Have you ever self-assessed how truly confident you are?
Before 2016 I thought I walked solidly in confidence. I was in a fulfilling enough career and had stacked away enough of a nest egg to comfortably take a break from nine-to-fiving and become a consultant. That leap of faith allowed me to be home to raise my children. I’d earned my master’s degree, offered niche consulting in strategic communication and change solutions, was an adjunct professor and establishing myself as a speaker. Surely, I’d done what I’d needed to do to stay relevant and keep my footing professionally.
But then unexpectedly it became necessary for me to work more hours outside of the home and return to the nine-to-five for a more consistent income. I thought I’d have a seamless re-entry to the workforce but instead spent 18 months job hunting with no offer! I was sailing through interviews but falling short when it came to an offer. I didn’t know where I was going wrong. Slowly, my confidence was being shredded; I was losing bits of it without even realizing it.
So when I did eventually land a job imposter syndrome set in immediately. Working in technology versus communications for the first time I shrank around those who seemed more knowledgeable. They made decisions while I waited for permission. Who was this woman I’d become? Where was the woman who once commanded the attention of large audiences, and whose students would hold out on taking a course until she was available to teach it?
Our confidence is shaped before we even enter grade school. Life’s experiences either continue to build confidence, or they shred it. At the roof of confidence is capability and awareness; to be confident one must have an ability or a certainty that they see as consistent and sustainable. Confidence is mastery. To lack or lose confidence doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in other layers of your identity. You might lack the confidence, say, to step out on faith and package and distribute your secret barbecue sauce–even as you boast that nobody makes a better sauce! You might walk into a room knowing you could leave with anyone you want, but then allow that person to treat you terribly!
But hold on to the shreds–it’s those shreds that will make you whole again.
I began to piece my confidence back together again. I started listening and giving myself the grace to hear and believe those who spoke well of me. And I bet you’ll be able to weave your confidence back into shape if you do the same. Ask those closest to you and whom you respect, “What do I do well?” The hardest part will be to receive it.
Some years ago I stumbled upon a quote by Dr. Hendrie Weisinger in Psychology Today. I cut it out and taped it to my computer. She said, “If you can’t imagine yourself being successful, confidence will be hard to come by.” That said, the day you are finally able to say, “I do this thing well!” without shrinking in humility you will be on your way to building confidence and wading confidently in the depth of your abilities. Even if as you say it, you’re simply trying to convince yourself. No skill is too large or small to acknowledge–from your ability to declutter or drive long distances, to your grill cheese making or defrosting ice cream in the microwave to perfect soft-serve consistency!
First: Practice Confidence. To begin building confidence, you should first get a sense of what confidence looks and feels like. Observe the confident people around you–observe their posture, and how they speak about their skills or how they execute the tasks you admire. Is there someone whose swag and confidence you want to model? Commit to mirroring the confidence you observe until you start to inherit some of the qualities you admire.
Next: Identify something you do better than everyone else. Again, no skill is too small or too large to acknowledge. Again look to those closest to you for their input. Hearing good things said about you is essential for both building confidence and boosting self-esteem.
Then: Own and quietly perfect the skill. Quietly improve your technique(s) and research it to the point where you could teach a master class on the skill! Again, confidence is in mastery. Educate and invest in yourself where it supports and enhances the skill.
Finally: Reassess and Repeat. Confidence grows with repetition, and with repetition comes the simple recognition of your competence and capability in your skill.
Yes, hold on to the shreds… A shred, after all, was once a part of something so valuable it had to be destroyed.