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The Secret to Being More Confident

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Would you like to have confidence? Where would you be if you had more of it?  Very often people's responses are remarkably similar:

  • When I have confidence, I'll be better at public speaking...

  • When I have confidence I’ll perform better in interviews...

  • When…. I will light up the room in meetings...

  • When… I will make friends more easily...

  • When... I will be better at dating...

The pattern is clear. I will be more successful at the things that are important to me WHEN I have confidence.  But therein lies the myth about confidence.  Confidence is not a thing.  If you wait for it to turn up at your doorstep you'll be waiting a long time before you start to enjoy life.

 

Read on to find out how to become confident in life

What is Confidence?

Most people see confidence as a thing, an object, something to own and possess.  I often joke with my clients that if you want to get confidence then you just need to pop to your local supermarket.  It’s aisle 7, halfway down, middle shelf, next to the tomato ketchup.  Now obviously they look at me in a strange way when I say this, but I say this in jest to make an important point. Confidence is not a thing.  It is a process.  You have to earn the right to be confident at something.

 

 

Dr Russ Harris, author of The Confidence Gap, a book I would strongly recommend reading, explains that getting confidence is a process.  You start at position A where you are not confident at performing a task like public speaking.  To get to position B where you can confidently talk in public takes practice.  It’s might not be the best idea to dive in at the deep end and start with a presentation to 100,000 people at Wembley Stadium whilst live on TV on a topic you know nothing about.  It’s probably better to start small with a meeting at work on a topic you are familiar with and then build up to larger and larger audiences.

So how do you ‘get’ confidence?

A Confidence Success Story

Anthony (not the client’s real name) is a surgeon.  He came to see me because he was struggling with social anxiety and growing increasingly lonely as a result. His partner, who he had relied on in social situations, had sadly passed away a year ago.  He wanted to meet new people socially but was crippled by his lack of confidence.  As a result, he avoided meeting new people at all costs in a social setting. 

 

Now I mentioned that the client was a surgeon, in fact he is a very good surgeon.  I asked him to think back when he did his first operation.  How did you feel when performing this difficult task?  He admitted that whilst the procedure wasn’t the most challenging, he did feel very nervous as he didn’t want to make a mistake.  He got through the operation by drawing on his training and had the right people around him as support.  Over the years since, Anthony has performed hundreds of operations successfully.  I asked him does he feel nervous before surgery nowadays?  He confirmed that even though the operations he now performs are far more complex, he does get a little nervous but has great confidence in his abilities. 

 

Performing most tasks with any complexity is difficult the first time.  If the task is important to you, you will feel anxious and will most probably lack confidence in your ability.  The secret is not to run away from our fears but instead to practise the task with increasing levels of difficulty.  You will, as a by-product, become more confident at it.

For Anthony we worked on exposing him to different social situations where he could build his confidence meeting new people.  The first time he attempted to meet a group of people he ended up going to the bar ordering a drink but couldn’t bring himself to join them so sat alone, finished his drink and left.  He said he felt ‘a bit of a failure’ but I pointed out that the great news is he made the effort to go and actually made it into the bar.  That’s an important step to build from.  The next time he did pluck up the courage to introduce himself but gave himself an option to leave after 30 minutes if it didn’t go so well.  Fortunately, he found it easier than expected and spent two hours there!  From there we simply worked on adding to the experiences and adding a little bit more of a challenge each time.  The great news is Anthony no longer has problems going out and meeting new people.  His confidence has grown since and he is now comfortable walking up to complete strangers and striking up a conversation.

My Top Confidence Tips

  1. Earn the right - Gaining confidence is not a thing. It’s a process.  You have to earn the right to be confident at something

  2. Avoid avoiding - Don’t expect to be confident at tasks you’ve spent your whole life avoiding

  3. Don't compare yourself to others - Avoid judging yourself by comparing yourself to others.  Just because someone looks confident doesn’t mean they are.  Never judge someone’s inside by their outside

  4. Practise makes perfect - When you see someone who is truly confident and competent at any task, they have practised it a lot.  Roger Federer wasn’t born the tennis player he became.  He practised a heck of a lot to get that good

  5. Set achievable goals - Set yourself reasonable and achievable goals. Exposure yourself to the task you want to get good at gradually, over time with increasingly levels of complexity

  6. Watch the negative self-talk - Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you have a couple of stumbles along the way.  One stumble doesn’t make you a failure.  Anything positive you have done to move towards your goal is a step in the right direction

  7. Embrace the anxiety - It is normal to feel anxious about something that is important to us.  Learn to accept the thoughts and feelings that go with feeling anxious.  Is it the thoughts and feelings associated with the task you are trying to avoid rather than the task itself?

  8. Remind yourself of past successes - Ask yourself, what have you done in the past that you achieved successfully that is similar to what I am working on now

  9. Get lucky - Remember the great golfer Gary Player’s famous quote when told he played a lucky shot out of a deep bunker – “You know it’s funny, the more I practise, the luckier I get”

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