Those who know me would consider me a fairly self-confident person. Most days I feel pretty self-confident. And then there are situations where I wish I had a bit of that Donald Trump “nothing can shake me” confidence. I find myself uncertain, uncomfortable, out of place, and my first impulse is to get away from the situation as fast as my wobbly legs can carry me — toward a bowl of my favorite peanut M&M’s.
The fact is that the most self-assured of us experience self-doubt. Just this week I interviewed Helene Gayle (CEO of CARE) and Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO of The Acumen Fund) for the book I am writing. They are smart, accomplished, self-confident, powerful women who spoke very humanly of the self-doubts they experience. Here’s the “Aha” moment I had after these interviews. Self-confidence is not the absence of self-doubt. Self-confidence is our willingness to be present despite our self-doubts. It’s our willingness to show up, to try anyway, and to keep going. Self-confidence is a leadership practice. The Donald Trump “nothing can shake me” self-confidence is just an illusion for most of us. So as a leader, how do we keep going toward our goals in the face of self-doubt? Here’s your personalized five-step self-confidence plan.
Step 1: Understand the Situations That Trigger Self-Doubt
What triggers self-doubt in me may be very different from what triggers self-doubt in you. Pay attention to situations where you feel self-doubt. Get to know the feeling of discomfort. Where do you feel it in your body? Do some journaling work and write them down. Here are some situations that trigger discomfort and self-doubt in me:
- When I don’t feel like I’m smart enough
- When I feel like I’m not accomplishing enough
- When I feel like I have to reveal parts of myself that are vulnerable
- When I have to try on swimsuits in front of those awful trial room mirrors (well, okay, it’s pretty much anytime I have to try on swimsuits)
Step 2: Write down the Assumptions Underlying the Trigger Situations
Underneath our self-doubt are some unconscious assumptions that trigger discomfort.
For example, when I don’t feel confident unless I’m feeling like I’m really smart, the underlying assumption is that I have to be smarter than everyone else in order to be worthy, to be accepted, to be liked, to be happy. Hmm…who decided that? Likely me, likely a long time ago, likely due to social conditioning.
Step 3: Write down the Unintended Impact on You and Others
Unconsciously we avoid situations that make us feel uncomfortable – so we keep ourselves in our comfort zones. All growth comes from outside our comfort zones. Our false assumptions create unintended consequences so take a note of these.
For example, when I avoid situations that make me feel not so smart, I prevent myself from learning. When I avoid people who I think may be smarter, I prevent myself from getting a better perspective and being more successful. The key is to understand how these false assumptions keep us from getting something that is important to us.
Step 4: Try A Different Approach
If our usual unconscious response to a self-doubt trigger is to avoid a situation, the more enlightened response would be to get ourselves to frame up a different assumption and a different response.
For example, a way to reframe my self-doubt trigger may be: “The smartest person is someone who can best surround themselves with people who are smarter than them and leverage their smarts”. (By the way, I’m still trying to come up with a good reframe for the swimsuit trigger, ideas welcome).
Then just try putting yourself in the situation where you would normally be triggered, with a new assumption in hand and notice what happens. The key to unlocking our potential is reframing the mindsets that stop us from achieving our goals. Only we have the power to do that.
Step 5: Celebrate Success & Learning
Give yourself a pat on the back for being willing to try something different and learn from it. Our leadership is like one giant science experiment. Those who have more tries at the experiment are more likely to figure out what works – and ultimately reach our goals.
I wish you well in your leadership experiment. Try it. Share with others below what you learned. You have the power to inspire others to action.
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Five Steps To Self-Confidence – Workshop for your organization.