How to build your confidence

Words by Lisa Quinn

Last night, my coaching partner, Nicky Chambers, and I met 32 lovely, smart, creative, thoughtful humans. All of them unique in their own individual distinct brilliance. All of them had one thing in common. They wanted more confidence.

They were all participants in a Confidence workshop that we were co-leading at the Conduit. And as they shared their stories, their limiting beliefs, and as we progressed through the workshop, the things they were learning about themselves, we were struck (as we always are when we coach) by their innate ability to get in touch with their own wisdom, creativity and resourcefulness.

And, the amazing ability they had to get in their own way.

Or rather, the ability our inner critics have to create the negative ‘truths”, the catastrophic endings, the worse case scenarios that get in the way of us being our most confident selves.

We also heard how much confidence can vary. We can be confident in one area, but not in another, and our confidence can ebb and flow depending on the context, circumstances and other people involved.

If you recognise any of what is written above, know that you aren’t alone. You’re a human. You’re in good company. Confidence is something that many of us find challenging. And that’s ok. One of the things we talked about last night is that confidence can be grown. It’s a skill that you can learn. But it takes practice. And it takes a certain amount of getting comfortable with the un-comfortableness of doing something that stretches you, in order to grow your own confidence.

Rewrite your story

One of the tools that we shared last night is storytelling reappraisal. This is a technique that Dr Rob Yeung talks about in his book Confidence 2.0 – The new science of self-confidence. It’s particularly powerful because humans remember stories.

Choosing to tell a tale with a happy ending can blunt the emotional effects of a difficult situation by imagining the good that might come out of it.  

So, if you are comfortable to see if this works for you, here it is. And be mindful that you have a choice – if you don’t think this is going to serve you well, or if you find the idea of it too challenging, you don’t have to try it.

Whatever your situation, imagine that you are the author of your own story. You’re halfway through the story and you’re experiencing a challenging situation. Now project yourself forward to the end of the story, and imagine a happy ending (it helps if you see the story as if you’re looking at it through your own eyes). What happens when you think about an optimistic ending to your story? What are the benefits to you? You don’t have to believe that these benefits will definitely occur. Just that they are possible. And then ask yourself: What might you (eventually) learn from this situation? What benefits might there be?

You are the best judge of what’s right for you – and by best we mean your kind, compassionate self – not your judgemental, inner critic.

Get out of your comfort zone

Building our confidence does involve moving out of our comfort zone. We’d recommend doing this in a way that takes you into a “Stretch” Zone – doing things that challenge and stretch you, and where you are most likely to learn. You’re going to feel a bit uncomfortable – but not too much. What you don’t want to do is stretch so far that you move into a “Panic” zone – which is where we stretch too quickly or too far, and end up panicking rather than growing.

If you listen to your body, really check in with it about a particular area where you want and need to build confidence, you will know what your own stretch zone is.  You might have to get quiet for a bit. To spend a few moments getting out of your head and connecting with your body (this can take practice – particularly if you live your life at warp speed, running from one meeting to the next).  But if you stop, listen, and feel, you’ll know. Our bodies have wisdom. It’s just that we need to practice listening to them.

Lisa Quinn and Nicky Chambers are Executive Coaches. They run a range of workshops at the Conduit. They will be leading another workshop on Confidence in the coming months.

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