Updated: May 28, 2022
Something a litte controversial here, but 'fake it until you make it' is not guaranteed to make you more confident. No. Faking it is not going to get to the deeper issue of why you are lacking in confidence, the gaps in your knowledge, skills, or fragile self-esteem at the root of someone's anxiety and self-doubt. In fact, faking it has the potential of undermining your self-esteem further as you leap into the unknown abyss of fear and anxiety, eyes shut without a Good Plan, and end up the other side flattened and in a far worse place than before. Confidence seems universally craved. If only we could bottle it up.
"Fake it till you make it can undermine your self-esteem further"
But whilst we can't exactly bottle it up, there is actually a recipe for becoming more confident. It's out there in the professional entrepreneurial and personal coaching world, and usually called a framework or a mindset. And it works. Like training your body for a marathon, you can train your mind into becoming more confident, using scientifically based methods that support and build on your self-esteem, step by step. "Let me drink this elixir!" I hear you cry, throwing down your 'Everything's Ok but I'm Not OK' work mask and tearing off your straight-jacket of self-doubt. Ok. I will give you a taster of my own elixir ... a little snifter to see if this recipe works for you.
1. Challenging any limiting beliefs that are hold you back
Firstly, Like most things of value, it does involve quite a bit of hard work. The first step can be pretty tough as it's about challenging the limiting beliefs that you are often, very fond of and very attached to. Everyone has them, they believe them totally, and they don't want to give them up. They range from "because I got married so young" , "I didn't get onto the uni course I wanted" "my father really wanted me to be a boy" "I'm not any good at selling myself like other people".... or "I hate all this tech stuff". Yes, we all have them.
So let's dig a little deeper and isolate a limiting belief that you cherish, and examine it. How does this make you feel? Annoyed, frustrated, a little sad or depleted? And now, try to think how you'd feel if you didn't have this thought. If you didn't think "I hate selling myself". How would you feel now? What would you be able to do without this black, heavy limiting belief holding you back? Sit back in the chair as you read this and try it as a mind experiment. If you didn't have this thought ...could you do what you really wanted to do? Do you feel released, refreshed, ready to leap up and dance around the fields? Confident about selling yourself?
This is a very interesting experiment in that it challenges your core beliefs about yourself and your identity. But you have to be really honest and brave in identifying the belief, or story that is really not helping you any more. So now you've tasted the elixir, you may notice that it's not completely without its aftertaste. But the good news is that it really will work its magic, once you have gone through this challenge. You now have a chance to wake up your brain, and start believing diffent things, thinking different thoughts, and more importantly... doing different things. ,
2. Finding your 'let's go for it' mindset
Now you've rid your mind of your limiting beliefs, you can begin the work to replace them with positive beliefs that support and build on your self-esteem. Who needs an unconscious mind that is subtly putting you down, and pointing out all your bad points? We've got our family to that, we really don't need to do it ourselves (tongue-in-cheek joke here, of course our family are our best fans!). No, what you need is your mind being your best friend, your fan club, a supportive neurological network that lights you up and gives you a sense of optimism and hope. The "let's go for it" mindset. Like a best friend.
"Confidence is a complicated alchemy of knowing yourself, and having an optimistic mindset that pats you on the back and says "let's go for it".
Gaining confidence is seeing what you do well, and attributing these successes to youself, rather than the team, or the situation, or a lucky break. Confidence is appreciating your unique set of values, qualities, strengths and foibles. So take the time to list out a positive reinforcing review of all your successes. The larger ones like jobs gained, pitches wons, qualifications awarded. But also the small wins like when you had a converstation and walked away knowing you'd made a good point, or reassured someone successfully or helped them with a challenge. Successes like completing your health regime for the fifth day in a row, or finishing that annoying task that was building up day by day. All of these add up to the unique essense that makes you you, and builds your confidence as you start to appreciate yourself for who you are, and your approach to life. You admire a friend who has a great approach to life, and you trust their decisions, so why not do this for yourself? Appreciating yourself is a large part of self-esteem, a crucial building block of confidence.
3. Building a Good Plan for The Leap of Confidence
Next, rather than the the 'faking it' myth, a more effective confidence builder dould be building a Good Plan. Back to the metaphorical abyss, you wouldn't just leap across a river, you would build a bridge. And your bridge could include: opening up your mind to remove all your limiting beliefs so you can think differently, shoring up your positive mindset with examples of your successes, putting a safety net up just in case, making sure you have a support team both sides, adding the rungs step by step, in the best order, or taking a knowledgable guide will build your confidence in getting to other side.
