Lack of confidence is a big issue for many people, particularly in the scramble for jobs in the current economic climate. It stops people doing things they want to do. Mysteriously, confidence once gained is not a constant. It seems to ebb and flow for some people, bashed by experiences along the way. At best, confidence can be seen as a ‘golden triangle between the person, their capability and the moment’ (Martin Perry). This description mirrors Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of ‘peak experiences’ and ‘flow’. If you’ve ever witnessed someone at the top of their game – a musician, presenter, sportsperson, a dancer, a surgeon – you feel as if you are in a safe pair of hands (literally, in the case of the surgeon). They inspire confidence in you, the observer, which in turn, feeds the actor’s confidence further. There is a quiet confidence about them that doesn’t need any rowdy self-promotion. They are entirely focused in the moment, the now.
At the opposite pole is the person who is full of self-doubt. They carry an expectation of failure or rejection. The observer picks up on that doubt and feeds it back to the person, so increasing self-doubt and confirming their worst fears.
So how can you regain confidence once it’s been knocked and get back in the zone, the golden triangle? One of the exercises I use with clients is to set yourself some mini challenges, graded in perceived difficulty from 1 (‘pretty easy’) to 10 (‘don’t be ridiculous’). The idea is that each successfully negotiated step builds up a store of positive feedback: ‘I managed that ok, so maybe I can do the next thing’. And if things don’t quite go according to plan, ask yourself what you learnt from the attempt and can take forwards, rather than labelling the whole thing (and yourself) a disaster.
As a coach, there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing a client say, “I didn’t think I could do that.”