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Five ways leaders can overcome a lack of confidence

By Kerry Irwin

Ever feel that if you were just that little bit more confident, you could achieve more, attract more and do more in life? Ever wonder what the secret to feeling confident is?

We’ve all asked that question at one time or another. However, what sets consistently confident people apart is that often they feel their dreams are within reach. And that can start a chain of positivity. Indeed, many successful people credit their sense of self and their confidence to their accomplishments.

It sounds simple but building confidence requires a combination of components. It is all about making choices and working towards goals that nurture your passion. In turn, feeding your passion makes you feel happy and proud of who you are. And confidence and a positive view of yourself is essential to good leadership. After all, you can’t support others to become their best unless you too believe that you are at your peak. So, a healthy level of self-confidence is vital to sound management and leadership practice.

What causes a lack of confidence?

On the flip side, many professionals also experience low levels of self-confidence. This lack of confidence can also lead to a phenomenon called Imposter Syndrome.

Have you ever felt like a fraud at work? You’re not alone. Research suggests that more than 70% of people (women and men) experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career. The phenomenon is an individual’s experience of feeling chronically inadequate and the struggle to conceal this fact from others, creating inner turmoil.

The syndrome plays out despite the consistent evidence of external validation. This can be fostered by the lack of internal acknowledgement of accomplishments by the individual.

The term impostor phenomenon was introduced in 1978 in the article “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women” produced from a study by Dr Pauline R. Clance and Dr Suzanne A. Imest

Those surveyed said that people with imposter syndrome explained that “their success was a result of luck and others simply overestimating their intelligence and abilities.” Clance and Imes believed that this mental framework for impostor phenomenon developed from factors such as early family dynamics, culture, and attribution style. The researchers determined that the women who experienced impostor phenomenon showcased symptoms related to depression, generalized anxiety, and low self-confidence.

How to build your self-confidence

Fortunately, there are several things professionals can do to boost their confidence and overcome imposter syndrome.

Here are five ways to build your self-confidence:

  • Set achievable and fulfilling goals: Set some small goals that you can tick off quickly, for example, learning a new process or a large goal say completing a business course.
  • Seek out support: Remember that it’s ok to show vulnerability and be open when you need information. Don’t hide it if you make a mistake, admit it. Seek assistance by getting a coach or mentor to support you in your career or pursuits. It’s important to remember always that your inner doubting voice is not on show! Accept and appreciate positive feedback from trusted advisors.
  • Focus on more than just work: Your goals mustn’t be just about your career. Spending time on hobbies and interests is also a great way to stretch yourself and feel a sense of accomplishment. Why not learn to paint, try out some Tai Chi, do that creative writing course you’ve always wanted. Do more of what makes you happy and follow your passions.
  • Look after yourself: Physical activity can also help with having a positive mindset. So, commit to a daily walk or play some a ping pong. Remember, exercise can build your confidence as it can contribute to your management of stress and sense of achievement.
  • Develop positive self-talk: You’re never going to overcome imposter syndrome if you have negative commentary running through your mind telling you that you’re no good. Think about the inner script running through your mind and how that might be affecting your self-confidence. Look at what you have already achieved and think of things that you are good to feed your thoughts with positive messages. Change that self-talk, be courageous and then treat yourself like you would your best friend and cheer yourself on to a stronger sense of self and greater confidence!

Kerry Irwin is an organisational development expert and leadership coach who creates and implements strategies that transform people, teams and organisations. She has delivered numerous programs for IML ANZ including the Intentional Leadership: Foundations program.


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