"You can do anything you put your mind to. But you may have to have a strong word with your mind first"
Some of you will say "to hell with the bridge, let's fly across" and that's pretty amazing too. Just work out a Good Plan, get your wings serviced and make sure the wind is blowing in the right direction. What ever you decide, work through the decision-making process bit by bit to support you. You still may be moving into an unknown area, but you've done your homework, researched and planned to remove as much of the risk and uncertainty as you can.
"Your mind will thank you for this work, and feel unconsciously more settled and happy"
You will have removed much of the cognitive dissonance (the anxiety or fear that's associated with doing something that doesn't feel right) and your brain will respond to this security, and relax. This feeling of security, of being safe (physically, emotionally, psychologically) is another key ingredient for confidence.
You may still feel a little apprehensive, but let's accept that some adrenalin and excitement is necessary, you're taking a new leap after all, so everything needs to be firing on all cylinders. There is a cultural and scientific back-story to emotions, with curiosity and excitement closely resembling apprehension and you can train your mind to associate these feelings or sensations with more positive emotions. Anxiety - excitement is on a continuum and we can learn to link to the more positive side. This neuroplasticity of our thoughts, the way we can retrain our brains, with new throughts and new subsequent behaviours, is the real work behind building our confidence.
4. Taking responsibility for your decisions, whatever the outcome
Being confident is a complicated alchemy of knowing yourself, having an optimistic mindset that pats you on the back and says "go for it" and more importantly, "I'm happy with this course of action, this is my decision".
You know your stuff, and you also know the stuff you don't know, but need some help with. This gives you clear-headed trust in your decisions and that unique confidence that is linked to self-esteem. You are esteemed, respected, valued, worthy in your own mind. You have confidence about your self; self-confidence. Once you take full responsibility for this decision, or this specific course of action, you can be responsible for whatever the outcome is because it's the best course of action for you. Whatever happens, it will still be ok. You feel confident because you have built up a supporting Good Plan around your Leap of Confidence.
5. Confidence is something that you can create yourself
What I think you may be starting to see, is that confidence is something that you can create yourself. It's a skill that can be learnt, like anything else, with a bit of hard work and insight. It's not just something that other people have naturally and you will never have, it's something that you can build and develop, just as these 'confident people' may have done.
Try following the process above for your own unique elixir of confidence and see how you can gently and slowly replace the anxiety and fear of failure into a more 'can-do' approach. Or at least, 'can try'. Identify the beliefs that aren't helping you, create an optimistic mindset that focuses on your strengths and previous successes, build a good plan and decision-making process and finally, take full responsibility and accountability for what you do. You can do it, and whatever the outcome, it's your decision based on a deeper knowledge of what works for you. You have the confidence to make good decisions, and to be in control of your own life.
So less about the faking it, more about the making it. And who knows, some of you will invariably do it in your own unique style.
Confidence Boosting Tips
Appreciate your failures - at least you've tried, and you can gain something from every experience.
Learn from others - watch their body language, their attitudes, their approach. Visualise yourself in their shoes, what would they do?
Record your wins - recognise and reward your successes. Write down 3 'well dones' each night and find a way to reward yourself
Be grateful - you probably have more than you realise. Take a moment to write them down as well.
Confidence pose - find the pose that feels right for you, and importantly, inner smile.
Challenge yourself - do something small that builds on your confidence but stretches you every week
Visualise success - this is one of the most effective things you can train your mind to prepare and expect sucecss.
Show confidence - smile, walk tall and look people in the eye when you see them or say goodbye
Declutter your space - put stuff away, clear the decks and find space to breathe, rest and work properly
Find mentors - friends, allys, colleagues, anyone that you respect, has your back, and you feel empowered and energised by.
And finally, confidence is catching. If you're in a team, co-workers will bounce off your confidence, and be more optimistic about overcoming challenges together, boosting performance and the bottom line. So share these tips around, hang on to the confident people in your life or work, and remember that what you tell yourself, your inner talk, is the start of your confidence boosting. So say nice things.
Ella is a trained, accredited life coach & licenced career coach, a Master Practitioner in neurolinguistic programming and congitive behaviour therapy qualified. She uses an integrated positive psychological approach to coaching.www.lifecoachingwithella.com 07597157194