“Confidence is the purity of action produced by a mind free of doubt”
– The Confidence Code (Katty Kay and Claire Shipman)
A few weeks ago, I finished reading The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance- What Women Should Know. The book carries an important message: “confidence” – it turns out – “matters more than competence when it comes to achieve success and getting ahead”.
Even though the book itself has quite a strong career focus, there are definitely parallels with other aspects in our lives – travelling, hobbies, relationships, etc. The book is, in my opinion, a wake-up call for any near-perfectionist.
As a recovering near-perfectionist, I thought I’d go ahead and share my personal take on confidence – Follow along!
Don’t ruminate – rewire
I’m not good enough. How can I still not pronounce literature correctly? I’m never going to get promoted! I don’t have enough savings. I’m not in good shape. I’m never going to run a race. Or ski without making a fool of myself. I just can’t do it!
Does this sound familiar to you? It definitely does to me! I’m pretty good at overthinking and giving myself a hard time when I don’t get things right on the first, second or third try.
After my first attempt at skiing, I swore never to step on skis again. Instead of laughing it off and continue to practice, I focused my energy on all the times I fell on my bum and couldn’t, for the life of me, get up again without help. I listed all the excuses I could come up with to not go skiing again (it’s expensive, it’s far, I don’t have a car, my friends don’t ski, and I don’t speak french! – yeah, I’m not proud of that one).
Looking back, I can only laugh at my behaviour – what made me think that one (snowy) day on a swiss resort without an actual instructor would bring out my inner Suzy Chaffee? It took me another 1.5 years to decide to throw my ski-insecurities down a hill and learn on my own terms and pace (and oh am I grateful I did!).
Confidence Tip: Overthinking and overanalysing stops us from taking action, stepping out of our comfort zones. What I do now to restrain myself from worrying too much and holding on to past mistakes is to focus on what I did well. You can only imagine how ecstatic I felt when I actually managed to ski down through 2 blues and 1 red without falling over (who cares if it took me 4 x as long to reach the base!).
Strive for progress – not perfection
When I was younger, I would crumple a paper and start all over again if I had made one only mistake. My hand writing was (and still is!) extremely clean and neat. When I sketch, I start with a 5H pencil and will gradually move to softer ones when I’m confident that the lines are where there should actually be.
As a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough. While my teacher praised the quality of my work, I couldn’t avoid comparing my architectural sketches to all the architects and designers in the room, and feeling like a penny.
Talk about unreasonably high standards!
Perfectionism does not only increase our self-doubt but also leads to procrastination. We stop ourselves from doing something if we know that the result won’t be even near to perfect. When I first started preparing for the GMAT, the course recommended me to take a first CAT (test) to assess my level. Instead, I didn’t do one until I was halfway through the books because I was worried about not reaching a minimum score I thought was reasonable.
But here’s the thing though: not reaching my desired GMAT score on the first CAT shouldn’t be seen as failure, but instead, an opportunity for progress and improvement!
Confidence Tip: Just abandon perfectionism. Seriously. Holding on to unreachable standards is a recipe for disaster. Instead, break your end goal down into smaller manageable goals and don’t give up – Focus on progress, instead of the end goal!
Step outside your comfort zone
We need to take more action, more risks and be willing to face failure. By simply stepping outside our comfort zones and realising that the World doesn’t end if we get the first step wrong is one of the most encouraging feelings you can get!
When I started to consider a career change back in early 2012, I was a nerve wreck. I pondered all the things that could go wrong (what if I can’t find a job? what if I realise I made a mistake? what if this is the closest to my ideal job that I can ever get?) and held on to my fear of getting it wrong for months before I took the leap. And guess what: once I did, the World didn’t end. Instead, it turned to open many doors I wasn’t even aware existed.
So what is constantly stopping us from stepping outside our comfort zone? Self-doubt, overthinking, fear of rejection and fear of failure all cause us to freeze and avoid taking action. But being confident doesn’t mean that you believe you are naturally good at something, but that you can learn and improve through work and repetition.
Confidence Tip: Take more action. And if the action itself is too big and scary to cope with all at once, divide it into smaller manageable actions that trick your brain into feeling no risk at all.