Most self-confidence articles talk about how to boost it when you have none (or very little). Why doesn’t anyone talk about how to keep building self-confidence?
The presumption seems to be that once you develop self-confidence, you’re golden. But that’s all wrong.
Self-confidence is like a muscle. It will atrophy and diminish if you don’t keep working at it.
This is especially the case for all you high-achievers out there. Because as you achieve more, you’ll be asked to do more. You’ll be challenged in new ways. And if you’re not actively building your self-confidence, these challenges can shake your confidence to its core.
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Self-confidence is about trusting in and being secure about yourself. It’s deeper than merely being able to get through a big speech or pushing yourself to do something new.
When you’re confident in yourself, you’re confident in your judgment and your abilities. And you have a healthy dose of self-respect, self-reliance, self-assurance, and self-esteem.
If you’re self-confident, you:
- Understand your strengths and capabilities;
- Believe in yourself- including your ability to learn new skills; and
- Admit to your weaknesses with grace.
Self-confidence involves an honest self-assessment – the key being honesty. And then it requires taking appropriate action based on this assessment.
You know what you’re good at and the value you provide. And you also admit to and plan around your weaknesses.
Self-confidence involves being realistically positive. It’s not about false hope. When you’re self-confident, you admit when you need to change your tactics or change course.
What Self-Confidence Isn’t
Being self-confident isn’t the same thing as being arrogant. Arrogance is about being right. Arrogant people typically believe they cannot fail, which leads to unhealthy risk-taking.
Arrogant people also don’t admit to their weaknesses. That’s usually because they feel threatened by the strengths and opinions of others. And that’s the opposite of true self-confidence.
Common Characteristics of Self-Confident People
Confident people have the following common characteristics:
- They offer up their opinions and skills in an honest, non-aggressive manner.
- They’re not threatened by – and are instead open and curious about – other people’s opinions or strengths/skills.
- They face their weaknesses head-on and plan around them (and often try to get stronger in these areas).
- They don’t shy away from new opportunities or challenges.
Why Building Your Self-Confidence Matters – Especially in Your Career
If you want to advance and achieve as much as you can within your work, then you must focus on building your self-confidence. Here’s why:
You’re More Likely to Advance
To be successful and continually advance, then you must: be willing to speak up and be heard, perform at a high level, enforce your boundaries, and be willing to say “yes” to new challenges. And all of these characteristics require a healthy dose of self-confidence.
How does self-confidence help? Because being self-confident means:
- Not worrying about what others will think or letting the opinions of others stop you from doing what you think is right;
- Being willing to say “no” when appropriate without feeling guilty or selfish; and
- Saying “yes” to new opportunities that will stretch you.
Additionally, you’ll have better communication skills. You’re less likely to stumble on your worlds and won’t have those dreaded “um’s” or “ah’s” strewn throughout your communication.
People Are More Likely to Listen to You and View You Positively
People are drawn to those who have a healthy dose of self-confidence and view them as natural leaders. In fact, self-confidence is the foundation of good leadership.
Confidence garners respect. Good communication skills combined with a healthy dose of self-confidence makes people want to follow you. This is why confident people are better able to persuade and influence others to their side.
Self-Confidence Supports Decisiveness
If you want to be successful, then it’s important to be decisive. You must be willing to make a decision without second-guessing yourself. And you also need to be willing to change course as needed.
Self-confidence supports being decisive because you’ll trust your ability to pivot as needed. This means that you don’t allow fear of failure to get in the way. You understand that it’s part of succeeding.
Why It’s Important to Keep Building Your Self-Confidence
Career achievement comes with new challenges. And these challenges will test your self-confidence – even shake it. If you’re not vigilant about maintaining your self-confidence, one new challenge can have a giant ripple effect.
This happened to me soon after I became a partner at my law firm. Although I didn’t start off my legal career as the most confident person, I worked hard to develop it.
But I got lazy. I thought I had “made it” and no longer needed to worry about building my self-confidence.
Until the day I went to a fellow partner to ask his advice about something. He wasn’t in the mood to be bothered and told me that I was now a partner and needed to start acting like it. In his words, I needed to “just figure it out for myself already.”
This single event battered my self-confidence, which spiraled further and had me questioning myself on everything for the next few weeks. That’s when I realized how fragile self-confidence is. And it’s the moment I made a conscious decision to be vigilant about always building my self-confidence levels.
How to Keep Building Self-Confidence
Building self-confidence isn’t about faking it until you make it. It’s about adopting the right techniques and methods so that you can naturally build it up and also maintain it.
Here’s how to boost your self-confidence and keep building and maintaining it throughout your life:
Use Psychology to Your Benefit
Did you know that you can give yourself an initial boost in self-confidence when feeling like you have none? All you need to do is use psychology to your benefit.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Smile. Smiling increases happiness by activating your feel-good neurotransmitters. This relaxes you and reduces stress, hence helping you to feel more confident.
- Dress for success. Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself.
- Listen to high-power music. Songs with heavy bass increase confidence.
- Pose for power. A power pose increases your testosterone levels and decreases your cortisol levels – and naturally increases your self-confidence in the short-term. What’s a power pose? Think: Wonder Woman (hands on your hips). Or try propping your feet up on your desk while clasping your hands behind your head.
