New Leaf Blog
This Christmas I went to India. For my children it was a major culture shock. For me, the cultural difference from the UK that struck me most was not the food, the style of the apartments or the busy-ness of the place. It was the confidence.
India is on the up and it knows it. New infrastructure is being built, individual wealth is growing (at least for the middle classes) and there is sense of India’s growing influence in the world. An Indian man who expected things to be the same in the UK was surprised when I told him that, no, I didn’t think we Brits felt we were about to bounce back from a short term blip of an economic crisis.
The difference in our perspectives, in our confidence levels, really gave me food for thought. With confidence a country can attract investors, take risks and in so doing come into its power. Confidence begets investment, economic growth and hence more confidence.
The same is true for personal confidence
Confidence doesn’t just give us the feeling we could apply for a new job, it gives us the feeling we can take the risk to apply for a new job we really want. Or even chuck employment entirely and start up a business, write a novel or travel the world in the knowledge that we can always get another job if things don’t work out. It makes us more likely to invest in ourselves, our education, our career or our family.
And having taken those risks, in turn it makes them more likely to succeed. We go to our job interview exuding genuine confidence and our chances of getting the job multiply. Our novel takes shape because we believe we can write it. And our investment in ourselves pays off because we show up authentically and grapple with change in a way that allows us to learn and grow.
Low confidence, on the other hand, becomes a vicious circle of fear, putting up protective barriers, not investing or taking risks to grow. With low confidence you are less attractive. Other people are less likely to see you as trustworthy and more likely to tell you how you should run your affairs. Low confidence can make you volatile or depressed.
Getting into the virtuous cycle
Having got out of the virtuous cycle of confidence, it can be hard to jump back into it. But jump we must, or stand to lose some of the things that are most important to us – choice, intimacy and self-determination.
Most of the people I know, including me, could stand to get a lot more confident before they got anywhere near telling the real truth about their capabilities. The big risk is not arrogance but meekness. And no, I don’t believe that the meek with inherit the world.
Ironically, the things that we are best at are the things we tend to discount because they are ‘easy’. But just because they are easy for you doesn’t mean they are easy for everyone. These are your real talents and the place you can start looking for confidence and success.
Building your confidence – seven easy steps
Confidence builds with practice. So, here are seven steps to practice regularly to get going.
- Decide that you are worth it. This may sound glib, but it is the most important step of all. How committed are you on a scale of 1-10 to being a confident person? If you have not said 10, what would take you up to a 10?
- Pick something small that you know you can do. Do It. Celebrate.
- Write a gratefulness diary. Pick three things each day that you are grateful for. Make sure they are different things every day.
- Spot your ‘sabateur’ voice. That is the one that tells you that you can’t, you are not good enough. In the guise of protecting you, it actually keeps you small. Practise seeing this voice as coming from a being outside you.
- Spot your ‘wise’ voice. Tap into your own deep wisdom and ask it what it believes. My wise voice tells me powerful truths, that can occasionally be uncomfortable, but always worth hearing.
- Remember times you succeeded and how you felt. Re-connect to that experience as you go into things that feel fearful
- Fake it till you make it. Dress for success. These may be cliches, but they are there for a reason – they work. Don’t think you can do something? Copy someone who can. In the process you will find out what you can do, and what you need to learn more of.
Confidence tricksters are not the same as confidence builders
I am not asking you to become dishonest with yourself. Looking again at countries we see how that comes back to bite you. Sub-prime mortgages being hidden and packaged up as low risk investments was really a confidence-trick – not true confidence at all.
A job applicant who talks a good talk, but has no real experience or ability is likely to be found out. If there are things that you hide from yourself and others, you may need to bring them out and look at them. Real confidence abides with people who have the courage to do this – to admit to mistakes, learn and move on, for example.
On the other hand, staying small because of fear or lack of self-belief is just as much of a confidence-trick, with perhaps an even bigger cost. The cost to yourself – that you never get to see what you are really capable of. The cost to others – that you never take the risk to share with them who you really are. The cost to the world that doesn’t get to experience your creativity and talent and what you could have done if you’d used it.