Have you ever wished that you felt more confident at work? Confidence for many people is elusive. You may happily speak with others on an individual basis yet addressing a small group of people can be a daunting challenge. You may confidently speak up at departmental meetings however you may feel anxious when having to liaise with scholars and others with an impressive list of credentials.
We often chase new titles, achievements and status in the hope that these would finally give us the confidence we crave for. Academia can be a particularly challenging place for young researchers. After years of rigorous academic study, some may be plagued by self-doubt as they navigate the competitive and often political landscape of their institution. Although promotions are wonderful, they can be testing to our confidence levels. If you have recently been promoted to a more senior post, you may feel that you do not deserve your success.
Confidence rarely comes from thinking. We become confident through practice and stretching ourselves. We boost our confidence by getting out of our comfort zone. Confidence does not come from sitting around, hoping or wishing. It comes from action.
Preparation brings confidence
Whether you have to make a difficult phone call, address an audience of hundreds of people or express your opinion at an office meeting, preparation will help you go a long way. Be generous about the time you give yourself for preparing. Structure your thoughts, write down keywords and carefully plan the small details. The more organised you are, the more you will feel in control.
The Pareto Principle
Initially developed by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist of the 19th century, the Pareto Principle suggests that approximately 20 per cent of activities contribute to 80 per cent of results. Focusing our efforts on the vital few (as opposed to the trivial many) often yields the majority of our results.
If you have ever called yourself a perfectionist (or have been called one), I have some news for you. Aiming for 100 per cent is exhausting. Aspiring for perfection will cause you to be anxious. And your self-confidence will no doubt fade in the process.
What if you aimed to get the vital 20% perfect, instead? If you apply perfectionism to the vital few, you feel more grounded and focused.
People often don’t know
Shaking hands, sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach and disturbed sleep…millions of people experience these before presenting. Many moons ago, I had a colleague, called Emma, who I thought was a terrific presenter. She exuded confidence and calm as she addressed her audience. She captivated everyone’s attention with her brilliant sense of humour.
Once Emma admitted how deeply nervous she felt every time she had to speak from the stage. She confessed to having trembling knees, self-doubt and an avalanche of fear of failure. Emma assumed that people could read her thoughts and they would straightaway pick up on her uneasiness. Emma did not realise that nobody else in the room was aware of her nerves. In fact, we all admired her fabulous presentations!
Whist you might think that everyone is aware of your presentation nerves, you could be wrong. Remind yourself that people see you differently from how you see yourself. It is quite likely that you appear far more confident than how you feel on the stage.
Kaizen is a Sino-Japanese word that describes improvement. It means continuous and never-ending improvement in any activity or life area. Think of your next presentation as practice. Take all the opportunities you can to chisel your skills and to do even better next time. If you need to speak up at a board meeting, think about this as another opportunity to practice confident public speaking.
If you have recently started in a more senior role, congratulations to you! Promotions can be fabulous. However, do remind yourself that starting a new job can impact your confidence levels. As you learn new things and inevitably make some small mistakes, you become emotionally vulnerable. Your confidence could fluctuate in the first few months. Treat each day as a practice to continuously improve your skills.
Strong self-confidence is visceral. You already have a natural source of genuine self-confidence inside you. Your task is to dig deep, tap into it, and reconnect with it.