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Do you really need confidence? [Wise Wednesdays]

Do you think you need confidence before doing something important? Most people do. But the concept of ‘confidence’ can be so elusive that it’s become another way of accidentally fueling imposter syndrome: “I don’t have the confidence yet, so I can’t do it”! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a high achiever who feels stuck say: “I’ve been told I should be more confident. But I don’t know what to do.” So let’s break confidence down into actionable components, so that you can have some fun with it and get things done, rather than add to a sense of pressure and inadequacy because you think you’re lacking confidence. (By the way, I shared a few thoughts earlier this week on the subject which you can read on LinkedIn here and here.) First, let’s quickly cover some helpful neurobiology. To simplify, two important brain areas that influence confidence are: 1) the amygdala (which shapes your perception and response to threats i.e. fight-flight-freeze); 2) the basal ganglia which shape your stop/go response. Together they affect your ability to learn and engage with your environment. When you face novel situations or situations associated with past failure and pain, the systems are activated and influence your behaviour. So from a biological point of view, a lack of confidence is simply a glitch rooted in an ancient system designed to make you pause before engaging with something unknown or previously painful. The idea is that you minimise your risk of being killed! But this is very unlikely to happen in this day and age, especially if it’s just about making a bold proposal or applying for a role. Here are 3 components to ‘being confident’ which you can action immediately:

  1. (Physiological) Activation: ever seen a gorilla thump its chest, Tony Robbins punch the air or someone strike a power pose or play a motivating song? These are ways to kickstart your “go system” and get some adrenaline circulating. It will get you going but it won’t last. Use as needed to take action – any kind even if it’s unrelated to the thing you’re feeling insecure about.

  1. (Gradual) Exposure: here you take your first step, and then another – one foot in front of the other. You increase the intensity of the risk you’re taking while you regulate the anxiety and (imposter) thoughts that come up. It’s the same principle in treating a spider phobia but actually exposing yourself to ‘risk of failure’ in your career or relationships. Make sure you have your favourite self-regulation tools as you go on the journey.

  1. (Sustainable) Repetition: once you get going and have gone some distance, it’s a matter of not collapsing out of exhaustion, something went wrong or you got bored. The good news is that by this point you’ve had some positive experiences and your threat system has calmed down. This is time to celebrate your efforts!

Now you have the magic formula for confidence:

Confidence = Activation + Exposure + Repetition

You could say that my whole body of work is about inspiring people to be more confident and choose the career and life they truly want and to make the difference they want to see in the world. Through Transformational Coaching, you go on a full journey from a seed idea to breaking through to a whole new reality. But if you want bite-sized action, choose an option from the 3 above and have fun with it. Life is serious enough!

Have a great week, Amina p.s. As I explored the topic of confidence, I realised I had a lot more to share as it has many facets but it might be too much for Wise Wednesdays. Would you like to see a Primer or short guide to confidence in the Wise Wednesdays style? If so, just reply to this email with ‘confidence’ in the body. If enough people want it, I’ll put it together!