It has been scientifically proven that confidence plays a significant role in one’s success and happiness. Yet, none of us are born with confidence.

At times, defining “confidence” can be difficult because it is a trait that often feels abstract and hard to describe. Even though you know when you have it and when you don’t; it’s a feeling you either recognize the presence or absence of. Likewise, you know it when you see it in others; it tends to show up as a behavior or attitude you notice and admire.

When describing it, maybe you use words like assertive, self-possessed, secure, composed, focused, decisive or driven. Or, perhaps you use other words entirely. To get us on the same page, I’m going to turn to the Psychology Dictionary, which defines it this way, “…confidence is defined as an individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments.”

It’s a Relationship (Always)

Why talk about confidence in this series? Because…

…there is a relationship between confidence and finishing what you’ve started.

Thus, each time you don’t finish a project, meet a goal or keep your commitment to take a certain action, make a decision, or have that critical conversation that matters to you, your confidence takes a hit.

And a lack of confidence can often lead to doing more of the things that prevent you from finishing; things like more waiting (for information, inspiration, time), more thinking (about what to do next) and/or more planning (considering how to implement what you’ve been thinking).

Thus begins an unfortunate downward spiral for which the anecdote is the thing you’re actually avoiding: taking action!

“Confidence comes after you start-not before.”

David Cain

Life can be so ironic at times, eh?!

But when you think about it, some of the same things you need to finish what you’ve started can also uncover some of your deepest fears. Things like: uncertainty, setbacks and stress.

When you’re feeling confident, you tend to embrace uncertainty.

When you’re feeling confident, you tend to become creative and resourceful in figuring out how to rebound from setbacks.

When you’re feeling confident, you figure out how to manage stress. Because let’s face it: working on achieving or having anything that matters to you involves a bit of stress.

But when you’re not feeling confident, uncertainty becomes a point of unhealthy questioning; the setbacks become impenetrable roadblocks; and your stress becomes overwhelming.

And low to no confidence often equals low motivation, which often adds up to a lack of progress.

The Way Forward

Here’s what I find so fascinating about the projects, goals, decisions, actions and conversations that matter to you and me, and that are worth finishing: Yes, they usually tap into our deepest fears. But they also tap into and expand on our abilities, capacities and judgments. Precisely the attributes the Psychology Dictionary calls out as the bedrock of our confidence and our self-trust. 

So where exactly does this confidence and self-trust come from if they are not innate?

History and action!

If you’re reading this, it is pretty safe for me to assume you have some years and experiences under your belt. Therefore, your personal and professional history has already validated what I am about to say:

You can’t think your way to greater confidence.

Nope. Not. Nada.

Confidence grows by taking action – any action. Because interestingly, the action doesn’t even have to be directly related to your project, goal, etc. that has you questioning your confidence.

But first…

Deal with the chipper

You have to identify the reason your confidence is not as high as it has been or could be. So, what’s chipping away at your confidence? Is it:

  • Self-doubt? Or anything similar like your inner critic or overall feelings of insufficiency? Are you having a hard time saying and believing, “I am more than enough!” or “I have what it takes to handle this!”
  • Other people’s reaction and feedback to your effort, ability and results thus far? (We talked about this last week.)
  • Grappling with past mistakes and failures and the fear of repeating the same?

Get a booster shot

You are not a robot, so it is unrealistic to think your confidence will be high all the time! No one can lay claim to that if they are being honest.

The key is to know the “what” and “why” behind when your confidence is high, as well as when it is low. Then, you can more effectively work on boosting it when that is required.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Visualize yourself after the project is complete or the goal has been met or you are on the other side of the action, decision or conversation that has been stalled. What will you feel like? Imagine your future you pulling you forward toward it. Woo-woo perhaps, but it works!
  • Identify one action you can take or decision you can make to move the needle forward. It doesn’t even have to be directly tied to your project, goal, etc. It simply needs to help you feel good, so that you can shift your attitude and energy toward what’s incomplete.
  • Help someone else. By doing so, you are reminded of your strengths, the contributions you make, and the impact you have.
  • Stop comparing your journey to someone else’s. Because there are so many details about which you are unaware.
  • Ease up on yourself. Maybe you are applying too much negative self-judgment to your situation, your progress and your results to date. Remembering the obstacles you’ve overcome is a great way to practice self-compassion.
  • Practice (even more) gratitude. When your confidence and motivation are low, it is easy to travel down the rabbit hole of what you don’t have, what isn’t working, who isn’t helping – and the like. However, there is always, always, always something you can find to give thanks for.  

All these (and so much more) not only help you to finish. But, they boost your confidence in the process.

And here’s the other thing:

Confidence grows when you complete hard things.

And it is usually those hard things that tap into your deepest fears and call on the need for you to have greater confidence. I think this is just as true on an individual and family level as it is for our society overall.

That’s why I believe the world needs you to finish the things that matter to you. Otherwise known as the hard things – whether that’s “hard” emotionally, physically, intellectually or financially.

The world needs more people who will own their abilities.

It needs more people who will embrace and welcome those opportunities that will stretch their capacities and vision of what’s possible.

It needs more people who won’t let setbacks and failures diminish their faith in their judgment, because they know their confidence is not based on perfection.

In my humble opinion, the world needs more confident people* because they give themselves permission to think bigger. Thinking bigger can lead to innovation. Innovation can lead to creative solutions. Creative solutions can lead to answers to some of today’s most complex and multi-dimensional problems and challenges. (*Let’s not confuse confidence with arrogance.)

When you finish what you start, you don’t just boost your confidence. Nor do you just help yourself. Your finishing and the success and happiness that come with serve as inspiration for others.

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