Being confident is about believing in yourself regardless of the odds – and being persistent in the unknown. If you’re young in your career, or stepping into a new role, company or path, it’s critical that you project confidence – even when you don’t feel it.
Confidence does not equal perfection or egotism. Instead, it is a leadership muscle that inspires others to follow and empowers them to take action.
Building that muscle and flexing it requires four key ingredients:
- Conviction in the cause.
- Learning strength from your past.
- Building confidence to call upon.
- Practicing power.
Start Here: Being confident through conviction.
I’ve studied the rhetoric of social causes. Movements are built around those who project confidence, coupled with a singular message that’s repeatable, emotional and direct.
In watching the March for Our Lives, I learned from these young leaders that carrying conviction in one’s beliefs informs confidence, and that in and of itself becomes power. These young people, like those who’ve gone before in civil rights and social protest have had the deck of history stacked against them. Yet a belief in their cause, coupled with rhetorical excellence, have shaped the future in which we now dwell.
Whether it’s a new role, a new workplace, or a new type of project – to refresh, or set expectations for uncharted waters – enter it with belief in the cause and you will have greater confidence in taking the first step. Take stock and write down your core conviction, posting it somewhere you can see it daily. Go ahead – do it right now.
Two-week exercise: Learning strength from past success.
Do not focus on failures, missed opportunities, or things you’d change. Instead, spend time dwelling on things you’ve done well – from a match well played to a perfect instrumental solo, or even business deals closed and meeting agendas perfectly typed.
Find what gave you great joy and a feeling of power – and write them down daily for two weeks. Being mindful of where you are strong will set you up for growth on top of those skills where you already excel.
Two-week exercise: Building confidence now.
Like any muscle, confidence must be worked out, shaped, and refined and pursued even when you don’t think you’ll need it. Once you know where you excel, focus on building confidence.
There are a variety of methods. Positive self-talk. Doing power poses. Rehearsing in private before public speeches. My personal favorite is closing my eyes and saying, “You’ve got this!” before every major meeting. Just pick an approach and do it consistently, for the whole two weeks.
In my teenage years I was, well, a teenager, and the agonies of being a 13-year-old girl are not lost on at least half the population. My mother made me stand in front of the mirror to say, “I’m a strong and worthy person. I’m capable and courageous. And I’ve got this.” I don’t even need the whole mantra today to know that because she believed in me, I believed in myself.
Find a mantra or a method that works for you and gives confidence in times when you actually are at ease. The memory will not escape you in times when you feel less so.
Projecting confident when you can’t be it.
As you may have experienced, there will be times in every career when the future is uncertain. This is where your confidence is actually proven, not shaken, when put to the test.
I’m an Xennial who came of age in the crash of ’08-09. My company lost two major clients, dismissed half the staff, cut wages, and did everything they could to stay afloat. We didn’t know what would happen from week to week – if the client would continue to spend, on what types of projects, and if the agency would be able to support that work with limited staff. Meanwhile there were people losing homes, insurance, IRAs, and experiencing utter emotional loss.
My client at the time was in a robust industry, and our revenue there not only remained constant, but grew. I learned during that time-frame to just take the next step, one step at a time. I had the passion to take on much more – and could see a number of ways to improve operations, speed, and drive growth. But instead I focused on just one thing – bringing effective ideas from other marketers to each weekly client status. Then, the next thing – taking those ideas, and crafting an inspired solution exclusively for my client. And then the next thing – biannual reviews to share these ideas.
I didn’t do it perfectly – far from it. But I knew that we had to do something to survive, and was confident that if my team came together we could accomplish great things.
This is my journey, and all the ways – by intentional practice or trial by situation – that I’ve built confidence. I know you’re equipped to do this, too. After all, you’ve got this.