I believe there are two ways to develop confidence. One approach is to practice behaviors that look confident or that cause you to feel confident. To learn more about this kind of “outside-in” approach, read Increasing Confidence from the Outside-In.
Another often more powerful approach is to work directly on your mindset to develop confident thoughts and feelings, which in turn lead to more confident behaviors. In this post, I’ll focus on the “inside-out” approach to increasing confidence by focusing on strategies to adopt a more confident mindset.
Assess Your Strengths
My clients find that understanding their strengths is one way to develop confidence from the inside. Part of this can include an assessment like StrengthsFinder.
More importantly, assessing your strengths should include a discussion that enables you to explore the fullness of your strengths and how you might employ them. It is likely that some things you may consider weaknesses could, in fact, be tremendous strengths when viewed from a different perspective.
For example, someone who is highly analytical may have been told that their descriptions are too technical, they’re not inspirational, or they’re not saying things clearly. So they may conclude that they have a problem with communication.
But there is another perspective: their analytical strength is an extraordinary asset. In some situations, that sort of analytical rigor may save their company from moving down highly unproductive or wasteful paths. People who have that strength are more likely to feel confident if they fully own that strength and recognize its capability for doing good.
Being aware of the nuances of your particular strengths and how to use these effectively helps build confidence and gives you an empowering perspective on what you’re capable of.
Remove Internal Obstacles
Another question to explore is: what fears, memories, or anxieties are you carrying that keep you from feeling confident?
For example, I remember working with a senior executive who was trying to develop confidence. She didn’t feel like she belonged at the table with her peers. One obstacle to confidence was she had never gone to college. After exploring that, she realized it simply didn’t matter anymore–she had already been promoted into a very senior role and was extremely well-respected. It was just a self-perception that she had held onto and needed to let go of to feel fully confident.
For a list of eight barriers to confidence and how to overcome them, see this article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter.
Know What Makes You Feel Confident
Another approach to feeling more confident is to reflect on situations in which you feel strong, confident, and powerful.
I sometimes do an exercise with clients where we walk through their prior professional or personal experiences to look for “mountaintop moments” or experiences where they felt highly confident. I encourage them to talk through those in some detail and understand what it is about that situation that brought out the strong, confident feelings.
The more that you understand the circumstances in which you naturally feel confident, the more you can tailor your environment or make choices that enable those feelings. There are often variables that you can control. It could be small things like being fully prepared or having a friendly face sitting in the front row at an important presentation.
Take a moment to reflect on any factors that raise or limit your confidence. For example:
- Looking back, when have I felt most confident in my life? What were the circumstances? What thoughts were going through my head?
- What are the parts of my life today where I feel most confident? What are the reasons?
- Are there confidence-limiting thoughts or beliefs that I need to change?
- What changes in my circumstances might help me be more confident?
Use Affirmations or Visualization to Generate Confident Feelings
Developing a statement or affirmation can be a powerful tool to boost confidence. This is a short phrase you say silently to yourself. The key here is to find a phrase or sentence that connects you with a compelling, positive feeling. You can choose something that you find uplifting or reminds you of past successes in your life.
One client came up with the simple affirmation, “I’ve got this!” And from that point on, used this in moments where he felt less secure or less confident. I’ve seen others use much more personal affirmations that connected them to moments where they felt confident in the past or that offered inspiration.
Another similar approach is to use visualizations, the technique of vividly imagining a positive outcome. So before a crucial meeting, you might picture yourself in that meeting, doing a fantastic job. The key here is to include all the tones of reality in your mental picture–what would it look like, feel like…sound like? Who is around you and how are they responding? The more immersive your visualization the better.
To learn more about how behavior affects confidence, read Increasing Confidence from the Outside-In.
For even more, check out:
- How to Be More Confident: 5 Research-Backed Methods by Eric Barker
- Harvard Business Review’s How to Fake It When You’re Not Feeling Confident
- Harvard Business Review’s How to Build Confidence