I was 21 years old, a few months into my first ‘proper’ job after graduating from University, and this was what my boss said to me at the end of my three-month probation period….
“The thing that is holding you back Marie is your confidence, and the only person who can give you that is yourself”.
I remember thinking ‘Oh no, is it that obvious?’. But I didn’t really know how best to respond or even know what to do about that feedback. I certainly didn’t know how to give myself confidence or recognise the impact that not having confidence would have on my life.
From then I just ‘got on with it’, burying how I felt inside. Other than the occasional periods of blushing I thought I hid it pretty well.
A bit of history
For as long as I remember I lacked self-confidence. Growing up, I moved schools a few times (6 times in 18 years!) following my dad’s promotions at work. Whenever we moved house in an attempt to settle in quickly and be liked, I learned to demonstrate confidence externally – making eye contact, approaching and talking to other students.
Despite my external confidence, it didn’t stop me having ‘imposter’ syndrome i.e. always comparing myself to others and doubting myself. This got worse as I progressed through University and my career. On the inside I was very self-conscious, lacking confidence in myself and my own capabilities.
It wasn’t until I was 39 years old that things changed. I was made redundant after 18 years in the same company, and assigned a coach to help my transition back into the workplace. It was with the help of my careers coach that I finally found my inner confidence! The process didn’t happen overnight and she didn’t explicitly say to me that what she was doing, however, it did transform my confidence levels and me… for the better, and I am eternally grateful for that.
So, why does confidence matter?
Research has proven that people with high self-confidence and self-esteem are happier and more successful. Certainly in my case, I know that it was lack of confidence that contributed to me:
- Making the wrong decisions about relationships
- Staying in a career that I was unhappy with …for 18years!!
- Not realising that I was capable of achieving more
I also hid it from others, thinking that I was the only person who felt like that. This is what stopped me from seeking support. It felt quite lonely at times.
It wasn’t until many years later that I fully understood, accepted and valued myself – my strengths, preferences and values – and that I felt truly confident in myself.
So, with my real life experience and further research on the topic of confidence, I would like to share my top tips on how to increase your confidence to enable you to have the success and happiness that you deserve.
How to find your inner confidence
I agree that there is an element of ‘fake it until you make it’ when it comes to confidence, but based on my experience the danger to this approach is that it can lead to you to feeling quite empty inside. Therefore, my top tips for finding your inner confidence are:
1.Learn to understand and love yourself – Acknowledge and appreciate your key achievements in your life. Notice what qualities and skills you demonstrated at that time. We often put things down to fate, but these successes don’t happen by accident! You had a role to play that led to a successful outcome. Take time out to reflect on, and accept, all of your achievements and unique qualities.
2. Find and trust your inner compass – Our values are the things that are important to us. I believe that your values act like your inner compass when making decisions. Ask yourself the following questions, using examples from both your career and personal life;
When have I been happiest? What were you doing? Were you with other people? Who? What other factors contributed to your happiness?
When have I felt most proud?
When have I felt most fulfilled and satisfied?
Then determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfilment.
3. Take control – It is easy to be a victim and think that we are being ‘done to’, however there are many things we are in control of. We can control how we think (what we say to ourselves) and how we behave/act. Write a list of the things that you can take control of and action them NOW! This sense of empowerment and progress will then help boost your confidence.
4. Step out of your comfort zone – If we stay in our comfort zone we might feel safe, comfortable, calm however this can become the zone of stagnation and negatively impact our confidence. By doing things out of your comfort zone, you will build your list of achievements and this will increase your confidence. Seek support if required.
5. Ask for feedback – Ask people close to you for feedback about your qualities and strengths. Hear what they are saying. Accept these compliments with gratitude. This will help you on your journey of recognising and appreciating your own strengths and qualities and boost your levels of self-belief.
6. Manage your mindset – Neuroscience has proven that our thoughts drive our feelings which in turn drive our behaviour. Therefore, if we repeatedly say negative things to ourselves, and effectively beat ourselves up, this will knock our confidence. Start recognising what your inner dialogue is saying. Write it down. Consider ‘how is it helping me’? Then decide to change your inner voice. Talk to yourself like you would a friend. Be kind. Be gentle.
7. Focus on the right things – You might have heard of the expression ‘You get more of what you focus on’. Instead of dwelling on the bad, fill your mind and time up by setting yourself some positive, exciting goals. By focussing on your goals and dreams, and taking action, it will release positive endorphins helping you feel more positive about yourself. Click here for my latest article on goal setting.
8. Embrace your body image – It sounds cliche but it’s true that if we look good we feel good. It easy to focus on the things we don’t like about our body. Instead, take action to improve your body with exercise and nutrition or embrace what you have. Learning how to dress to suit your body shape will help you look your best and feel more confident about yourself. Click here for information on my Style & Sparkle Day to help.
9. Utilise your strengths – Once you understand your qualities establish which ones that make you feel strong and good about yourself i.e. you strengths (Tip #1), then find or create a job where you can use them as much as possible! For example, I am reasonably good at maths (I got a ‘B’ grade at A level) and quite analytical, however when I put these into play they don’t make me feel strong, instead, they make me feel weak. But when I am utilising my people skills I feel strong and confident.
10. Power pose!! – This is my favourite tip. Research in America has proven that if we practice more open body language this has the effect of increasing the level of testosterone and reducing the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies. Additionally, research has proven that more confident people also have higher testosterone and lower cortisol. So start power posing NOW and notice the effect on your confidence! To see Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this click here
Why I do what I do
Self-confidence does have a big impact on our success and happiness, and I don’t want anyone, especially teenage girls, to spend their life beating themselves up, comparing themselves to others and feeling like they are not good enough, like I did.
I would like every female to reach their full potential and be confident within themselves. This is why I retrained to be a coach, to give my clients the support, empowerment and accountability to find and keep their inner confidence.
If you would like to know more about my Confidence & Clarity coaching programmes for individuals, professionals or young people and to take advantage of a 45min Discovery session for only £60 (normal price £90) please SIGN UP below.