Background: confidence is an invisible skill, but a large part of success in any domain. I haven’t always been particularly confident myself and didn’t quite realise how important it was until I saw its fruits in my own life. Learning to be confident is one of the most useful things I have done since leaving university and one of the best things that has happened to me as a person – honestly!
About a year ago, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and realised this might not just be a personal issue. Her thesis is that the gender gap in the higher ranks of corporate America is partly down to women holding themselves back due to lack of confidence in their abilities. It seems it’s in everyone’s interests to have confidence.
So I decided to put together The Confidence ManifestoTM, about how I increased my confidence and how it improved my life. It’s the advice I would have benefited from a few years ago, and if it’s useful to you too, then If it’s not, there are better resources out there: Google will provide.
Step 3: Take Action
As described in my previous posts:
- Believe that you are worthy
- Believe that you are able
- Don’t prescreen yourself out of good opportunities
- Don’t limit yourself
- Don’t make excuses
- Don’t confuse confidence with fibbing or boasting
Find others who back you
Even if you back yourself to perfection, you will sometimes need others to back you too.
This is because we depend on others for opportunities (e.g. projects, job offers, promotions) and it helps if they not only see that you market yourself as capable, but if they also believe that you are – perhaps because they’ve seen you in action, or know you personally very well.
This is also because there will inevitably be times where you feel you have been put down. You start to wonder whether you really can do it after all. Your confidence starts to shrink. I would wager your performance dips too. At these times, one of the things you need is a pick-up.
Friends can be good for this sort of thing – but if you can find a mentor, that’s even better.
They might have a totally different perspective that changes everything for you (as happened to me – see Part 1). They might inject some realism based on their experiences. They might see potential in you that you couldn’t have seen in yourself. They might see opportunities that you don’t. They might be able to advocate for you in pursuit of those opportunities. They are all-round useful creatures that will make the ride a lot more bearable.
Take on visible opportunities
Basically, speak up for yourself. This is standard by now: lean in to the boardroom table, contribute if you have something valuable to say, make eye contact. What you are doing matters (and if it genuinely doesn’t, then leave), and deserves acknowledgement and recognition, if not appreciation or a bottle of champagne in the post and a red carpet between your desk and the CEO’s office. Being acknowledged is good for your morale and creates a virtuous circle. So, let yourself and your work and the initiatives you take be visible.
Don’t assume your peers are better than you
Simple, goes back to the self-worth point. Don’t let your intimidation back you into a quiet overlooked corner. Ask the advice of overachieving peers, emulate and stay visible.
Don’t assume your managers are better than you
Just because their judgement calls are on point, their pitches are engaging, and they know how to work a spreadsheet – doesn’t mean you’re doomed to trot along in their shadow. They were you once. Find out how they made it big and emulate (or even do it better!).
As I said, this is the advice to myself that I wish I had had years ago. If The Confidence Manifesto has helped you in any way, I’d love to hear how!
Of course, confidence isn’t the only requirement for success. You will eventually have to do something (prove yourself, execute on an opportunity). Again, there is tons of advice about this on the internet, but I wanted to mention Raghav Haran’s career/life advice writing, which I found recently and have been taking on board.