Self-Confidence and Your Future By Pepper de Callier Self-confidence is an interesting topic to discuss, because it’s so hard to define it terms that can be easily understood and applied to our everyday lives. There is no question that in order to succeed in your career you will have to have a certain amount of self confidence, but how do you get it if you don’t have it? First of all, let me define it. Self-confidence is freedom from doubt which comes from a belief in and a comfort in your abilities, especially as they deal with a certain thing you are about to undertake. For example, you’re about to give a speech and as you think about getting up in front of the group to which you are speaking, you feel a little anxious about your talk, which is natural—we all do before a speech, but you feel confident about what you’re about to do. You have no doubt about your ability. Think for a moment what things are you are asked to do in your job, which are expected of you, which create the most anxiety—speaking in front of a group, writing a report, analyzing key data, meeting people for the first time? As your career begins to develop and your exposure within your organization, as well as outside your organization, begins to expand you will definitely encounter areas in which you feel less confident than others. These are warning signs that you need to recognize, understand and use to your advantage. Not dealing with these warnings in a positive way will, in time, limit your growth and your career. One thing that will help our understanding of acquiring self-confidence is to discuss where it does not come from. The self confidence that propels careers and changes lives for the better does not come from characteristics like good looks, height, weight, hair color, national origin, advanced degrees, nice clothes, an intimidating personality, or money. Sure, you may feel like you’ve got an advantage if you have what you think is a desirable amount of these things, but they won’t sustain that feeling of self confidence when it’s show time and all eyes are on you to actually do something. There is only one way to attain healthy, sustainable self-confidence: by performing recurring acts of competence. Let me explain. It all begins with self-awareness, honesty and a desire to be better. In the beginning of any new venture—a new job, a promotion, moving into a new industry, etc.—there will be things you don’t know. To pretend you know something that you don’t know would be an act of incompetence. Many of us are apprehensive to say something like, “I’m not clear on your meaning. Could you expand a bit on that?” Or, “This particular element of the process is new to me. Could you please tell me more about this?” Asking those questions is a demonstration of competence in learning, and by doing so you display confidence and instill confidence in others that you are truthful and not afraid to ask questions, therefore you must be interested in learning and that must mean that you are also interested in becoming competent. Small acts of competence like these begin a chain reaction in you and about you. Here’s another example. Years ago I was very uncomfortable speaking in front of a group. I knew that in order to advance my career, however, I would have to overcome this aversion, so I decided to do something about it (this was an act of competence). I began to read articles and books about public speaking (another act of competence). When I went to meetings and seminars I focused on the speaker’s style and manner as much as their content in order to find a style and manner that seemed natural to me so I could emulate it (a recurring act of competence). Then, as I knew it would, the day came that my boss asked me if I would make some comments in an upcoming meeting on a certain topic. I agreed to do it (a recurring act). I wrote out what I was going to say in long hand and rehearsed it over and over alone and listened to a recording of my presentation. Then I gave my presentation to a friend to test my timing, inflections and gestures (these are recurring acts, too). When the time came to give my presentation, I was anxious, but these recurring acts of competence gave me the self-confidence that I needed and I actually enjoyed it. You don’t have to be smarter, better looking or well-dressed to succeed in building selfconfidence. All you need to do is create the chain reaction of recurring acts of competence.