Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady of the United States, once said that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and she was right, in theory. With enough practice, you can be in control of your own emotions, being emotionally resilient to what goes on around you. However, this is much easier said than done, and it can be hard to ignore the things that go on around you.
Things can knock your confidence all the time – from the quality of your own work, to how people treat you, and many things that are entirely out of anyone’s control. Yet, when you walk into a room to meet a client or give a presentation, you want to be able to look and feel confident in what you’re doing. This is why we’ve written these six steps, which can act as a process of ongoing development, to build your self-confidence.
1. Visualise success
At their core, feelings of fear and nervousness are really nothing more than our reactions to how we picture the future. We’re not afraid of what we’re currently doing, we’re afraid of potential negative outcomes. For example, you aren’t afraid of giving that presentation, but you might be afraid of how the audience will react, or things that you might get wrong.
Therefore, the simple trick to becoming more confident about the future is to stop focusing on what can go wrong and start to visualise how you’re going to make it a success. Mentally rehearsing things like presentations and sales meetings ahead of time, and picturing how well it will go, will help you to overpower any feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. So, rather than picturing your upcoming audience as bored, uninterested and hostile, start focusing on them as being interested, engaged and friendly.
2. Maintain a record of your successes
When something goes well, take time to reflect on it. There’s no harm in celebrating a win and being proud of yourself for it. Make a note of what exactly was so positive about it, and what made it go so well. Take a moment to appreciate how you feel about this success.
When you feel low, it can be helpful to have a reminder of the times you did well. So, while you’re feeling good, take the time to write down your thoughts and describe your emotions. Over time, this can become a book full of your positive experiences which you can read and reflect on during the more challenging times. Just because one meeting with a client went badly, doesn’t negate all the other times they went well. You’ve done all these great things before, so you can definitely achieve more great things going forwards.
3. Prepare thoroughly
Preparation is a crucial step in being able to walk into a room with confidence. Naturally, when you’re only half prepared, you’ll feel more anxious. And yet, in the daily hustle and bustle of business life, it’s easy to start cutting corners in the name of efficiency or productivity.
Instead, always make sure you’ve done everything you need to do in advance. Have you written your notes? Have you read through the agenda and any other documents? Done all of your research? Practised your speech? Whatever else you need to do for your upcoming meeting, presentation or whatever else you have going on, make sure you do it.
4. Make ‘failure’ a learning experience
It’s far too easy to let one failure cloud your confidence. One less-than-successful attempt at a cold call doesn’t mean that every other call you make is now marred in disaster and overshadowed by your incompetence. But even so, some people fear failure so much that they very nervously approach any situation where they think there’s a risk of failure, if they even approach it at all. Worrying like this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you can be so scared of messing up that you can’t focus properly, or don’t have the willpower to push through, and ultimately you do fail at what you were doing. In reality, everyone makes mistakes at some point and they can actually be quite useful experiences, if you look at them the right way.
A view of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (an approach to personal development) is that “there is no failure, only feedback.” If you get something wrong, rather than negatively dwelling on what happened, you can use it as an opportunity to learn and improve in the future. This way, you can confidently make adjustments next time to increase the likelihood of a more successful outcome.
Days where you make mistakes are great days because you’ve learnt something new!
5. Avoid being obsessed with self
Can you identify with the self-conscious teenager whose happiness is directly related to how many people liked their latest post on social media? When you’re presenting, do you constantly focus on yourself and what you’re not doing as perfectly as you want to?
Self-consciousness can be a mentally crippling aliment. It can make you feel awkward about how you look, what you say, how you sound and how you act. Instead, by switching your focus of attention on the other person – whether it be a boss, a client or someone else – and thinking about their interests and what you can do for them, rather than worrying about yourself, you will begin to learn to see past just yourself. Although this might seem counter intuitive, the less you think about yourself, the more you notice about others, and you’ll find yourself adapting what you do to achieve the result you want. This helps you find your natural flow, and with that will come self-confidence.
6. Conduct a personal ‘self-confidence analysis’
When you experience a period of low self-confidence, take some time to analyse why you feel this way, and then think of some practical ways in which you can address the issue and take positive steps to implement these changes.
Don’t say, “I had a bad day,” instead be specific: “I messed up that report and the rest of the day things went well.” Or even more specific: “I miscalculated the sales figures in that report and the rest of it was effective.” If you catch yourself making a catastrophe out of one small mistake, step back and look at the bigger picture. One small thing going wrong doesn’t mean the whole day was bad.