Writing about confidence is hard. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. I have often wondered, as I am sure many of you have, what makes some people so confident. A brand-new graduate can walk out into the world and take it by storm, completely confident in their ability to do a great job. Another walks out lacking any belief in their abilities and flounders for years, trying to prove to themselves and the world that they can indeed do the job.
The difference presents itself in the way we move and speak, the expression on our face, the risks we are willing to take and the new projects we take on. Being confident gives a person a huge advantage; confidence instils confidence in others, and in our line of work we need our owners and patients to place their confidence in us. Confidence is imperative, a non-negotiable.
Confidence is something that can be built up and developed, and something that can be eroded, gradually. When we lack confidence, we are far more likely to fail, sometimes simply because we give up at the first hurdle. Our own giving up subtly affirms our belief that we are indeed not good enough, eroding our confidence even more.
The opposite is also true; when we are confident, we are more likely to persevere and succeed, our success building further confidence.
A beautiful TED talk describes the ingredients of confidence as permission, community and curiosity. We cannot be what we cannot see. When confidence is modeled for us, we are given permission to have confidence, and the spark is born within us. Our communities, whether social media, family, church group or professional group, nurture our confidence, allowing it to grow and develop. Trusted communities allow us to practise and hone the skill of confidence in different settings – and confidence is a skill.
And curiosity propels it. We have a natural need to question things, even our own ability; we have a need to take chances and try new things, all of which will affirm to ourselves that we are not fragile wallflowers, but participators in life and willing to take risks to grow.
The power of failure
How do you see failure? Your perspective on this is essential. When failure is not an option, we cripple ourselves with our expectations, and rob ourselves of the ability to handle failure. And we will fail from time to time.
When we change our perspective and see failure as a learning opportunity, we empower ourselves to keep trying, approaching the problem from different angles, investigating alternative resources, asking for help and building skills. When we expect failures along the way, we are far more willing to embrace change and give things a try, because we no longer fear ‘failure’. Really, when all is said and done, failure is merely a stepping stone.
Moreover, our value – our essential worth – is not linked to our success or failure. When we separate our personal value from our achievements, we know that even when our business fails or our patient does not recover, we are still valuable. The fact that we’re alive means we still have work to do and lessons to learn.
Having this mindset, and seeing failure as an opportunity to learn, will allow us to build our confidence even in the face of great hardship and failure.
Develop the skill
We place great value on the acquisition of knowledge and resources, but underestimate and undervalue the soft skill of confidence. As Katie Ford taught us in the podcast on Imposter Syndrome, acquiring more skills and more qualifications while lacking confidence only leads to a worsening of the imposter syndrome in us, deepening our belief that we are frauds and don’t belong or deserve what we have achieved.
So start with you. Recognise your value and build your confidence by knowing that failure is not a disaster, but part of the journey. Give yourself permission to be confident! Practise confidence within your community of choice, and allow your curiosity to propel and grow your confidence.
Here are some ideas on where to start:
1. Your body – posture, expression, speaking voice
Make some immediate changes in the way you stand and walk, your facial expression and the way you speak. This is not about pretending to be what you’re not, or changing who you are, but rather about adopting behaviour that will help you communicate effectively.
When you walk, lift your chest and keep your shoulders down. Keep your head up. Imagine trying to be as tall as you can be, lifting the vertebrae of the spine as you walk, and you will automatically look and feel more confident.
When you speak, speak clearly, projecting your voice towards your client. Look them in the eye often, especially when they are speaking to you. Be aware of your resting facial expression – get rid of the frown, the anxious look. Smile more often!
2. Physical and mental health
Health is so important. Include exercise, healthy eating and good sleeping habits in your life. As you achieve these, not only will you build confidence, but you will also build your ability to act despite your emotional state.
3. Set boundaries
Have some separation between your personal and business life. Have interests outside of work. Take time to relax and enjoy friends, family and your personal interests. You will become a more well-rounded person, which will enable colleagues and clients to see you as being of greater value, too.
4. Set goals
Goals are milestones along the way. We all feel good when we’ve achieved one. Set some realistic and hard-to-attain goals, and put them down on paper! Some people find creating a Vision Board helpful – a Vision Board commits you to the goals you set for yourself.
5. Celebrate achievements
Affirm yourself often by recognising and celebrating your achievements, both big and small.
When we lack confidence, we live in a world where we are afraid, where we are surrounded by can’t, don’t and won’t. We are crippled by failures, real or perceived. We are ruled by the perceptions, needs and words of the people around us.
But when we are confident, we can, we will, and we do. We allow our light to shine, pursuing what we believe to be right, regardless of the perceptions and criticisms of others. We see the world we want to live in; a world where animals are treated fairly, where they are given the best treatment possible, where they live lives that are pain free – and we go for it, step by step, goalpost by goalpost, working to achieve that unseen goal.
With confidence, so much becomes possible.