids, for instance, but now parenting is second nature.
Step #2: Remember That the First Few Times are Just Practice
When you were a kid, did you ever play group games where the first round or two were “practice”? That gave you and the others a chance to get used to the rules and the way the game worked, without worrying about being “out”.
Life is just the same! It’s really very rare that you can screw something up so badly that you cause serious damage to your career or life prospects. So next time you have to do something scary, tell yourself it’s a practice round.
Let’s say you’ve started a new business and you want to get the word out in your local area. You decide to write a press release, and it’s the first time you’ve done that. You don’t have any media contacts. You may well not feel very confident at all … but if you tell yourself this is “just practice” for when you’ve got something even bigger to announce to the world, that helps take the pressure off.
Step #3: Build Up Your Successes
The best way to grow your self-confidence is with a string of victories. That means that it’s not a great idea to fling yourself headlong into the biggest challenge you can think of. Sure, it might go fantastically well … but even if it does, you might find the whole process horribly stressful. And if it goes badly, you may feel even less confident.
Public speaking always ranks highly in people’s fears, but it’s a great skill to have. If you want to get good at public speaking, you obviously don’t need to begin by aiming to present in front of an audience of hundreds (even if that’s your eventual goal).
Your first few steps could look like this:
- Attend a Toastmaster meeting and listen to some speeches (without participating)
- Take on a small speaking task at work (e.g. presenting to a small group of colleagues in a meeting)
- Speak in front of a larger group in a voluntary context (e.g. in a local community group)
…and so on.
Each step will feel a little scary… but each time you successfully take a new step, you’ll feel more confident. You’ll know that you can do it.
Step #4: Keep Track of What You Achieve
To keep your motivation up, and to continue to grow your confidence, keep track of your achievements. That might mean listing the different steps you took, and even recording how you felt (e.g. “really nervous beforehand but great once I’d done it”).
Over time, you can see your abilities growing and your comfort zone expanding. If you write down your achievements on a monthly basis, you might find that something which terrified you in January was OK by March and actually enjoyable by June.
When you see this pattern repeating in different areas of your life – little steps gradually leading you to greater self-confidence, and greater achievements – it helps you to face new situations. Over the years, I’ve learned that I always feel timid and anxious when faced with something new, but once I get going, it becomes much easier and I feel far more confident.
What step could you take today? Choose one idea from the list above, and tell us what you’re going to do in the comments.
Photo credit: “Control” by Big Stock