Updated: Jun 29, 2021
How do you feel about the term ‘fake it til you make it’? Is it a cliché that makes you roll your eyes, do you believe in just closing your eyes & going for it in blind hope of success, or are you somewhere in between?
The truth is, we’re born pretty confident little people. Confidence is something you can build but that’s not the first thing we do with it.
Low levels of confidence are usually because of something that’s happened to knock how we were feeling, rather than because we never built it up in the first place - so it’s not a skill we naturally have, it’s one we need to learn.
Think back to when you were a child (or think about your own kids if you have them). The first time they reach out to grab something, they’re not worried about falling over doing so - but they learn, if it hurts, or if they get told off, that it’s not safe to try. They had the confidence in the first place but now, already, they’re questioning themselves.
And now apply that to your adult life, your work environment. How often did you speak up in a meeting to share an idea you had, to be ignored, told you were wrong (or even smirked at), before you stopped trying?
Many of my clients have a primary goal for our coaching sessions, that is to build their confidence specifically to empower them to speak up in meetings & believe in themselves. When we start, they’re barely forcing themselves to attend & they're definitely not contributing, which means their value is going unnoticed & so come promotion time, they struggle for evidence to put themselves forward.
Whether you know you have a lot to say that’s worth sharing, or you’re at the point where you don’t even believe in yourself anymore, I would love for you to let me know how these tips & tricks help you to start feeling more sure of yourself!
So when it comes to feigning confidence, especially at work - how does it work & how long can you keep it up for before it drains all of your willpower & emotional resilience, to start turning into reality?
The fact is that our thoughts shape our reality.
How you think about yourself influences your emotions, & you tend to behave in accordance with how you feel - so if you’re constantly thinking “nobody cares what I have to say, it’s pointless trying” or “my ideas won’t be accepted, they’re not good enough”...chances are you’re going to feel pretty low about yourself & the environment you’re in, which is going to cause you to keep your head down & keep quiet.
It might even hold you back from engaging with (or supporting) others’ ideas, because you feel resentful that they don’t do the same for you - but this only limits your opportunities for exposure or to get on board with the team.
In turn this isolates you even more, which compounds the feeling you had of not feeling good enough or accepted, makes you even more reserved, creating a heavy cycle that's hard to break.
Flip that, & you get the opposite effect. Reframing is a powerful & effective tool that helps us to see alternative perspectives & think in a more positive way - but for now we’re not talking about healing or mindset work, simply getting you through these damn meetings you’ve got coming up next!
If you can fake it for now, skip past the thoughts running through your mind, & decide to act a certain way regardless of what your inner mean girl is telling you, what could be the alternative outcome?
Speak up, give yourself the opportunity to be seen & heard, give your boss or team the opportunity to hear your ideas, knowing in yourself that you’ve done everything you can - without compromising on your values.
The reality is, the more you put yourself out there, the more likely people are to consider you for opportunities (maybe it’s for a new project or client, maybe a public speaking gig - it might be something truly terrifying but that you know will be great for you) that they wouldn’t have if they thought you were terrified, shy or uninterested.
Keep trying, because positive action breeds positive outcomes.
James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’ talks about a study of creative students where classes are split into 2 grading systems. One group are graded over the number of pieces they submit at the end of term, the other are graded only on one piece - so as unfair as that might seem (that one group have to produce loads of work but the other only have to work on one) - it’s interesting to note that the outcome was that the first group always had higher grades.
Group 1 just kept trying. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain by having a go & submitting something, & as a result they gained much more experience through sheer practice - leading to better quality work.
Group 2 had the pressure of the one submission they made having to be perfect, yet they had nothing else to practice on & only their own internal feedback to use for improvement as they worked on it.
(Group 1 all most likely had a few dud pieces, but they also had the best pieces overall.)
We can relate this to ideas shared in a meeting - the more you share, the more you learn. The more chances you have of actually hitting the jackpot (we can also compare this to playing the lottery - "you’ve gotta be in it to win it"!)
So, now you’ve got your first tip for feigning confidence: choose positive action over negative thoughts.
Let’s move on to building true confidence in the background.
Of course there’s a huge piece around mindset work that alters your fundamental belief systems, which makes all of that much easier & more natural so it becomes your new normal, but what helps exponentially is measuring your successes.
Our negative brain bias will always focus on the 1 fail over 9 wins - so tracking those wins is an incredibly powerful tool to put things in perspective, rationalise those automatic negative thoughts & move forwards with confidence.
Create yourself a brag file in your emails, a superstar list in your journal or notepad, or a jar of support with little post-it notes folder up inside (you can get really creative with these) & every time you try really hard, or do something well, get good feedback, or even receive a simple thank you - pop them in there to refer back to when your confidence is wearing thin or your energy is waning, to give you a boost & set you back on track.
Over time, the combination of your determined positive actions giving you more opportunities to be visible & actually succeed, plus the record you’ve been keeping of everything that has gone well for you, will start to alter your levels of self belief.
When you trust in your worth, everything becomes much easier.
If you’d like to work with me to support your implementation of these & other confidence building & performance enhancing tools, as well as the mindset work that goes along with it to make it easy to do, contact me today to find out more about how I can help you to move your career forwards into that next promotion, pay rise & a higher sense of fulfilment.