I love feeling confident – the solid sense of strength and self-assuredness, the knowing that I got this. When I approach a task confidently, I’m not thinking about confidence. The feeling of confidence just is.
I can, for a very simple example, confidently tie my shoes. When I’m putting on shoes, I don’t need to think about how confident I am in my ability to tie them, I just do it and carry on with my day.
But when I’m not feeling confident? That’s a different story. The sense of strength and self-assuredness is gone, replaced by doubt and hesitation. I’m distracted with thoughts about how unprepared I am. I want to hide.
It’s so uncomfortable and it’s so familiar. Can you relate?
Confidence is a paradox: we want to feel confident before we do something that feels new and risky, but we only gain confidence by having done it. The confidence we want comes after the action, not before.
At its heart, confidence is really about knowing that we’ll be OK no matter what happens. And when we’re not feeling confident, that’s a sign that fear has kicked into action, causing us to fret about what-ifs.
After all, when I’m tying a shoe, I’m not concerned about the consequences of missing a loop. I know it’s not the end of the world. I just retie the shoe.
But fear doesn’t know the consequences of something we haven’t done before, and it’s trying to keep us safe, so it starts building resistance in the form of insecurity and reluctance. And this resistance can be quite effective, especially if we’re accustomed to backing away when it shows up.
So, what can you do to face the awkward, uncomfortable period of taking action before you feel confident enough to act?
1. Set, go, ready.
If you follow the traditional steps of “ready, set, go” you’ll never get past the first step. Acknowledge that you feel like you’re not ready and be willing to take action anyway.
Your knees may be knocking and your heart racing, and that’s OK. Let your next step be forward.
2. Embrace imperfection.
Let go of any ideas that there is only one way to do this, and it’s beyond your reach. A quest for perfection is just another form of resistance. If you’re holding out until you can do something perfectly, you’ll do nothing.
As G.K. Chesterton said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” Release yourself from an unattainable standard so you can start from exactly where you are.
3. Know your “why.”
What is the bigger picture? What is your goal? Your dream? Keep this in mind to motivate you when resistance tries to hold you back. What looks hard now will be worth it when you reach your target.
4. Practice small.
You don’t need to take on your biggest confidence challenges all at once, right away. Take small steps. This is so valuable because you experience completion. Find opportunities that stretch you a little bit outside your confidence comfort zone. You’ll reap the reward of positive feelings from their accomplishment which will help propel you through the next small action.
When you move through resistance-induced discomfort and take action, you gain the benefit of building confidence around that specific skill. But there’s a bonus: each time you take action, you’re also building confidence in your ability to build confidence.
The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become in your ability to step into something new. Watch out world – here you come!