Even the most outgoing and self assured of us can, I’m sure, recall a time when they wished they were just a little more confident. Perhaps doing an important presentation at work, going to a family function or networking do, even your first time at a mum and baby class and perhaps like me you’ve even resorted to hiding in the toilet on the odd occasion and wishing it was all over!
One of my most embarrassing times came at an event like this….. I remember in one of my first jobs out of Uni I was sent to a conference and networking event to do with the rail industry. I was so nervous. I had not been in the job long so couldn’t talk much about the industry and I knew no-one there. I had finally convinced myself to leave my car, go inside and get a drink at the welcome meeting. I was stood in front of the refreshment table and I started to sweat. I didn’t drink tea or coffee and that seemed to be all there was. How was getting a drink suddenly the hardest part of all this? What was I going to do? So I made myself a coffee. I remember vividly thinking to myself, if I was going to drink coffee how would I take it? I settled on white with one sugar and moved away from the table as I took my first sip. I have no idea to this day how I didn’t spit it all over the room. With undrinkable coffee in hand I looked nervously around the room and was convinced I was the only person stood on my own not talking to anyone. I started to give myself a pep talk…. just join a conversation, just stand near a group and nod and smile, someone will surely feel sorry for you and welcome you in. After standing rooted to the spot for what felt like hours I did it, I walked up to the friendliest looking group of people there and stood right next to them and smiled. One lady smiled back and slowly she moved towards me and asked “ Are you here for the book binding course too?” “No” I said, “I’m here for the rail conference.” “Oh” she said, “well you’re welcome to stay and chat with us anyway if you’d like” and at that moment I put down my coffee and ran into the toilets where I stayed until the conference began.
I have definitely had times in my life when I have felt more confident than others but my biggest confidence journey has taken place over the last few years. 5 years ago I was in a job I enjoyed and a job I had done for a long time. I was always striving though for the next step and to get to a place where I knew I could start to make a difference, have some influence and be a part of changing things for the future. I was eventually given that opportunity. You would have thought that my boss having the belief in me to move up to that level would have given me a boost in confidence but in fact it only served to put pressure on me to succeed and be good enough. Pressure on top of what I was already putting on myself about how I should be. I started to think about how people wanted me to act or what they wanted me to say. I dreaded every phone call and meeting, people relying on me for answers that I suddenly didn’t have or looking to me to be some kind of leader that I didn’t know how to be. It took it’s toll and eventually I was sitting in my work car park crying before I went into work, crying on my way home and in between putting on a smile and a brave face and pretending that everything was ok.
I wanted so badly to be the woman that had it all; high flying career, making a difference to women in a male dominated industry, making changes for the future, great relationships, friends, husband, kids…. you name it I wanted it and at that moment all I saw was what a disappointment I was to everyone and how I was letting people down by not being good enough. My confidence was at it’s lowest point ever and in the end to save myself I had to leave my job.
So how did I go from hiding in toilets and lacking so much confidence I left my job to running my own business and speaking on stage in front of rooms full of people? And how can you boost your confidence in 3 steps?
The first step C – Connect with yourself. One of the main qualities of a confident person is their authenticity and an understanding of who they are and what they stand for. What are your values, who do you want to be?
The second step B – Belief in yourself. I realised a big reason I was holding myself back was I was listening to all the voices in my head, the negative self talk such as you’re not good enough, you’re not brave enough, who will want to listen to you, you’ll never make it as a woman in this role, how could someone like you achieve all of this? It takes some real tools and techniques to overcome this negative talk and change it for positive beliefs but this is the biggest step towards feeling more confident.
The third step A – take Action. Waiting to feel confident before you do something will have you waiting forever. Confidence doesn’t come from sitting there thinking about it, it comes after you have taken action. It comes from looking back and saying Wow I did it, look at me, I can do it!
These steps aren’t always easy and they take time and effort but they can also be life changing and mean you live life with so much more ease and happiness.
About the author
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