It should be no surprise that confident leaders are more successful. But being a leader is fraught with constant new challenges that give you every reason for doubting yourself and feeling less self-confident. What can you do to increase your self-confidence and make it less susceptible to these day-to-day fluctuations?
In coaching executives lately I’ve been offering what I thought was a pretty good deal: “How about we increase your self-confidence 30% in 30 days?” But in the last 30 days something really surprising has happened. Two executives increased their self-confidence by 100% in less than a week! Very interesting, wouldn’t you say?
How have they done this? Specifically, what have they changed to get this kind of extraordinary result?
First, let’s define self-confidence. It isn’t generally “feeling good,” although it certainly leads to feeling better overall over time, Circumstances can change rapidly and affect how you feel from moment to moment. One moment you’re excited about landing that new, huge client and you feel great! The next moment they choose another provider and you feel lousy.
If your self-confidence has a firm foundation, it may get a little dinged but it typically won’t change dramatically. When you’re self-confident, you feel happy with yourself and reasonably sure that you can handle whatever life brings you.
There are four main sources of self-confidence:
- Self-nurturing. This is liking yourself and taking good care of yourself moment-to-moment, just like a good parent would. You’re original baseline for self-nurturing and self-confidence is set by what your parents teach you as you’re growing up, but as you become an adult you can change these any time you’re ready (it often helps to get some help with this). Example: “I tried the new plan and failed, even though I did an exceedingly thorough analysis beforehand. Innovation is essential to my success, and not every idea is going to be a home run. Congratulations on having the courage to do what needs to be done! Now, how am I going to learn from this and hit that home run I was shooting for the first time?”
- Setting realistic goals. While really a subset of number 1, this deserves special attention. This is setting realistic (as opposed to superhuman) goals that you can achieve and feel good about. Of course, then you give yourself a big pat on the back! In combination with number 1, this keeps you excited and motivated to tackle even bigger goals. Example: “Instead of 10 strategic priorities, I’ll shoot for 3-5.”
- Skill mastery. This is mastering a new skill that will help you achieve your goals. Then you feel more confident the next time you’re in that specific situation, but over time you also feel more confident in general about your ability to master new skills to be more successful in achieving your goals, on and on. Example: “Wow! What a difference my new, improved sales skills have made! I’m excited to beef up my operational skills so I can handle all this new business better!”
- Praise from others. Doesn’t it feel great to get acknowledgement from others about who you are and what you’ve done? It certainly can make you feel more confident to take on even greater challenges in the future. Example: “I didn’t fully appreciate how much what I did meant to my team members. This award inspires me to reach even higher in the coming year!”
It turns out that self-nurturing accounts for the vast majority of your self-confidence. The two executives I was coaching changed absolutely nothing except how they thought about themselves and what they expected from themselves. They didn’t set or achieve any new goals, master any new skills, or garner any praise from others; but you can bet your bottom dollar that these things are a lot more likely now.
Goal achievement and recognition from others come and go, but your relationship with yourself can remain relatively constant. If you can like yourself as you are, not expect yourself to be be “perfect” or “superhuman,” and forgive yourself when you make mistakes, then you can be happy and self-confident your entire life–regardless of how much you achieve.
What might really surprise you is that you’re likely to achieve a lot more in the long run…
- Learn how to like yourself and take good care of yourself for a lifetime of happiness, self-confidence, and achievement (including setting realistic goals). Get some help with this is you need it. What skill is more important?
- Master new skills regularly. It’s a ton of fun, and your self-confidence and achievements will increase.
- Relish praise from others when it comes, but don’t count on it for your self-confidence. The crowd can be fickle sometimes, and its approval can change.with the shifting wind.