“You need to be more confident in front of the room.”
“Jim is so effective in his role because he is so confident in what he’s doing.”
“I need more confidence in order to be successful in this job.”
“I have a lack of self-confidence.”
Do these sound familiar? For many of us, they do.
Let’s make some brief distinctions that can help de-mystify this thing called confidence, and support genuine movement in a positive direction.
First, confidence isn’t a “thing” – it’s an assessment, a subjective judgment, made by an observer (possibly ourselves, possibly others) about our actions or lack thereof.
It’s made on top of some standard, which is often hidden and unspoken.
Here we begin to see clearly the generative, creative dimension of language. Our assessments about ourselves aren’t permanent, unchanging aspects or descriptions of our objective personhood. Clarify or change the standard, change the actions, over time… and the assessment will change.
Where I used to see Bob or myself as “awkward”, now we are “confident.” Our assessments of ourselves are very powerful influencers, of course, of our behaviors. And our behaviors are the drivers of our future Results.
The problem for many of us is that we don’t see our assessments as assessments – we see them as “the truth.” And this greatly limits our possibilities, especially with negative assessments.
In the case of confidence, it limits what we say we can be, do or have. Furthermore, we often make negative assessments of ourselves without being conscious of the underlying standards! All we know is we’re “not enough” this or “not enough” that.
If we hold confidence as some entity that somehow we weren’t born with enough of, we can paralyze ourselves into inaction. Learning = time + practice, but holding confidence as something that we simply inherently don’t have means that we never practice. And without practice, learning (increased competency) never occurs.
I believe that we are indeed born with biological predispositions and a genetic inheritance. But just because I’ll never dunk a basketball like LeBron James doesn’t mean I can’t get better at basketball. Just because I’ll never dance like Mikhail Baryshnikov doesn’t mean I can’t improve how well I dance.
Let’s start by understanding that confidence is an assessment, made by us and/or by others, based on some standards and some actions (or lack thereof).
Let’s be clear about the new actions we want to learn how to take, and focus on competence and learning instead.
We can declare ourselves beginners, give someone permission to teach or coach us, and move into learning.
Learning and competence are aspects we can dramatically impact, and by focusing on these we can improve both our effectiveness and our emotional well-being.
No matter your particular outlook or pre-dispositions, the invitation here is to always focus on competence and new learning when you are seeking new Results - whether those Results include better presence in front of the room, more effective meetings or better ballroom dancing!