I don’t know about you but working virtually over the past year has played havoc with my confidence.
I recently ran a confidence workshop for a group of female business founders. I did my usual prep, checked out who’d be in the session and developed the content accordingly. All good so far – I love working with women and was looking forward to getting to know the group and sharing my thoughts on how to communicate with more confidence and authority.
Moments before clicking ‘Join Meeting’ I thought I’d remind myself who I’d be in the virtual room with and clicked through each of the attendee’s profiles. That’s when it hit me. These women were impressive. REALLY impressive. Award-winning impressive. Successful and confident, surely? What could they possibly learn from me? Imposter syndrome kicked in, my confidence swiftly nose-dived and I started to wonder if I’d pitched the whole session wrong. Oh and the irony wasn’t lost on me either. There I was lacking confidence about running a confidence workshop. Oh dear.
I got through it of course. The workshop was fine. Certainly not my best but it was good enough. Yet I still spent an agonising afternoon picking through all the things I should have done better, questioning my abilities as a trainer and obsessing over the smallest details of my delivery. Because when you’re working virtually it’s so much harder to read the non-verbal cues, to feed off the energy of a room, to understand whether you’re nailing it or not. And when it’s over, you simply press the ‘Leave Meeting’ button and find yourself sitting alone at your make-shift desk with just the voices in your head for company and feedback. Even the smallest, most insignificant of mistakes are magnified somehow and can send you spiralling into a state of endless self-doubt. Or is it just me that feels like this?
Of course we all have moments where we lack confidence, whether we’re successful business owners with decades of experience or just starting out. The word confidence comes from the Latin ‘fidere’ meaning to trust. Confidence is about having trust in one’s self and feeling sure about your own abilities, qualities or ideas. But how can we trust ourselves if words fail us just when we need them most? Or if we constantly doubt our abilities, feel inferior, unworthy or unprepared?
There are steps we can all take to boost our confidence when self-doubt sets in. Here are my top 5 tips for building your inner confidence so you can exude confidence on the outside:
1. Tame your inner critic. We have two voices in our head – our inner critic and our inner coach. The inner critic is that negative voice we tune into in moments of stress; “You’re useless, you have no authority, no-one will want to listen to you.” At times we let our inner critic descend into a full-on character assassination in our heads. Instead, we should really be using our inner critic to refine and to improve – “OK, that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. How can I do better next time?”. Our inner coach is the positive voice that does calm and celebration. It’s all too easy to forget to use your inner coach to praise yourself when things go well. Find that positive inner voice and use it to your advantage!
2. Be yourself. One of the keys to being confident is to understand yourself and then BE yourself. Many of us think we can’t be ourselves in a workplace setting because “that would be unprofessional”. Nonsense! The more you can be yourself at work, the better. People will see you’re being real, it shows your personal side and they’ll connect with you faster. Being confident isn’t about copying how someone else behaves, aping their way of speaking or their mannerisms. It’s about being YOU.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. Doing so will only chip away at your confidence. When we compare ourselves to others we’re often comparing their best features against our average ones. Not only do we naturally want to be as good as they are (or better), the unconscious realisation that we are not can become destructive. It comes back to the importance of being yourself. Warren Buffett says, “There’s one thing that you’re better at than other people: being YOU.” When you start with this mindset the world starts to look better again. Your focus and energy is placed on what you’re capable of now and how you can improve yourself. Life becomes about being a better version of yourself.
4. Sit up straight. Posture matters. Standing tall or sitting up straight are absolutely essential to your confidence, your voice, your status and your gravitas. Adjusting your posture will help you look, sound and feel confident in a matter of seconds.
5. Use positive language. Without even realising it, your vocabulary could be having an adverse effect on your self-confidence. Many of us are stuck in the habit of repeating the same negative words or phrases. The more we hear, read or speak a phrase, the more power it has over us. Break the habit by changing negative language into positive language. This won’t only make you sound more confident, you’ll feel more confident too. Examples of negative language include, “Does that make sense?”, “I’m sorry”, “If only…” and filler words. Subtle language changes can make a huge difference to people’s perceptions of your confidence and professionalism. Being mentally aware of your use of negative words and phrases means you can start to control how confident you feel and sound in speech.
I think it’s about time I started practising what I preach. As Oprah Winfrey said, “It is confidence in our minds, bodies and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures.” And I quite fancy some new adventures…who’s with me?