All I heard for years was how accomplished and smart I was. "So talented!" and "So full of promise!"
But why was it that I felt that 'empty' feeling on the inside, despite everything I was able to do? I knew that I should 'feel confident' about myself... but why didn't I?
The problem? I'd been taught that in order to be confident, I needed to keep achieving, and to keep setting and blasting through goals. That's what every successful person seemed to do.
But when I saw myself, I was a success on paper, but inside, I felt like a fraud.
Shouldn't confidence just come from achieving bigger and better things? Shouldn't we all turn into Superwoman each time we cross the finish line?
The truth is, that's not how confidence works. Confidence isn't some magical pill.
It's not some inborn trait that is bestowed upon certain people and not others. And it's not something you get once you start a business, achieve a large goal, or finally find the person you're supposed to be with.
This is exactly why the typical "fake it till you make it" advice doesn't work.
We're putting a band-aid over our problems and trying to ignore them instead of looking at confidence for what it is: a skill that can be learned.
The #1 Myth Holding You Back
Typical advice for learning how to be more confident go like this:
"Just be more confident!"
"Relax and be YOU."
They're vague promises that give us nothing to act on. And worse, especially for women, we think confidence means being an icy, aggressive, Miranda Priestly-type who everyone fears and no one likes. And if these are the only examples of confidence that we have to try to mirror, we're never going to do it.
A New Way of Looking at Confidence
Confidence is self-belief. It's the hardcore belief that you can do anything you set your mind to: to overcome every obstacle, to rise to every challenge. It doesn't mean you won't be scared. It's the belief that you know you can get through it, even when-and especially when-things don't go as planned.
Just think about a strong woman like Hillary Clinton. How many times has she failed? How many times have things not gone her way?
Here's something you don't hear every day: Confidence isn't about winning all the time. It's about showing up despite how many times you fail. The reality is that successful people fail more often than we think. We just don't see it.
So how do we start building more confidence?
How I Helped My Client Go From Freezing Up to Oozing Grace, Charm, and Ease
I had a client who would constantly freeze up in conversations and think, "I don't know what to say!"
Then she'd find a way to either:
- Hide in a corner.
Imagine what that communicates to everyone else. Her behavior screamed: "I don't believe I'm interesting or good enough. Who would want to talk to me?" And all the advice in the world wouldn't help her. We'd script out exactly what to say and she still might freeze up.
Because she had a deep-seated belief that she wouldn't be liked and wouldn't be able to impress the other people in the room.
Everyone has these thoughts: worries about being judged, what people will think about them, or if they just said the wrong thing. Without consciously practicing, it's hard to feel confident and not be paralyzed by your thoughts when you're talking to someone.
Here's the secret: instead of trying to fight those negative thoughts, let them in. Let yourself think them and don't try to fight them or push them down. The key is to focus on changing your behavior in the moment.
Here's how I accomplished this with my client:
We flipped the situation so that she focused on practicing confident behavior, as opposed to focusing on the negative behaviors that she was trying to fix. When she began to feel like he didn't know what to say, she let herself feel that while continuing to stay in the conversation. She wasn't allowed to hide in the corner or check her phone; she had to stay in the conversation for at least 5 more minutes before she excused himself.
How This Can Dramatically Build Confidence
Instead of doing what you've always done, you're creating new behavior patterns, and when repeated, your mindset changes.
You can still feel like you don't know how to navigate a conversation with someone you don't know, but when your brain sees that you're acting differently, that you're staying in a conversation even when you're nervous, it pays attention to that and remembers for the next time. It forces your brain to work past its nerves and to learn the skills it needs to perform better.
When you repeat this over and over, your brain begins to take the baby steps it needs to move forward.
Baby steps are important. Be it making eye contact for a second longer than your normally comfortable with or taking on an additional responsibility at work, these small wins start to build momentum and soon enough, you're off to the races.
The most important part: get started, and don't worry about taking it slowly.
1) Think about the one area of your life that you feel you'd like build confidence.
2) Identify ONE thought you have that prevents you from doing what you actually want to do. For example, if you think about being able to lead a meeting with confidence and immediately think, "I'll never be able to do that". That's the thought you want to work with.
2) Then think about just one action you could do to prove that wrong. Maybe it's practicing what you have to say as you record yourself on your phone. The key here is to make the action SMALL and doable. If you go too big too soon, you set yourself up to fail.
3) Do the action! Like the client we talked about above, it could be staying 5 minutes longer in conversation, even if you're only having small talk and are exhausted by the idea of doing it. The only way this all comes together is by taking ACTION-but the right kind of action so you get those small wins.
4) Rinse and repeat and you'll be amazed by how much less time you spend worrying about what others think of you.
Let me know in the comments how it goes! When you do, I'll give you feedback and a way for you to keep improving. For more tips on how to build confidence that's real not faked, and a free gift for Huffington Post readers, click here.
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter