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Do you feel lack of confidence is holding you back at work? Do you feel you have to fake confidence to get through, for instance, a presentation or meeting?
A new book says real confidence comes from deep knowledge of yourself and competence in what you are doing. It cannot be faked. In fact it says faking confidence when you have a chronic lack of it can be “absolutely terrifying”.
Real confidence: stop feeling small and start being brave by Psychologies magazine says: “It’s more than likely that you’re confident in one area of your life, even if you don’t realise you are. When you do something you love or know a lot about, you don’t think confident, you just do.”
It cites psychologist Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic who says lack of confidence can actually be a spur to success rather than a barrier. He says a combination of under-confidence and high competence can result in exceptional performance. He states:”Under confident people who are competent tend to medicate their insecurities with accomplishments.”
So confidence is not necessarily linked to success – in fact over-confidence can be a risky quality in business and may lead to rash decisions, says the book. Confidence coach Annie Ashdown says that far from being about success, true confidence can help you weather periods when things are not going well and contribute to resilience.
The book argues strongly that confidence is about self awareness and knowing where the gaps in your skills or knowledge are so you can work on them and develop competence.
It also states that confidence is not about being an extrovert. “Confidence doesn’t mean you have to be a loud show-off, so if you’ve had any resistance because this just isn’t you, you [should] know that confidence can be quiet,” says the book.
It can also fluctuate, for instance, if you have been made redundant or taken a career break. It is important therefore to distinguish between lack or loss of confidence because then you can identify what you need to work on.
The book contains some tactics if you have a paralysing lack of confidence around something like public speaking. It asks first whether you really need to give the speech if you reocognise that that is not one of your skills. It also states that how you perceive your lack of confidence around public speaking is key to how you then feel about yourself. If you say to yourself ‘I am hopeless at public speaking’ you will feel worse. A better approach is to say ‘I prefer x”. If there is no way around public speaking, the best tactic is to prepare a lot and to do something that helps you relax.
Coach Niki Flacks has several suggestions, including tackling fear in small steps, planning something fun for immediately after the thing you are fearful about, asking yourself what the worst thing that can happen is, preparing with a positive friend and reviewing the event afterwards.
There’s a chapter on things that can steal your confidence, including patterns of negative thinking, negative people, people who tell you to ‘just be confident’, not getting enough rest, comparing yourself with others on social media, getting stuck in a rut and over-busy modern city life. Taking time out from staring at your phone and being busy just to reconnect to the world around you can help calm tension.
Another barrier is the stigma around lack of confidence. Ashdown says confidence issues should instead be viewed as being about personal development. “If you can look at developing confidence as extending your confidence into other parts of your life then you can make the process much more manageable,” says the book.
It also suggests working daily on developing confident habits through, for instance, keeping learning, talking about positive experiences, toning down your worst thoughts, resisting overthinking by doing and taking care of yourself. The last is especially apt.
“You cannot have self-confidence without self-care,” says coach Dawn Breslin.