(First published May 2013 on www.theclubsv.org/news.)
Confidence comes from within. No one can give it to us. No one can take it away (unless we let them). But we have to find it, believe in it, nurture it, and draw upon it.
I recently read two very different books that provided different insights on confidence. Gift From The Sea was written in the fifties, and advocated for women to find strength in occasional solitude - basically, to develop confidence when alone that provides strength when challenged in our daily life. Lean In was written more recently and suggests that we fake it till we make it - to act as if we are confident even when we don't feel confident - among other good lessons. Both are important.
The unifying theme is that we need to build (whether real or a temporary facade that leads to reality), and then draw upon, our confidence. How do we do this? I propose, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, that we do it by letting go. Once we let go of others' expectations for us (or our own), what freedom we have to challenge ourselves, to see ourselves in a new light. Why don't we also let go of our perceptions of the experience required for roles we could take on? If we don't require ourselves to be perfectly qualified from the start, can't we be confident that we can do - or learn to do - the job? After all, we've made it this far. And can we let go of the result? Maybe we succeed, maybe we fail, but wasn't the effort the same? Do we have to define our success by the result (or others' perception of the result) or can we simply be confident that we did our best?
Ultimately, as managers and leaders we all feel better about choosing someone who appears confident they can do the job. It helps us sleep at night. So, what comfort do we give to those who might select us? Do they draw comfort from our confident presence? Or do they hold their breath and lose sleep, wondering if they made the right decision? We hold the power to give them comfort and, with that comfort, comes more confidence and more opportunity.
Our challenge: let go. Just, let go. And, see what happens. When we are not bound by our own (often unrealistic) expectations, can we build confidence in our abilities, intelligence, drive, intuition, judgment, decision-making, team-building and other skills? We are talented. No question. Let's embrace it, own it. Be confident. And let others draw comfort from choosing us to get the job done.