How to Boost Your Confidence
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Welcome to Wet Cement’s “Fearless in 5” Series. This is where you will find exercises to accelerate your career, confidence and life, one step at a time. The content will combine 30+ years of lessons learned the hard way at work, with insights, inspiration and research.
The inaugural “Fearless in 5” focuses on 5 steps to build your confidence. What is ‘confidence,’ anyway? According to Webster’s dictionary, it is:
a) The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
b) A feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities.
The first definition relates to the confidence other people have in us. This is a critical element to becoming a leader whose opinion is sought out, whose ideas are not interrupted and who can inspire change.
The second definition is about your confidence in yourself. This is where many of us fall short--which is why it is a topic I’ll focus on in ‘Fearless in 5,’ because if you don’t have confidence in yourself, no one else will. Or if others DO have more confidence in you than you have in yourself—perhaps you are one of the many struggling with ‘Imposter Syndrome,’—you will likely find yourself suffering from anxiety and unhappiness… always wondering when you will be ‘found out’ or how you got to where you are.
Let’s start with steps to build your confidence, so we can throw that nasty and annoying Imposter out of your life:
1. Look Back to Launch Forward:
It was one of our country’s greatest Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, who said “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” That’s because once you overcome adversity, you recognize your strength and ability to do so. The next time you need to climb that obstacle, you will know it is NOT insurmountable, because you’ve done it before. It may still be difficult. You may get sweaty. You may feel that pit in your stomach. But you’ve conquered it before so now you know ‘you’ve got this.’
Take a moment to think about one of the earliest tough moments you’ve had in life. Was it stepping on stage for your first school performance or dance recital? Standing in front of the classroom for your first speech? Whatever it was, you did it. And I bet it was much easier the next time. You didn’t just let the fear overwhelm you—when you heard “Good Ship Lollipop” blast on the speakers, you stepped your spray-painted tap shoes onstage in your fuschia-sequined costume. You may have had tears streaming down your cheeks. You may have forgotten all the steps. And you may have needed your Mom waving at you from the front row—but you got through it. And when next June rolled around and it was time for the next recital, you had a lot more pep in your step… and perhaps even laughed at the 4-year old ‘babies’ who were scared to take the stage.
Now identify a more recent challenging situation at work. Maybe it was a big pitch to a tough client. Or disagreeing with the group, based on your opinion backed up by data. Maybe it was needing to lay off or fire your first employee. Boy, it was a rough moment, whatever it was. But guess what—you got through it. It’s behind you. Now you know that while you may not like it (and never will), it will be a little bit easier next time.
Recognizing how you’ve overcome difficult challenges builds confidence. Remember both those moments the next time you start to feel that flutter of fear. You got this.
2. Identify Your Anthem: Find Your Theme Song
Have you ever been to a high school or college football game where the crowds and team goes INSANE as the marching band starts playing the team’s anthem? (If not, check this out on YouTube). There are few sports where athletes quietly step on the field or court. So why in business are we expected to be ‘ballers’ with the confidence of an MVP, yet we step on our ‘stage’ only to the sounds of fluorescent lights buzzing and water cooler chatter? It’s time for this madness to stop.
So what tune will you fill your head with before your next big moment? Whether it’s Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” (Rocky Theme Song), Kanye’s “Stronger,” or Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” or any other song that pumps you up, pick one. One easy way to find your anthem? Think about that song on your workout playlist that gives you the adrenaline rush to pick up your pace.
While I strongly advise against hiring a marching band to introduce you or bringing an old-school boom box bla
sting “Enter Sandman” with you to your next important meeting, I do recommend closing your eyes and imagining you are entering the conference room to YOUR song.
3. Fake it to Make It
“I certainly direct with confidence even if I’m not confident. I learned early on as an actor that confidence can be faked, and it’s not always a terrible thing to do. A lot of times if people feel you’re confident, then they’re confident.”—George Clooney
This 'fake it to make it' technique seemed to work pretty well for George. He's probably one of the most confident celebrities and has done well enough that he's had a 'Wet Cement' moment of his own.
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
Pretend you are the confident super star you aspire to be. You just may be able to trick both yourself and everyone else into believing that you are. I have personally benefited from this technique in my career and can assure you it works. When I was a TV news reporter and had to do my first ever ‘live shots’ for WLTX-TV , I was so nervous, I could actually feel my feet shaking. So I thought of one of the most confident reporters I knew, and thought to myself, “I’m not Jenn Tyler (my stage name when I lived in South Carolina). I’m not Jenn Tishman (my maiden name). I’m just playing the role of (names changed to protect the innocent). And so if I mess up, it’s not ME who messed up, but her. I’m not the super-confident one, she is.” I’m happy to say the live shot went smoothly without a hiccup. And after that day, every time I reported live it was a little bit easier each time.
Once you ‘play the role’ of the confident super star a few times and prove to yourself that you can pull it off, you will be able to benefit from Step 1 of this exercise. You’ll be able to look back on how you’ve ‘nailed it’ before, to feel more confident the next time. Before you know it, you won’t be faking anything. And maybe Metallica will even show up to play “Enter Sandman” for YOU, as they did for Yankee Mariano Rivera.
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” —Arthur Ashe
It may sound simple, however, thoroughly preparing for the next scary situation on the horizon will build your confidence.
· Have you thought about what objections may surface? And when they do, how you will overcome them?
· Have you practiced your presentation out loud (what I call “Stand and Deliver”)?
· Did you write out your transitions, so you know how you will seamlessly move from one key point to the next?
· Are you clear on what are the 3 things that matter most… so if and WHEN your time gets cut short, you can stay on point?
· Have you identified and written down the critical data points that hammer your message home?
· Have you translated those data points into analogies that your colleagues or clients can relate to, so it tells a story they can understand, rather than seem like random, meaningless numbers?
What are some of your key prep steps for critical career moments? Please share in the comments below.
5. Catalogue Your Achievements
Nothing builds confidence like being able to articulate your greatest achievements. In next week’s blog, we will dive into the 5-step process on how to do this. In the meantime, open up OneNote, Evernote, a Google Doc or whatever cloud-based note-taking platform you prefer, and start jotting down some of your greatest achievements in advance.
My wish for you is that once you start putting into practice your “Fearless in 5” Exercises, you will feel like the ground beneath your feet is shouting “You Got This” everywhere you go. Please share any feedback or comments on how it helps, additions and suggestions of how to make the content better or topics you’d like me to tackle in the future.