Why Confidence Is So Important
We all have to deal with crises of confidence in our lives at different stages in our lives. Did I do the right thing? Could I have done that better and what will those around me think of what I have done? It is not just our own actions that create a lack of confidence – families can create low confidence for some of their members by the actions, behaviours and lifestyles of their children, not behaving in a way seen as right by their parents. How did my children turn out like that? Their chosen path isn’t what I had wanted or expected for them. I feel awkward and uncomfortable because their values are not mine and I have failed. Where did I go wrong?
Right now your confidence may be high and rising – in which case you are fine, for the moment. Alternatively, you, like so many people, could be being held back by a lack of self-belief.
However well you disguise it, low self-confidence will have an impact on how you deal with those around you. Typical signs of poor confidence are a reluctance to speak openly when you are around other people (even people you know well), keeping your opinions and views to yourself, even at work feeling that you have gone as far as you can in your career. You will definitely lack positive energy and find making sometimes even simple decisions difficult, possibly even avoiding making a decision at all. Better to do little or nothing than risk getting it wrong and feeling disappointed again.
In life it’s not enough to simply appear to be confident. You have to really believe in yourself. Self-confidence is not about bravado or pulling the wool over people’s eyes. Some people’s image of a confident person is that of the typical used car salesman (no offence to any sales professionals!), blagging their way through life with nothing ever fazing them. But this is false self-confidence – a façade that lacks integrity and therefore cannot be sustained. Better to understand yourself and to use this knowledge to face every challenge that you come across.
Sometimes in more macho cultures people feel the need to hide their weaker areas in an attempt to bolster their more confident side. But this has the opposite effect. True self-confidence involves admitting and managing all parts of yourself – the weaknesses and the strengths. And it isn’t something that is necessarily tied to age and experience. Sometimes the younger a person is, the more naïve they are and the more confident they feel. Bitter experience can often make people more reticent. At work or in business the higher up the career ladder, the further someone has to fall, and the more aware that person is of potential slip-ups.
Before you can build your confidence, you have to measure how confident you already are. A good way of pinpointing your current confidence levels is to check four different areas of your life. In each of these how does your confidence affect how you feel? What makes you feel confident and in control? Conversely, who and what makes you feel insecure?
What saps my confidence?
Self-doubt leads to negative beliefs, relationships and situations. When one-time Wimbledon tennis champion Venus Williams said ‘most times when we lose we defeat ourselves’ she was talking about the internal mental battles that can limit what we can achieve. It is human nature to hold conversations with ourselves – but we often repeat irrational, self-defeating beliefs to ourselves that serve to undermine our confidence, such as “I’m such an idiot” and “I’m rubbish at that”. When you catch yourself using these, think about what else you could say to yourself that would be more supportive.
Our working and social world is full of different relationships. When you are with certain people you feel confident and resourceful, yet when you are with other people you feel anxious, uncertain and confidence begins to waver. Identify which people make you feel bad about yourself. These relationships are sapping your confidence, but why? What do these people do to kill your confidence? How does this make you feel? What can I do to limit or overcome this?
Other people’s behaviour
In any group of people there will be individuals who will be the centre of attention and will be thriving and others will be being very defensive and just existing in a survival mode. Some social or work situations are uncomfortable because they can undermine people’s confidence by encouraging aggressive behaviours, promoting negative values, and refusing to involve those present who are quieter and more reserved. We have all been in situations like that and will have decided how to behave towards everyone else; this could have been to join in and push yourself forward or to not get involved and not go back again. You can work on your relationships with other people but if, for example, your employer saps your confidence it could be time to move elsewhere. Sometimes we need to ask: “Is this the right situation for me?”
Assessing your own Confidence
Perhaps the start to looking at this is to ask yourself the following questions and really answer them honestly.
When was the last time you felt really confident?
How did confidence look like from the inside for you at that time?
Describe what others saw in you when you were in that confident state.
Confidence really does come from within.