Our days are full of complex and messy problems, and so it’s not surprising that we doubt ourselves and our ability to do the right thing. I have previously written about my own wrestles with imposter syndrome, and so I wanted to share some wisdom about confidence that I and my clients find helpful.
So often when I am coaching leaders, beneath the layers, what is holding them back is the confidence to trust themselves and their instincts. In this modern world, we have swung to treating logic as they only source of wisdom and hence discount our gut instincts. As a result our confidence is tested when we want to follow our gut, because there isn’t any evidence to support the idea.
The insight, that it is confidence that is holding someone back, can generate a source of shame, which is routed in a belief; “It is only me that lacks confidence, everyone else seems fine”. In truth, confidence is at the heart of many work struggles; after all the only people who never experience a lack of confidence are psychopaths. So who wants to admit that!
You are in control!
The thing with confidence is that we often believe it’s a binary thing that we have it or not, that it has to be given to us or we are born with it. Unfortunately this belief makes us a victim as it suggests we don’t have control over our confidence levels, or have any options about what we can do about it.
My experience is that confidence is a feeling, an inner state and so and so I invite clients, to practice accessing this confidence. By doing this they are able to feel in control, and hence able to access confidence when they want or need it (e.g. before a key presentation). Rather than pushing on or focusing on the words on the slides, I invite clients to prepare their inner state and access their confidence in the following way. Notice I am not suggesting telling yourself to be confident will do the job – that tends to be a negative vortex.
Do try this at home!
Start by taking a moment to pause, breathe deeply and tune into yourself. Access the feelings and sensations in your body. Notice where you breath is, maybe any tightness in your stomach, shoulders or jaw. Maybe you notice you are slumped forward or leaning back on your heels very slightly. Maybe you notice a chill in your feet or heat in your hands. In this way we are tuning into your embodied self awareness and this helps you switch down from the fast moving pace of 5th gear.
Secondly, access a resource state by centring yourself. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and begin by feeling the ground underneath your feet. Start taking deep breaths so that your rib cage expands and your belly moves in and out to accommodate all the oxygen you’re taking in. Check your knees are soft, bottom loose, shoulder blades relaxed and down, throat and jaw soft, eyes soft focus.
- Feel your Length, your dignity – lengthen along your spine, drawing yourself up, keeping your chin back and down. Take a deep breath.
- Feel your Width, your social self, how you show up to people in the world – fill yourself out to the edges of your skin at your widest parts and feel the space you deserve to take up. Take a deep breath.
- Feel your Depth, about past, present and future – the front of your body represents the present and out ahead represents the future; your back is your history, where all your experiences live in the body, where you literally have a backbone, know what you care about and what you’re passionate about. When you can feel it, settle on to it, without losing your length. Take a deep breath.
Finally we bring to mind a time and scenario when we have felt truly confident. By allowing our mind to replay the movie, we allow our body to be become connected to these experiences. By paying attention to where this feeling is in our body, and the sensations that come with it, we can recreate it for ourselves rather than assuming we have to wait for it to arise.
Once your tune into your sensations, see if you can exaggerate them, so dial up the inner state and feeling of confidence.
On paper I appreciate it might look like it takes ages, and you might be reading this thinking, “who has time for that?” But with practice I can do this in about 2 minutes for myself, and with clients it makes a fundamental difference to how they show up in key moments. Give it a try!