As human beings, one of our most deep-rooted fears is that we’re not good enough. We all recognise that nagging voice in our heads that compares ourselves to others, doubts our abilities, feels like we’re a fraud and tells us that one day we’ll be found out.
We women suffer particularly badly with this feeling of Imposter Syndrome. This has been the case for me, particularly early in my teaching career, when I was promoted quickly into a management role with very little experience. I would step into work with a nagging voice in my head which told me that somehow, one day, I would be found out.
The crazy thing is that we’re all born the same way, yet, as we go through life, we develop beliefs that can affect how we see ourselves. When I work with clients on limiting beliefs, these can be hard to shift. Somewhere along the line, we’ve developed a belief or idea about ourselves, and we then spend years finding evidence to support that belief.
But a belief is just words that you’ve repeated to yourself again and again. And guess what? You start to believe it.
I have carried around a belief for many years that I’m not intelligent. I grew up with two academically gifted younger brothers and developed a belief early on and have carried it around ever since. This has caused me to lack confidence in many ways, including being reluctant to speak up in meetings for fear of judgement.
But when I realised this was my belief, I recognised that this was based on false evidence. And since then, I’ve chosen to believe the opposite to be true and find evidence instead to support that belief.
This means I now have the confidence to contribute in challenging conversations and to share what I know. I no longer need to put myself down or beat myself up because that doesn’t help me and doesn’t help others.
What is confidence?
We tend to judge someone’s levels of confidence from external factors - their body language, the way they make eye contact, their smile...
Rightly or wrongly, people judge you on your perceived level of confidence and in the work place studies have suggested that confident people are more likely to gain promotion over less confident people because often people make judgements based on confidence and not always on competence.
How can I come across as more confident?
Here are three easy ways:
1) Fake it til you make it
This is not the whole answer but it’s a good first step. To grow our confidence, it helps to start acting as if we are confident, until, with practice it becomes habitual.
2) Find a confidence role model
Who can you think of who embodies confidence? How does that person behave, speak or act? What could you adopt from them to increase your confidence by one small step?
3) Look at your body language
Being slumped and looking down makes us feel negative. Whereas positive body language not only makes you appear more confident, it lowers your cortisol levels. When you choose confidence as your default, you are also choosing positivity. Have a go at challenging yourself to stand tall and hold your head high every time you walk into a room.
Similarly, our body language can be defensive when we lack confidence. Looking away or folding our arms across ourselves can be a sign of defence. Try keeping your body language open when you are chatting to a friend and notice what difference that makes.
How can I feel more confident on the inside?
Outer confidence is only part of the answer. You also need to build up your self esteem by working on what’s going on inside the mind in terms of mindset, self talk and limiting beliefs.
Here are three tips to get started:
1) Make time for yourself
Even if it’s just ten minutes a day. Try something simple like going for a walk or jog; having a bath or reading a book. Before you spend the day caring for others, let yourself know that you matter too!
2) Watch your language
Watch that negative self-talk: I’m stupid, I’m rubbish, etc. When you speak to yourself, stop and consider whether that’s the way you would speak to a friend. Watch out in particular for generalisations: always and never. I’m always running late. These phrases repeated over time become your identity.
3) Identify your beliefs and decide what you want instead
Take time to identify the negative beliefs you have developed about yourself and write them down. I’m not attractive. I’m not good enough.
Try to identify where those beliefs came from. Remember that they are just words that you’ve repeated again and again. Identify what beliefs you want instead and start to find evidence to support those new, empowering beliefs. You may want to seek help from family and friends here!
If you want to learn more, please see the resource section below that I share with my 1:1 clients.
What is one thing you will do differently as a result of reading this article? I’d love to know! Please connect with me. I’d love to know what in this article has resonated with you. You can find me on LinkedIn or drop me an email at email@example.com.
This article was written by our partner coach, Sarah Bramall. She is a qualified transformation coach and NLP Practitioner, Mental Health First Aider and DISC Personality Profiling Practitioner. She is a coach trainer for The Coaching Academy and Co-Founder of The Coaching Catalysts. Sarah works with women on career, confidence and well-being.