When we ask others what self-confidence looks like or means to them, most people share similar perspectives, but there are a few nuances, most likely based on their own personal beliefs and experiences. So I am in no way saying that the perspective I am discussing here is representative of everyone. Rather to simply share my own personal experience with it and that of many I have coached. Maybe there are elements that will resonate and maybe some that do not. The intention is nothing more than to create an opportunity to self-reflect and challenge existing beliefs of what self-confidence could look like and broaden perspectives.
What is self-confidence? Having confidence is about having clarity of one's own worth and abilities. It is about knowing not only what your strengths are but also having an awareness of your weaknesses. It's about embracing both of these and not allowing these perceived weaknesses to take away any degree of your self-worth. For when you do so, you see mistakes and failures as a necessary part of growing and developing and they strengthen rather than weaken you. You are able to acknowledge and deal with your inner critic constructively. You focus less on comparing yourself to others and more on defining and living your own vision of success.
When we are self-confident, self-doubt is minimized but does not completely disappear. One could also argue that a complete lack of doubt is also counterproductive as we all need to rethink and question existing beliefs so that we can continue to learn and grow as the world around us rapidly changes and evolves. Rather, we learn how to deal with self-doubt more constructively. The doubt also does not cripple us into indecision and inaction, as even if we can’t be sure of an outcome, we have the belief that irrespective of what comes, we will find a way to deal with it. Doubt is viewed as an opportunity to learn, reflect and gain deeper clarity.
When we feel self-confident, we don’t need to be the loudest or the one who speaks the most in a room. We often believe that the most self-confident individuals in a room are the ones who speak the most. However, if we feel insecure, this can often be displayed in 2 extreme ways. Either we don’t speak up and share our views for fear of being wrong or heavily concerned with how others perceive us. OR we speak too much as we need to share a lot in order to feel valued and seen by others, which can often be more related to narcissistic tendencies than low confidence. However, when we feel confident, we do not need to be the centre of attention. We are comfortable giving others space to share their ideas. And when we do share something, it has nothing to do with appearing smart or showing everyone how much we know, and more to do with sharing a perspective we believe in that may be of value to others in a room. The focus is not on WHO is right but rather WHAT is right. We know that our views or beliefs do not define us and embrace that its ok not being right all the time.
When we feel self-confident, our focus is on being the best version of ourselves versus constantly comparing ourselves to others. The reality is that comparing oneself to another, is like comparing apples with oranges. No two individuals could possibly have the same trajectory, skills, strengths, weakness, upbringing and experiences, all of which influence where we are right now. A healthier version of comparison is comparing one's past self with one's current self, to see growth and development. This creates the space to still admire, respect and learn from others but not feel any less diminished by their accomplishments.
When we feel self-confident, we are not driven by fear but by love, caring and purpose. We often believe that the only way to push ourselves and others to continuously improve, grow and learn is by fear or not feeling adequate or good enough. And that feeling good about ourselves leads to complacency and a lack of growth. On the contrary, studies have shown that one of the key requirements for self-improvement is having a realistic assessment of where we stand—of our strengths and our limitations. Convincing ourselves that we are better than we are leads to complacency, and thinking we’re worse than we are leads to defeatism. When people treat themselves with compassion, they are better able to arrive at realistic self-appraisals, which is the foundation for improvement. That is, self-compassion triggers people to adopt a growth mindset.
Self-confidence means being aware of one’s development areas but you do not feel less as a result of it as you understand this is an element of being human. Instead, when we are not afraid of not feeling good enough, that is, fear is removed, it creates more opportunity to try new things, learn and grow. I spend a lot of time on personal development, not driven by fear of being a bad mother, but rather out of love for my children and a desire to be a better mother and role model. I do not spend a large amount of time doing coach training's and reading, because I am afraid of being a bad coach, but because I care deeply about the people I coach and because of a strong desire to serve them as best I can.
So the big question remains, how does one learn to feel more self-confident? Like most things, there are many paths to the same goal. It should come as no surprise that the basic foundation upon which to build self-confidence, is first and foremost, really getting to know oneself.
Self-awareness: What are your values, your strengths, development areas and what energizes and depletes your energy. This means having clarity of not only who you are but what is important to you and why. Some resources that may be helpful:
Free strengths test: https://high5test.com/
Things that energize and deplete energy.
Take a page and divide it into 4 sections:
For each, make a list of activities and interactions that energize you and those that deplete your energy.
Self-compassion: Self-confidence cannot exist without self-compassion. Everyone will experience challenges or setbacks in life but it’s the acknowledgement of this and the learning and moving on from this that becomes a critical element. As based on the incredible work done by Kristin Neff, it's about self-kindness versus self-judgment, that is, when your inner critic appears, imagine what you would say to a friend in a similar situation. Common humanity versus isolation, that is, recognizing that we are not the only ones or first person to experience this. Mindfulness versus over-identification, that is, taking an outside birds-eye view of the situation or experience to put it into perspective in the greater scheme of things. To learn more about self-compassion and how to develop this, take a look here https://self-compassion.org/
Regular self-reflection: It's easy to become so caught up in the busyness of daily life that we tend to miss or not focus on the positive aspects of our lives. Of course, this needs to be balanced with also recognizing what is not working well, but we are often so tuned into only that which is not working well that the positive aspects or progress becomes blocked out.
Block off 15 mins at the end of every week, to answer some or all of these questions:
1. What am I most grateful for in the last week? 2. What did I do in the last week that truly energized me? 3. What did I achieve in the last week that I am truly proud of and how did I use my strengths to achieve them? How was this aligned with my values? 4. What would have made this week better? 5. What do I want to focus on next week to make it a more fulfilling week?
Developing self-confidence is no easy feat, especially with so many competing influences and information that can often intensify a feeling of not being good enough or feeling like we are not enough. But I often find the following quote from one of my favourite philosophers, a strong motivator as to why the time and energy invested in this is worth it!
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson