One of the most robust ways to gain confidence is through achievement, from being able to master activities. The more you do something well, the more confident you become as a result. However twinned to success lies the possibility of failure, so even making that first attempt requires confidence. The phrase chicken and egg comes to mind.
The below lists actions which can help encourage small steps, which in turn can build the confidence to take bigger steps and so generate the upward spiral.
- Creating the right conditions for success. Returning to attachment theory we are reminded of the secure base. Through the creation of a supportive environment and working relationships where it is ok to fail as well as succeed, it will ensure that individual’s feel enabled to explore and take the risks which are needed accomplish great things. Leaders and managers with strong self-belief will inspire and assure their teams in their work. Ensuring teams are empowered and trusted will further build upon this.
- Preparation. This can range from making time and applying effort to gain knowledge, ensuring that the right resources and skills are in place with scenario planning for positive and negative outcomes etc. Working through these trial actions will also build confidence. These actions combined with self-belief are more likely to result in a positive outcome, thus improving confidence further.
- Celebrate successes and objectively evaluate disappointments. By pausing to acknowledge and recognise achievements both small and large it will validate your confidence. If a project/meeting/presentation does not go as well as expected take time to reflect on why this has been objectively. This means recognising areas for self-improvement, reflecting on the strategy and implementation, and not automatically defaulting to self-blame.
- Re-frame your personal narrative. Our ideas about ourselves are created through how we perceive ourselves and how we believe others perceive us. They become self-fulfilling. Saying to yourself repeatedly ‘I can’t climb this mountain’ means you probably won’t. These stories can be changed: ‘I can’t climb this mountain yet, but I have lots of skills which suggest I will be able to’. Re-examine negative thoughts and counteract them by looking for a different perspective or explanation. Seek the positive and become your own advocate (point 3 will help with doing this). It’s not always easy to change the deep-seated beliefs that we have, so additional support may be required. Without being able to do this, the first three points may have little impact.
- Build resilience. When confidence levels feel stable look to challenge them further. Through self-awareness we recognise the trigger points that test our confidence. Look to confront these head on, but in a controlled way. Strategise the small steps needed to get there and build up to each of them. The threat of these trigger points will diminish through repeated exposures, ensuring greater robustness. Attempting this may feel quite daunting so again additional support may be required.