Confidence is important in business because it helps you to deal better with conflict, improves your communication skills, can make you happier at work, enables you to take feedback better, and it can make you a better manager or leader.
Furthermore, having confident employees:
- makes for a more positive workplace and one that is more likely to thrive
- can lead to a reduction in staff turnover and related costs
The good news is that confidence can be learned.
The Myths About Building Confidence
Let’s look at one of the slides from the Self-Confidence Building training materials and some truths and some false assumptions.
1. Can confidence be learnt?
This statement is true. Confidence is something we can learn by working on four key areas:
- Social support
- Body language and physicality
2. Confident people don’t fail?
This is certainly false.
Confident people fail just as much, if not more, than other people.
This is because they have the courage to take more actions than non-confident people, thus they have a higher chance of success as well as failure.
The key is in how confident people deal with failure. Rather than seeing failure as a dent in their self-esteem, confident people are willing to learn from failure so they can do better the next time.
3. Confident people experience fear?
Confident people experience fear, doubts and insecurities just like everyone else.
The key though is that they do not let fear hold them back. They take note of their fears, evaluate the situation to find the best way to tackle it and then they take action.
They ask themselves what the worst thing that can happen is if they fail and they then act (it is different in a life-or-death situation, of course. There is a reason why people feel fear but, most of the time, we are not faced with life-or-death situations).
If they fail, they do not berate themselves and they don’t compare themselves with others.
They know that there are always people who can do better than them, but they do what they can to the best of their ability.
They also have a mindset of continuous improvement, so they learn from failure to do better the next time.
4. You don’t need to be perfect to feel confident
Perfection does not exist in this world. Even the people whom we think are perfect, in reality, are not. We all have our flaws and limitations.
Striving for perfection, if anything, holds us back. It is a way of setting impossible to achieve aims, so we never take action. If anything, perfectionism is an excuse for not taking action.
If we think that we will act when the situation is perfect, we will never do anything because the situation is never going to be perfect.
5. Confident people are confident in everything
Confidence is not an all or nothing situation; instead, it is context-specific.
Some people think that, if you are confident, you have to be confident in everything. This is not the case.
You may be confident in one area because you have a lot of practice and familiarity with that area or task, but not be confident in other areas or tasks as you are not familiar with them.
The point is that a confident person realizes this and, if they want to become more confident in an area they are not familiar with, they know that they need to practice and eventually their confidence in that area will grow.
6. Confident people are arrogant
Confidence and arrogance are two different things. Somebody who is arrogant and feels the need to show off all the time and/or belittle other people is, in reality, very insecure.
This is because they need to compare themselves to others and be admired to feel validated.
A confident person does not need any external validation to feel at ease in their own skin.
The Confidence Chain Effect
There are certain elements that contribute to our feelings of self-confidence or lack of it.
First of all, we become aware of our level of self-confidence by an event that triggers a chain of reactions in us.
According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, what triggers how we react though is not the event itself but how we interpret it. This will depend on our level of self-esteem.
Let’s say, for example, that my boss has criticized something in a report I have written, such as some concepts that s/he thinks are not explained clearly enough.
Let’s see what happens first if my self-confidence is low.
I will experience a series of reactions that are all interconnected with each other and that influence each other.
Let’s take a look at the points on the slide above by looking at each aspect of the confidence chain.
This is a chain of events that occurs and it is quite a good way of expressing how a lack of confidence can manifest itself.
If you lack confidence, you might think something along the lines of ‘I am a failure; I never do anything right’.
And this might be the case even though my boss has only criticized one aspect of the report I produced.
S/he might be happy with everything else, but I only focus on the criticism.
As a result, I may feel sad, embarrassed or anxious.
In addition, physically, I may feel tense, have a faster heartbeat and assume a defensive position with my arms crossed or hunch over as my body is feeling the weight of the disappointment.
Finally, my behavior will reflect my internal turmoil and I might react badly to criticism; I may become defensive, aggressive or overly apologetic.
All these things that go on within me and that are expressed by my behavior and physical reaction will have a result.
In this case, I cannot imagine that the result will be positive. I might retreat in shame and lose all confidence to apply for promotions in the future, for example.
Or, if I am aggressive towards my boss because of their criticism, s/he will think that I am not a good person to work with.
The Result Triggered
This result will trigger other events in the future, that are unlikely to help my confidence. For example, I will become unhappy with my job or my boss will not consider me for future promotions.
And so, the vicious circle goes on.
Improving Self-Confidence – A Positive Version of the Confidence Chain
The good news is that we can break this circle just by the way we interpret an event and by how we think and react.
So, for example, if my boss criticizes one aspect of my report, if I am confident, I will think ‘That’s a fair point.
A least s/he liked everything else, but I know I need to improve the way I explain that concept.
What can I do to improve?’ (Maybe I need to do more research to understand that concept better myself, or I should have asked somebody to proofread the report to make sure that everything was clear, or I should have asked my boss for more time to write).
As I think these thoughts, in terms of emotions I will feel calm, relaxed, maybe even excited thinking about how I can do better next time and embrace the challenge.
My body will be in a calm state and I will keep a confident open posture.
Finally, my behavior will be constructive and assertive. I will ask my boss calmly for more feedback on exactly how I could explain the concept better or I will ask for the resources I need to be able to do a better job the next time.
As a result, my boss will think that I am a person who is good to work with, who accepts feedback and is willing to improve and accept a challenge. This will have a good impact on my future career too.
As these four areas of reaction (thoughts, emotions, body and behavior) are so interconnected, the next time you do not feel confident you can focus on any of these areas and figure out what is wrong.
So, for example, you may not always be aware of your negative thoughts as they may be so entrenched that they have become automatic and unconscious.
Instead, you may be aware of your body and feel as though there is a brick on your stomach every time you receive criticism. You may not be aware of your negative thoughts, but your body is telling you that something is wrong, so you can start wondering why and uncover your negative thoughts and then change them.
Or you may notice that your behavior becomes aggressive or that you feel sad and you start wondering why you are so sensitive to criticism.
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
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