I have struggled with feeling confident for most of my adult life, even though on paper - I looked successful and accomplished in career, health, money and relationships. The key areas where I lack confidence are:
Believing in myself - that I can dream big and achieve my dreams
Be myself in social settings - that I am accepted as I am without worrying about how others see me
Putting myself out there - that I can be courageous in putting myself in the limelight as a speaker, facilitator, or leader, knowing I may fail and that I will be judged
To be honest, I’m still working on my confidence in all three areas. However, I have seen myself grow in these areas, and realize there is no magic bullet to self-confidence other than continuously putting myself out there to practice.
Create Safe Spaces to practice. Public speaking and storytelling are my biggest fears for a long time. I found a Toastmasters group with members and leaders who were super caring and supportive. The safe environment allowed me to practice my courage. Slowly but surely, I begin feeling more confident. 18 months after I first joined Toastmasters, I am giving presentations at corporate events and public open-mic events with 60+ people in the audience, and continue to work my way up to speaking in front of bigger groups.
Practice, Learn, Repeat. As an immigrant, I was shy in social settings. I didn’t know how to conduct small talk. I am clueless about American pop culture - don’t ask me anything about football. And more importantly, inside - I feel that I’m am not an interesting person. I am always afraid of potentially awkward moments when meeting people at a networking or social event. The bigger the group, the scarier it is. Then, I went to business school to get my MBA. At business school, I was thrown into networking situations with 100 people or more in a room about twice a week. At some point, the repetition enabled me to figure out how to engage with almost anyone. Interestingly, now that it’s been almost 10 years since business school, my confidence at networking/social settings has gone down because I have fallen out of practice. Practice is the only constant in building confidence.
Stay Curious to manage fear of failure. The biggest obstacle to practicing is fear of failure. Sometimes, the fear of failure is so big that I find myself resigning to saying “I am not a <fill in the blank> person” or “I am never going to be <fill in the blank>.” If I say it enough, I start to believe it is the truth rather than a story. I used to think I’m not artistic/creative because I can’t seem to draw anything but stick figures. And then, after taking 1–2 painting classes, I realize I can paint. And then, I also started pencil sketching. Who knew I can draw? The same applies to anything we want in life. We can get good at anything we set our minds to by EXPLORING - switch our focus from getting the outcome we want, to being curious and immersing ourselves in the experience until we master it. We lower our fears by letting go of the expectation of a successful outcome, and by staying consistently in the curious experimentation zone. Practice, fail, learn, feel good, start again, and don’t give up.