Wellbeing

How to flex your confidence muscle

- April 5, 2021 5 MIN READ

You likely already know how important self-confidence is in business. You’ve likely witnessed people with far less skill and experience than yourself pitch themselves successfully due to their seemingly gargantuan self-confidence. And, you likely have hugely talented people in your life who hold themselves back due to low self-confidence.

We don’t all have an equal playing field upon which to build our self-confidence and it would be ridiculous to suggest this. Some people have experienced significant trauma or massive disadvantages. This article is not intended to replace therapy or minimise the very real, systemic discrimination and hardships that some experience.

However, if you know your self-confidence is holding you back in business, you’re not really sure why, and you’re keen to change this, here’s what I’ve learned, practiced, coached and trained others to do over the last 11 years.

“Low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered–just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better.” (Barrie Davenport)

The most popular ways in which we undermine our self-confidence

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I don’t know enough/I’m not experienced enough to charge X.”
  • “I really love what I do, so I should just be grateful that I’ve the privilege to do it.”
  • “Nobody in my industry earns more than $X. It’s just how it is.”
  • “I really like this client so I’ll bend my terms to accommodate them.”

So why do we have low self-confidence in business?
Some of the biggest reasons include:

  • We’ve been socialised to believe that being likable is crucial to our value, so we tolerate bad behaviour from clients and prospects because we want to be liked.
  • We are wedded to a story that’s linked to our identity about why we can’t possibly progress in business (children, bad jobs in your past, an unsupportive partner, etc.)
  • We derive a lot of our self-worth and identity from what we do, so we take all setbacks as a personal slight.
  • We have procrastinated on launching something we say we really want to do, which compounds, leading us to feel lacking in skill, focus, or follow-through.
  • We suspect we’re a fraud or imposter and are hiding in plain sight, taking the safe route in business to avoid attracting attention and getting caught out.
  • We’re surrounded by naysayers, particularly those passive-aggressive types who undermining us subtly.
  • Our boundaries are weak, making it easy for others to influence our minds and moods.

The best, most practical ways to build your confidence in business

Done with self-loathing, despair, and all that jazz? Here are the most practical tools you can you to practice self-confidence in business.

Scare yourself regularly

You know that business leaders make bold moves, regularly. What you may suspect, though, is that they do so because they’re not scared, but feel hugely confident. Not true.

“Overcoming fear is the first step to success for entrepreneurs.” (Richard Branson)

Put this into practice:

  • At the same time once a week, every week, first thing in the morning, do the things that scare you. Call people. Introduce yourself. Chase overdue accounts. Propose or pitch for new business.
  • Do this in your personal life as well – take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try but were secretly scared to. Try new things that take you outside your comfort zone.

Take your self-care seriously

I’ve spoken about the importance of self-care many times before. Especially if you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, you need to increase your self-care. You only need to be brave for a minute, then you can retreat back into your self-care cave to eat ice-cream and slam Netflix series.

Put this into practice:

  • Self-care is built on saying ‘no’. Practice saying no as a complete sentence, without the need to apologise or justify.
  • Boundaries are intimately related to self-care. Review your professional boundaries, starting with communication. Unless you are an emergency doctor, make yourself un-contactable by clients and prospects outside of business hours.

Life’s a stage

How you act affects your intrinsic self-confidence and extrinsic confidence – or how others’ perceive you. Check out Amy Cuddy’s fabulous talk on how your body language shapes how others treat you, as well as how you perceive yourself (ie: your self-esteem).

“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.” (William Jennings Bryan)

Put this into practice:

  • Always get dressed for work and start your day in the same way you would if you were working for someone else. Yes, even if your workplace is your dining table or kitchen bench.
  • Take up more space in a room – choose the better chair at the table, stand tall, with your shoulders back, use more eye contact.
  • Watch how other people you perceive as confidence move. What looks natural that you could emulate?
  • Don’t offer discounts, freebies and undersell yourself. Do you know, deep down, that you should raise your prices? If so, do it now.

Move

The quickest and easiest way to change your mood and improve your sense of control is to move.

Put this into practice:

  • Change your surroundings when you feel your mood slump. Leave your desk, have a cup of tea in the sun, go bushwalking, walk the dog, or visit an art gallery.
  • You most need exercise when you’re stressed AND this is likely the first thing you’ll drop. So counter this by exercising with a buddy. You’re less likely to let down someone else than yourself. Make an exercise routine and stick to it – with help.
  • If you work from home, consider becoming a member of a co-working space. (I’m a WeWork member.) You could also work with friends, your mafia or have a regular weekly date, with a notepad and pencil, in your favourite café.

Find your mafia

Being self-employed can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be! You can reduce your overthinking, booster your confidence, access shortcuts, and build your referrals by finding your business mafia.

Put this into practice:

  • Start noticing people who you interact with regularly on social media. If you haven’t already done so, line up a Skype date, phone call or coffee.
  • Attend a regular business planning session with other business owners (like me!).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Nobody is immune from needing help. Don’t forget to keep the good karma circling.
  • Line up drinks and dinner with a group of like-minded awesome-type people in business.

Mark your progress and celebrate your milestones

When we’re in the trenches, it’s easy to lose sight of our goals, overlook our progress and be too busy (or feel silly) celebrating our milestones. Fortify your self-confidence by noticing and celebrating you!

Put this into practice:

  • Don’t delete old marketing pieces or proposals that you’re ashamed of. Regularly look back on what you’ve done to see how far you’ve travelled.
  • Celebrate the end of the financial year, when you submit your BAS, your business anniversary date, when you finish a big project, or score a big project. Celebrate yourself the way you’d celebrate an employee. Be a good boss to yourself.

Be kind to yourself

If you’re stuck in a rut, having a crisis of confidence, first know that you are not alone. We all lose our business mojo sometimes, sometimes due to external events such as changing life circumstances such as grief, overwork or knock-backs from clients or prospects.

You can find your way back from a crisis, but first, be kind and patient with yourself. Take it slowly. Lower your expectations and extend your timelines.

Don’t neglect your friendships because you’re busy. If you’re feeling really overstretched, combine catching up with friends with exercise – go for a walk, an exercise class, or try something different, like rock climbing. Talk it out. Keeping your stress, grief, overwhelm or anxiety to yourself only prolongs it.

The price of freedom is constant vigilance

As confidence is a practice, it never ends. I don’t aim to be 100 per cent confidence 100 per cent of the time. I’m seeking fewer bouts of low self-confidence, less often, and to pick myself up more quickly each time.

When you’re in a slump, everybody looks more confident and more successful than you. Don’t believe everything you think. Unless you’re privy to someone else’s indiscrete, unethical accountants and psychologists, you have no way of knowing how successful or otherwise another business person is. Keep your eyes on your own business and practice self-confidence, one day at a time.