Three keys to keep you confidence UP
The dictionary definition of confidence is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” Confidence is a trust not just in others, or something – it is a trust in ourselves. It is the voice within that says: “well, great try Karen, sorry it didn’t work out, but you CAN do this AGAIN.” Confidence is born from three main qualities:
- resilience, and
One of my favorite papers is a short and powerful definition of integrity written by Harvard MBA Professor Emeritus Michael Jensen. In it, he says that we are nothing more, and nothing less than our words (actions included, as in ‘actions speak louder than words.’), and that one’s words to oneself is critical to being a person of integrity. He defines words as not only what we say we are going to do, and then do, but also what is expected of us, what we say we stand for, what we say is so, and what we know. Being a person of integrity means that before we say we will do something, whether to others, or especially ourselves, that we measure the true cost benefit of the promise we are making – what will cost us if we do not do what we say we are going to do, before we make the promise. Once made, we can no longer make a cost benefit analysis because our word has already been given. If we are unable to follow through, we must openly admit it, and then clean up the mess we may have caused from our inability to commit.
In my view, the greater our level of integrity with others and ourselves, the better we can pave a path to building (and feeling) greater confidence. When we have less to hide, less of a mess to clean up, we open up more space in our lives to the things that truly matter. All the energy that is spent fixing choices made with an out-of-integrity attitude can now be focused on creative endeavors and self-care. This, is turn, boost our confidence.
I do not believe that anyone is capable of being in integrity, 100% of the time. Like Michael Jensen says, integrity is a mountain without a top. We should strive for it at all times but know that inevitably changes in external circumstances may come in the way of us doing what we believed we could do. In those cases, we have the choice to state the truth and try our best to move forward in the direction intended. One of the reasons why integrity is so hard to achieve is that promises are never given in a vacuum – they exist within a context. When a promise is taken away from its original context and placed into another where it cannot be fulfilled, or no longer holds true, both parties are left feeling cheated. To avoid these situations don’t make promises that are spoken too quickly, too soon, or not in its totality. And, most importantly, practice making commitments to yourself first, before you commit anything to anyone else.
Resilience is the secret ingredient to confidence. In fact, I think resilience is the key ingredient that sets achievers apart from the rest. In the Olympics we watch athletes racing for the gold medal in spite of physical and emotional set-backs that would lead most people to give up. What they have is resilience. Increasing resilience, that muscle that helps us get up no matter how hard we have fallen, is a critical part of building confidence.
All of us were born with an inclination for resilience. I think it is an essential part of being human. Watch babies try over and over and over again to first seat up, then crawl, then walk, then get up the stairs – they never give up, no matter how hard they fall, or how frustrating the journey is. It is this natural instinct that exists within everyone of us that helps us learn extremely difficult tasks, overcome hardships and continue on our lives path in spite of the many set-backs that inevitably come our way.
To become more resilient we must move into action even when we desire to give up. Taking a step forward – no matter how small, is the essential ingredient to building resilience, and remaining confident. And being that resilience is an essential part of us, in order to grow in our resilience we must also remove what is actually blocking it. For most of us, the blocking voice is internal – it is that inner critic that is too concerned protecting the ego, our fears and how we may look to others. We need to develop a close relationship with this inner critic, making sure it does not drive the car when it shouldn’t.
Nothing builds resilience more than failure. When we fail we are given an opportunity to pick ourselves up, and try again. And, in order to fail at anything, you must first try! Being myself a perfectionist I have had to lean that putting things out in the world that are less than perfect is always better than not putting things out there at all. Through feedback, and a constant dedication to improvement I can always create a better version of whatever it is I am doing. As we move past failures we increase our confidence that, no matter what, we are indeed strong enough, smart enough, compassionate enough, lovable enough, and always deserving of a second (or third) chance – as long as we are willing to work hard for it.
And, this ‘working hard at it’ brings me to the last of the three keys to keeping our confidence UP: commitment. Commitment is like turning an incandescent light bulb into a laser machine – it takes any wasted energy dissipated as heat and turns it into light energy. When incandescent turns into laser, you go from seeing things fuzzy to seeing things crystal clear. Commitment to any one thing, whether it is our loved ones, our work, our health, our minds, our hobbies increase our confidence because it gives us focus on what truly matters. Confidence gets shaken out of us when we are taken off our path and distracted with people, ideas or projects that aren’t truly in alignment with our vision and values.
Commitment starts with a decision to move forward with any one thing. It helps to make a public declaration of the commitment you are making because the stakes get higher when others know what you are up to. It also helps to sign your name on it – write down a document of the commitment you are making, and then sign your name on it.
It also helps to take daily steps towards your commitment, it doesn’t matter how small the step is. We send powerful signals to the universe when we move from wanting to doing. Commitment is such a strong key to confidence because it involves the other two keys of integrity and resilience. Integrity helps us keep in check that we are only committing to things we feel we can commit to and resilience is the ingredient that will make us come back to our commitment, over and over again. We can’t say we are committed if we give up whenever a challenge shows up.
Confidence born from integrity, resilience and commitment can exist in any domain of life. Even if, let’s say, we tend to feel more confident in our careers rather than our personal lives, we can still apply the same principles and achieve the same level of accomplishments. Confidence is both: action and a feeling. Confidence means we do the thing that scares us, and then feel certain we can do it again, and again, and again.