Confidence on Tap – Part I
As a career consultant, I’ve coached many clients who’ve suffered from a debilitating lack of confidence, and my best advice – born from experience – is to take action.
Moving through my own career transition from opera singer to university director, and, additionally, to author, speaker and coach, has tested my confidence mettle, to say the least, over the years.
I went from high confidence – singing on stages all over the world – to days spent in career limbo where my confidence was in the proverbial basement and all I wanted to do was wallow in self-pity.
Taking action is what saved me, and it’s one of the best, most effective, antidotes for low self-confidence that I share with my clients. When I was at my lowest point, not knowing where I was headed next, taking consistent steps forward – no matter how small (or scary) – helped build my confidence little by little, and helped move me onto a new, more fulfilling career path.
The Confidence Code
In the book The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are also proponents of taking action to build confidence, and they have the research to back it up.
The book takes the reader on a fascinating journey examining confidence from all angles – from gender differences, to nature vs. nurture, to genetic connections – and illustrates, through interviews and research studies, what’s impeding our progress in this area and how we can improve.
Give It Your Best
One of the studies I found particularly interesting in The Confidence Code centered on women simply not trying.
In a laboratory setting, when men and women were given the same series of difficult puzzles to solve, the women didn’t even attempt to solve them if they weren’t completely confident in their abilities. The men, on the other hand, pushed forward to solve the puzzles despite not being sure of all the answers. In the end, when the women were finally asked to try solving the puzzles, they performed just as well as the men.
Kay and Shipman point out that choosing not to try, due to a lack of confidence in our abilities, is holding us back in our careers, and in life in general.
Exit the Comfort Zone
The foundation of The Confidence Code, according to Kay and Shipman, rests on the action principle – with their motto being, “When in doubt, act.”
The authors explain:
“Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. Risk keeps you on life’s edge. It keeps you growing, improving, and gaining confidence…Action separates the timid from the bold.”
If you’re looking to take more action in your life, here are five confidence-building steps that can help:
1. Do one thing that scares you everyday. Make a call, or send an email for an informational interview. Start small and build.
2. Join a professional organization. Toastmasters, Kiwanis, or the Chamber of Commerce are excellent places to develop confidence through speaking and leadership roles.
3. Network. Actively participate in area groups to widen your circle of contacts and support.
4. Volunteer. Getting out to help others is a good way to start the ‘action’ ball rolling.
5. Meditate. A walk in the park or sitting quietly can help connect you with the next best action steps to take.
Kay and Shipman point out that confidence accumulates by taking the steps, doing the work – succeeding and failing, and doing it all again. The Confidence Code makes it clear that action is the answer.