What if we’re just scraping the surface of what is possible? What if there was more to do, more to give? I think it’s easier to identify and acknowledge where we feel confident in life. We find confidence in proficiency with a particular skill or vocation we’ve spent years practicing and mastering. We may find confidence in a long-term relationship, a familiar connection that is safe and secure. The areas we are confident feels good, flows with ease and we are likely even raising our hand to say yes to contribute our knowledge and value. But, what happens when you find yourself in uncharted territory and the thought of learning or experiencing something new makes you want to run back to the safety of what you know? What are you avoiding or missing because you feel too uncertain or insecure to pursue it? Where do you wish you had more confidence?
Let’s first talk about what confidence is not. Confidence is not a personality trait or a given in life. We don’t inherit it from our parents or pass it on to our kids. Confidence is not loud and obnoxious or once achieved, promised forever. Its impermanence requires our attention and effort. Confidence is not blocked by fear, we can still feel the fear and show-up with confidence anyway. Confidence is a state of feeling, we create it, we get ourselves there, it’s a combination of mindset and movement. It’s a peaceful and centered presence, a self-assurance and trust in our ability and qualities that we will be capable of showing up as our best self and do a good job. Confidence is a skill we can develop, a skill moving us from thought to action without the distraction of being tied to the outcome because we want to go for it anyhow.
Lack of confidence starts in our body, you may recognize the signs. Increased heart rate, sweaty palms, short breaths, a tingly sensation in your face, maybe even a wave of nausea at the thought. Our brain is designed to protect us. We feel the fear and then the amygdala in our brain takes action and alerts our fight or flight response. When we feel excited about something, it’s psychologically the same as being afraid. How we choose to look at it is up to us, we get to decide whether we call it afraid or excited, we set the intention.
What makes us feel afraid? There are three main fears that often arise when we struggle with confidence. Our fear of loss, fear of the process, or fear of outcome. The fear of loss comes from focusing on what we might lose from making a change or trying something new. What if I lose my best friend because she isn’t on board with me moving to a new city for this job promotion? What if my partner doesn’t love me or think I’m fun anymore because I’ve decided to change my lifestyle? Or, instead we can ask, what if I land the job of my dreams? What if I inspire him to want to live a healthier life? We can also fear the process of what it will take to learn and how it might challenge us along the way. What if it’s too hard? What if I can’t figure it out? What if they don’t take me seriously? Or, what if it makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt in a really long time? What if it’s challenging, exciting and fun? Lastly, we can fear the outcome not turning out how we’d hope. What if the grass isn’t greener? What if all this work and sacrifice isn’t worth it? What if I fail? Or, what if it’s better than I could have ever imagined it to be?
How can we have more confidence in performance opportunities when they arise? Preparation, presence and post game reflection. One of my favorite quotes about confidence comes from Ron Howard, “Confidence is preparation in action”. Our level of preparation will determine how confident we show-up. Did you do your research? How well do you know your stuff? Did you practice, practice, practice? Did you visualize yourself in the space, performing your very best? What does it look like, sound like, feel like? Get specific. What are you wearing? What are you saying? Who is there? A simple affirmation beforehand can have incredible impact on the confidence you bring to the experience.
Next, get fully present when it’s game time. But first, B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Ground yourself in the moment and with the people around you. Take the focus off you and your performance and set the intention to have a learning mindset, to enjoy the process with those you are serving. Make adding value your focus.
Lastly, make time to reflect on the experience. On the heels of accomplishment, it’s easy to overlook making time for reflection and is also one of the most critical steps to growth in confidence. Start external in your reflection, how did it go? What did you learn? Did you achieve what you set out to accomplish? Finally, go inside, how did it feel to you and why? Make time to visualize how things can be improved for next time.
How do we overcome the fear? It starts with four important words we can tell ourself when we get stuck: I don’t know, yet. In psychology they refer to a process called the confidence competent loop. When we gain more knowledge about something and apply it to our lives, over time we become more competent in that area and therefore it allows us to gain more confidence.
Put a learning plan together, get comfortable with being uncomfortable as you learn the critical skills necessary. There are a million resources and role models out there, already successfully doing what you want to do. Find them, follow them, learn from them. Low confidence interferes with our growth and opportunity. As with everything, if we want to be better or do better, we have to be intentional and deliberate about making it happen. What haven’t you accomplished or started because you haven’t taken the time to learn more about it? Where can you start, today?