Can you think of a time when you felt you weren’t good enough? If you are like most people, your mind would be making a laundry list right now, of times you have compared your abilities to others, and decided you fall short! The effect of this thought process – we fail to realize how much we are capable of. And eventually this could turn into a rut. What’s the one thing that can help us break this? Confidence.
According to author and leadership consultant Angie Morgan, “Confidence isn’t a skill, it’s an emotion. You don’t have to build it. In fact, unpacking your confidence is a part of self-efficacy.” So how do we do it? Thankfully, science has come to our rescue, with two powerful yet simple practices.
Experience your success. If we don’t feel confident, it becomes challenging for us to celebrate something we do well, or even appreciate our strengths. We always look for the big wins, while the little ones go unnoticed. Or we attribute our success to something external to us – a colleague, good luck, smart technology, etc. This practice is called the imposter syndrome.
A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science found that 70% of people suffer from the imposter syndrome. It’s especially prevalent in people who constantly challenge themselves, because they’re always seeking more growth, hence remain out of their comfort zones.
Morgan says, “Identify and acknowledge what you’re doing well. This way, you’ll build a strong foundation and have ready points of reference to use when you feel challenged.”
Practice affirmations. We are often urged to think positively. Cheesy as it may be, it actually works. But not just thinking, researchers recommend talking positively to ourselves. Why? Because our primal brain is always tuned into danger, to protect. Positive self-talk over a sustained period of time helps re-wire it, and see opportunity. Speak positively about the exact thing you feel you aren’t good at, for example, “I am a powerful public speaker” or “I am proud of my experience.”
Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that self-affirmations calm jitters and boost confidence. In an experiment, half the participants were instructed to write about their most important negotiating skill, while the others wrote about their least important negotiating skill. When tested later, those who completed the self-affirmation performed significantly better in negotiating a higher salary.
You may feel that confidence induced through these practices isn’t real. However, Prof. Richard Petty, Ohio State University, says, “The brain has an area that reflects confidence. Once that area is triggered, it doesn’t matter exactly how it’s triggered.” Neuroscience actually finds it difficult to distinguish real confidence from confidence that comes from the above practice.
Why not try it out and tell us what you think?