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CONFIDENCE SERIES #1 - Don't Aim for Confidence.

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

A common theme in my work with both private clients and organisations is the topic of confidence, managing the inner critic, or overcoming imposter feelings.

This series of articles is about lessons that are coming through from this work, including actual strategies that are proving effective for my clients.

Of course, developing our confidence is a complex, nuanced topic that rarely has a one-size-fits-all solution. What I'm hoping is that those stories and strategies will inspire new thoughts or experiments, or maybe make you curious about coaching.

And remember - your story and journey might be different.

Let's start with the basics: what does confidence mean to you?

When I have conversations about this with my clients, different images come up. The image of someone with unshakable self-regard. Decisive leadership. A person pursuing opportunities and jumping to "next levels" without a hint of doubt. Someone presenting to a large auditorium with ease.

But let's study these images more closely - are they actually realistic, or even desirable?

In my experience they're not - people with that kind of confidence are not great to be around.

Would you enjoy the company of a narcissist like Donald Trump? Would you want a leader who lacks humility, overestimates their abilities and is unwilling to learn?

You might have heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect - it's when we're not smart enough to appreciate our lack of ability. Not something I would recommend.

Let's consider the idea of being relaxed while presenting. I've worked with countless leaders and I'm yet to meet a person who feels truly at ease when they present to a large audience.

Especially if it's something they care about.

It's not about lack of skill and experience - it's about stakes being high, a desire to convey a message or to get others behind a vision. There is a lot of uncertainty about the outcome and that can make us feel anxious.

What I'm hoping you're taking from this is that confidence is not a simple, black-or-white story. It's dynamic, full of nuance and granularity of emotion. There is stress, worry, uncertainty but also excitement and deep care in the mix.

It can change moment by moment.

Ok, Marta, you might think, I'm with you. But what shall I am for instead?

I'd like to invite you to consider this alternative: the concept of a healthy sense of self.

At its core, it's about knowing our strengths and skills but also acknowledging what we are still learning.

First, start where are you already strong. Give yourself time and space to really connect to that.

Maybe you're great with your teams, show enthusiasm and deliver excellent client work? You might be great at turning difficult relationships around.

But please don't fall into the trap of taking your strengths for granted just because those things come easy to you.

Second, consider what specific skills might you want to learn. Do you know what that is?

Here is what some of my clients are learning:

  • being able to say no and keeping the relationship intact,

  • speaking up to offer an opinion to your senior leadership,

  • having difficult conversations,

  • effective delegation,

  • networking without feeling sleazy.

A thought to take away:

The fact that is both disappointing and liberating is that we might never feel like we've arrived.

The world is changing, you will take new roles, step up and your strengths and learnings will need to be reexamined.

Confidence is an unhelpful, elusive target to aim for.

And a truly wise person will make healthy doubt their welcome companion.

Which leads me to the next lesson which you can find here: "Lesson #2: Befriend, not Suppress".


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