With it, you can take on the world, without it, you live stuck at the starting block of your potential.”  – Katty Kay & Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code

There are certain traits and behaviors that are essential to living a healthy and fulfilled life. For me, one of those must haves, is confidence.

Confidence is kind of a big deal. It’s like that little black dress that goes with everything. You can be intelligent, hardworking and you can be competent and all of these things are great, but when you lack confidence, all of these wonderful skills don’t amount to much.

Confidence is the meat in your sandwich, the berry in your jam. When you lack confidence, you have less opportunities, life seems scary, watered down, less fulfilling and without substance.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is a silent knowing. It’s a resolute belief in your value and your abilities. According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman; confidence is about taking risks, taking action, making decisions, leaving your comfort zone, embracing failure, being resilient, mastering skills and hard work.

Confidence is linked to doing. It’s the belief that we can succeed and make things happen.

“Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” – Dr. Richard Petty

When we look at our own lives, at the things we wish we could change or accomplish, but don’t, what is the reason behind what holds us back and why we haven’t taken action?  99% of the time, a lack of action is usually the result of believing that we won’t succeed, or that we can’t change the outcome. Consequently, a lack confidence inhibits our desire and ability to take action.

Signs That You Lack Confidence

In the Confidence Code Kay and Shipman decipher the reasons why women seem to get left behind in the profession sphere, earn less money and take fewer risks than men. I would argue that the same points could be made for all people regardless of gender, who lack self-esteem, or self-worth. The most salient points are:

You overthink things: Women especially need to analyze and reanalyze every detail and too often we talk ourselves out of taking action and even trying. If we could just quiet our thoughts and get out of our own heads, we would be leaps and bounds ahead.

You believe you have to be perfect: Study after study, shows that confident people will apply for that job, even though they don’t meet all of the qualifications. They’ll speak up in meetings, make a decision and take action, knowing full well they don’t have all of the answers. Those that believe that everything has to be done and figured out before they move, are still sitting on their hands waiting for everything to be perfect, while their confident colleagues are already doing.

You believe failure is something to be avoided:  Unconfident people often use failure as an excuse to stop trying. They tell themselves things like, “I can’t do this. I’m no good at this.” And they give themselves permission to give up. Conversely, confident people believe that the best successes can only be achieved through failure. They believe that failure provides the opportunity to learn, grow and try new things. Author and motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, constantly talks about how successful people are always able to see what’s working and what is not, and when something isn’t working they adjust their strategy and make changes until they get it right.

You’re not resilient: This is a big one and something I’ve found over and over again with women. We have a hard time letting things go. There are all kinds of jokes flying around about this, my favorite is, “If women ruled the world there would be no wars, instead we would have a whole bunch of countries not talking to each other.” And there’s a lot of truth in this premise. In the playground and on the sports field, young men learn to let failure, insults and negativity fall off their shoulders. They don’t pay attention to it and they certainly don’t internalize it and let it bother them.

You don’t take risks and you stay in your comfort zone. When we are faced with a new challenge and we overcome that challenge, something important happens inside of us. With each different and new victory, we gain confidence. We get comfortable being uncomfortable and we don’t let fear get in the way of tackling new things. When you stay in your comfort zone you shrug off opportunities and you don’t open yourself up for growth.

Gaining Confidence

The most wonderful thing about confidence is that it can be learned.  The authors caution against the, ‘fake it until you make it’ scenario, because they tell us that fake confidence is obvious and that each of us have too many tells.

In interviews with athletes, politicians, judges, CEO’s  and the highest ranking women in western culture, the authors illustrate that the prerequisites for confidence are varied, but certainly number one on the list is:

Being comfortable with who you are, not needing to hide, or force anything, being comfortable in your own skin, just being unapologetically yourself and being absolutely ok with that, freckles, warts, wrinkles and all.

“Confidence is more important than competence.”

While this may be true to an extent, confident women tell us that it takes hard work and plenty of it, to get to the place where you are confident in your abilities. Confidence is that extra leap that takes us where competence ends.

Get rid of those destructive inner thoughts. Stop them before they take you to a hurtful place. Stop internalizing criticism and let go of hurt feelings. Too often people think that they are way more important than they actually are and they internalize someone else’s motives to be personal, when they’re not. Being confident is about growing that thick skin we’ve all heard about.

“You will miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky 

You have to lose your fear of trying and put yourself out there. Embrace the challenge of tackling new obstacles, because with each victory, you create belief in yourself. It is here that confidence is made and failure is a big part of it.

“Oh I was just lucky.”

Start taking credit for your achievements and your victories. All too often we feel more comfortable being self-deprecating and blaming our success on anything rather than ourselves.  Learn how to develop a sense of your own well-deserved value, accept congratulations and just say, ‘thank you.’

Stop thinking so much and trying to be perfect – just do.

Why is Confidence so Important?

Because what you believe matters, your thoughts matter, how you feel  matters, the things you say to yourself matter and how you feel about your skills and abilities matter… it matters because it effects performance, it effects how much effort you’re willing to put into your goals and your effort will reflect the results you get in life.

Let me give you a simple example. I have two cousins, they are brothers and look very similar in appearance, but they are very different people. When we were teenagers, we were up at our families cottage and there was a dance one Saturday night and we decided to go. One of my cousins is massively insecure, he has no confidence and it shows in how he carries himself and how he speaks. He asked a girl if she would like to dance, she said no and he sat glued against the wall, brooding, for the rest of the night and didn’t ask anyone else to dance.

His brother, who is filled with confidence, asked a girl to dance, she said no. He asked another, she said no. So, he asked a third girl and she said yes. He danced up a storm all night and ended up dancing with pretty much every girl in there before the night was through, while his brother looked on.

My confident cousin didn’t internalize the rejection he got and he kept trying until he got the results he wanted. He didn’t overthink things – he just acted.

Too often we fail to act because we think that we aren’t capable of creating a better outcome, or we believe that we don’t deserve better. We tell ourselves that other people are smarter, prettier, or more capable and deserving than we are. In Kay and Shipman’s work, you will find that even the most powerful women in the world have doubts, fears and insecurities. All of them have faced immeasurable challenges that they had to overcome but, the difference between those that succeed and those that fail is inarguably their attitude towards themselves and their belief in what they can accomplish.

Kay and Shipman have a quiz to measure your level of confidence. To start the quiz copy and past this link.


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