To other people you seem to be the very epitome of confidence. You’re a manager after all! But they can’t hear your inner voice. That’s just for you. You know the one I’m talking about. The voice that whispers to you when you’re all alone, “You’re a fraud”, “That achievement was a fluke”, “They’re going to find out you don’t know what you’re talking about”.
This inner voice is now impacting your confidence and subsequently, your performance. And you know that if you don’t stem the tide of this negative talk, that your confidence is only going to continue to nosedive.
Low confidence is, without a doubt, the number one issue to come up in coaching sessions with managers over the years. This post is a combination of the tactics these managers have found helped, along with what research tells us about confidence and self-esteem.
What is self-confidence?
There are broadly two different types of self-confidence. There is that which is personality-based and there is one which comes from our sense of achievement (commonly referred to as self-efficacy). Albert Bandura came up with concept of self-efficacy in the 1970s. He suggested there are four things that can drive our sense of achievement:
- Our past performance – according to Bandura this is the most important of the four;
- Vicarious experience – seeing others do something can help us think we can do it too;
- Verbal persuasion – someone telling us they believe in us; and
- Emotional cues – sweat, heart beating faster
This quote from Caroline Webb’s book, How to have a good day at work, sums it up nicely,
“…real confidence doesn’t have to be about talking loudly. It’s more about being the person we are when we’re at our best, rather than trying to copy what we think self-assurance looks like in someone else”
Here are my eight tips to help you get your confidence back on track:
#1 Fake it till you make it
Yes, I know this is a tired old, trite suggestion but listen up. Research from the University of Melbourne, in 2012, found that it might actually be sensible advice, with new research. Telling yourself that you’re doing a good job might, therefore, be powerful. Maybe don’t go down the Bruce Willis “You’re the man” route, in season six of Friends, eh?
#2 Practice mindfulness
Not a day goes by without some media story about the importance of mindfulness in our personal and professional lives. But what does research tell us? A 2010 study by Michael K Rasmussen and Aileen M Pidgeon found that mindfulness significantly predicted high levels of self-esteem and low levels of social anxiety. If you haven’t already, therefore, already incorporated some kind of mindfulness practice in to your daily routine then now could be a good time to start. Meditation is a common go-to and if this is new to you, then a guided meditation app can be helpful. Headspace and Calm are two of my favourites.
#3 Find a purpose bigger than yourself
Research by Dr Jennifer Crocker found people who base their own self-worth on what others think and not on their value as human beings might pay a price both physically and psychologically. The research suggests that those who focus less on appearance as a way to boost confidence, and instead focus on a goal outside of themselves have higher levels of self-worth and confidence. One way you can boost your self-worth and subsequently your confidence, is through volunteering.
#4 Take regular breaks from social media
A 2016 study by Penn State University suggests that those who spend a lot of time looking at other people’s on Facebook and other social media sites may have low self-esteem and feel less satisfied with their lives.
One tactic is to set your timer on your phone to a certain number of minutes. Whenever one of my clients picked up her smartphone to scroll through feeds, she’d set the timer for 10 minutes. The noise from the timer was enough to wake her from the mindless reverie and going further down the rabbit hole. Other alternatives, include putting an app which shuts your access off at certain points in the day or evening.
#5 Focus on your relationships
High-quality relationships can help boost our confidence, happiness and self-esteem. Research published in Psychology and Aging found that having frequent social interactions help us to feel good about ourselves, not just now but later on in life too.
So think twice before you decide to forgo meeting up with friends for a drink after work, to instead focus on clearing your emails. It could make a difference to both your confidence and your health.
#6 Join a group (or two)
Research from the Canadian Advanced Institute found that belonging to lots of different groups that are important to you boosts self-esteem much more than having friends alone. The researchers found that having a large network of friends did not predict self-esteem. However, they found that belonging to multiple groups did. The researchers suggest that groups provide benefits such as meaning, connection, support and a sense of control over our lives.
#7 Manage your stress and anxiety
According to a 2015 study in Psychoneuroendocrinology, there are two major factors that seem to impact confidence. One is stress and the second, is the person’s general anxiety. The researchers suggest that stress can raise or lower an individual’s confidence depending on their predisposition to anxiety.
#8 Think carefully about the feedback you give
If you manage someone you suspect of having low self-confidence then it’s important you think carefully about the type of feedback you give and how you give it. Research by Professor Brooke Gazdag and Rebecca L. Badawy suggests people who have a deep sense that their reputations are not justified by their achievements may suffer from impostor syndrome. In this instance, negative feedback can lead to a real drop in performance and subsequently self-esteem. This was particularly the case for men in the participant group.
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