Is fear of failure holding you back?
Do you charge ahead, willing to give anything a try and persisting in the face of setbacks, criticism and failure? Or do you hesitate, waiting until you feel you can put the pieces together so everything will be “just right,” ensuring that everything goes as planned and everyone is happy?
My grandfather’s motto for life is: “Just get in there and have a go.”
As I look back on decades of risky career moves and wonderful adventures around the globe, I thank him every day for giving me the confidence to show up for the things that have mattered most in my life.
In fact, I didn’t realize just how good his advice was until I recently recorded this podcast with Katty Kay, co-author of the best-selling book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know.
Thoughts into actions
“Confidence is what turns our thoughts into actions,” explained Katty. “With it you can take on the world; without it you remain stuck on the starting block of your own potential.”
It turns out confidence isn’t simply feeling good about yourself, saying you’re great—perfect just as you are—and believing you can do whatever you want. Nor does it require you to be a jerk who always has to speak first, ignores other people’s ideas, or demands to be given what you deserve. Rather, confidence is what allows you to stop mumbling, apologizing and hesitating, and instead start acting, risking and failing.
“Confidence matters more to our success than competence does,” said Katty. “If you choose not to act, you simply have less chance of success.”
Unfortunately, Katty’s research found that confidence appears to be a particular challenge for women across professions, income levels, and generations. And while our genetics, our schooling, our upbringing, our society and even the way we look are all factors that affect our confidence, it’s also a result of our own choices.
Choose to become more confident
As a result, Katty believes we can improve our levels of confidence through three simple steps:
1. Take action—Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. So step outside your comfort zone, and if the very idea feels overwhelming, focus on how your actions can benefit others to kick-start your confidence. Start with small challenges that allow you to grow, improve and gain confidence. If you fail, think about how you can do it differently next time, and try again. If you succeed, set yourself the next challenge and keep stretching yourself forward again and again.
2. Think Less—Note the stories you’re playing over and over, and ask: Is this the only explanation for what’s unfolding? Try to note as many plausible alternatives as possible, and invest your attention on the explanations that build rather than destroy your confidence. And if all else fails, try a little self-compassion and talk back to yourself, as you would to a friend who was full of self-doubt.
3. Be Authentic—Be confident in a way that feels genuine to you. You don’t always have to speak first; you can listen and incorporate what others say. You can speak calmly but carry a smart message—one that will be heard. Play to your distinctive strengths and values. Express your vulnerability. We’re at our most powerful when confidence emanates from our core.
To find out how confident you really are, take this free survey.
And remember my grandfather’s motto: “Just get in there and have a go.”
What would you be doing right now if you had a little more confidence?
Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and change activator. To learn more about Michelle visit www.michellemcquaid.com.