Most people who espouse “fake it until you make it” tell you to use the methods mentioned above. But these techniques are scientifically proven to increase your short-term self-confidence. There’s nothing “fake” about that.
If you want to have real confidence that lasts, then it’s imperative that you understand yourself. This means having clarity around who you are and what you want.
Understanding yourself starts with your core values. Your values give you your identity. They influence how you see the world and how you fit into the world.
When you get clarity around your values, it’s easier to understand the “why” behind how you feel and the thoughts you have. This is what ultimately brings happiness and also increases your self-confidence levels.
Be Unapologetically You
Being unapologetically you is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s the next step after you understand yourself (and something I help lawyers and other high-achievers to do with my mindset leadership coaching).
How to Be Unapologetically Yourself
To be 100% yourself – and unapologetic about it – means:
- Having clarity around what you need, what you want, and who you are;
- Understanding your strengths and skills (and how you like to use them); and
- Leveraging your strengths and skills to get you what you want.
Being unapologetically YOU requires courage. It’s about stepping beyond your fears, especially the fear of failure, fear of what others might think, fear of the unknown, and fear of change.
How to Develop Courage
Many people think that courage comes after you develop self-confidence. But that’s not true.
Developing self-confidence is about facing your fears and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable. What gives you more confidence is facing this discomfort and your fears head-on and acting anyway. That’s what courage is.
The key is to start small and keep going.
Here’s the thing: courage isn’t reserved for a few and people aren’t born with it. Courage is developed by taking small steps forward even though you’re afraid. You have this ability. Don’t think for a minute that you don’t.
For more about facing your fears, read my 5-Step Formula to Overcoming Your Fears and How to Stop Letting Fear Control Your Life So You Can Go Big and Stop Playing Small.
Cultivate a Growth-Oriented Mindset
To build and maintain self-confidence, adopt a growth-oriented mentality. This mindset is about:
- Accepting that you’re imperfect.
- Owning your weaknesses and planning around them and/or getting help when needed.
- Accepting that failure is part of success.
- Operating from curiosity.
- Embracing your vulnerability.
A growth-oriented mentality will help you stay focused and keep you going when life gets hard. And it will help you stay away from comparison-itis. Although you’ll still have fears, you’ll be more likely not to get tripped up by them and will instead be resolved to keep moving forward.
This mentality will also keep you from getting stuck when making a mistake or facing an unexpected barrier. You’ll be mentally prepared to think outside the box and come up with a solution.
There’s nothing like being prepared.
When you feel unprepared, it’s easy to get caught up in self-doubt and fear. And your mind is more likely to get lost and procrastinate. But when you’ve prepared yourself, you’re naturally more comfortable and at ease.
Proper preparation includes:
- Doing your homework (including research, as necessary);
- Anticipating questions (including tricky ones); and
- Mastering your subject matter.
But don’t just think subject matter preparation. Being prepared also means ensuring that you’re physically and mentally ready – which means you must take good care of yourself.
Having trouble prioritizing self-care? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Go read 5 Reasons You Feel Guilty About Taking Care of Yourself (and What to Do About It).
Where You Might Get Tripped Up When Working on How to Build Your Self-Confidence
There are some common areas where you’re likely to get tripped up when using the techniques discussed above to build your self-confidence levels. Here’s how to deal with two biggies:
Overconfidence (and Even Arrogance)
Be careful not to get overconfident about your abilities. That can cause you to bulldoze your way through meetings when offering up your opinions and/or expertise. And it’s bordering on arrogance.
You may be thinking, “who, me?” We all get caught up in being arrogant from time to time. Just remember: overconfidence can lead the best of us to a bit of arrogance.
One trick that works to beat back this temptation is to stay curious. Be curious about what others can offer to the equation and how you can learn and grow from them. It’ll keep you honest about not knowing everything.
Over-preparation and Perfectionism
Although preparation is important, you don’t want to go overboard. Keep in mind that part of developing self-confidence is to accept that you’re imperfect. And that means that you must let go at some point.
In my coaching, I’ve found that many high-achievers have trouble with this. Although they’re willing to accept the concept of imperfection, they still get caught up in trying to be perfect.
What can you do about that? I coach my clients to plan around it. Expect that it might happen and:
- Set a deadline and stick to it. Once you hit your deadline, let go.
- At the outset of any big project, outline your preparation and planning steps. Leave room for flexibility as new information comes up and unexpected issues arise. Don’t stray far from your plan unless clearly warranted.
- Build reminders into your calendar to review your outline. This will help you to follow it.
Continue to Build Your Self-Confidence
Prioritize your self-confidence by always working to build – and maintain – your self-confidence levels using the methods outlined above.
Self-confidence isn’t just important for your success. It’s also necessary if you want to be happy. And it’s an imperative piece to finding “balance” within.
Balance is really about fulfillment, meaning, and peace of mind. And building and maintaining your self-confidence levels will increase your ability to find meaning and give you more peace of mind.
So, what do you think? What methods outlined above are you going to try first? And what are some of your own self-confidence boosting methods? I’d love to hear them.
In the comments below, let us know what you do to continually build upon your self-confidence. Your knowledge can help so many others, so let us all in on them!
Until next time…
P.S. Download my FREE workbook of how to get unstuck in life by getting crystal clarity around what gives you meaning through your core personal values. Self-confidence will NEVER come if you don’t really understand YOU.