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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.
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