Self Confidence Part 5 – Finding Your Core

Can someone who talks to people for a living and writes about self confidence on the side get the jitters in a new situation?
And I absolutely know I’m not the only one.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit on a discussion panel at a local event which was part of a Customer Experience Professionals Association day.  There were online events plus ones in different cities after work.  As part of the panel, I was the only person in a sales role plus this was my first experience in this format.  There was a director in charge of innovation at a high end hotel chain, a vice president of customer experience at a major media company, a couple people who had their own consulting companies, and a former analyst who does product management.  In the face of all these people who directly impact the topics we were discussing, my own background seemed a little less significant.  I was actually a little concerned with how what I was going to say would be received and if I’d fit in.  As I got ready to talk I realized that I had experience nobody else did.  They knew their companies and industries very well, but I get to meet with people across many businesses who do a wide variety of jobs.  My ability to bring those together and discuss broader trends was something I brought which the others didn’t have from the same perspective.  That fueled my confidence and I had a great time interacting with everyone in the room.

People talking before the discussion panel. Many of them.
I tell this story because it’s where well-founded confidence comes from.  I don’t think it’s possible to feel truly self confident without the awareness that you’re special in some way.  Finding that specialness or competence and feeling good about it is the hard part.  You don’t need to be a batting champion, an orator, or a Mensa member.  You just have to know that you’ve got skills, abilities, or knowledge which will get you through what you’re about to undertake.  There aren’t too many people who are going to feel that they can legitimately succeed at every single thing they do.  It’s just not realistic.  When you do something for the first time, the confidence isn’t going to be there.  There’s a journey involved.

Building up the skills you need to be confident doesn’t happen overnight.  There’s usually some give and take where we’re insecure, muddle through, then come back again having adapted and doing better.  Each time there’s more surety that the task is possible.  Often times there’s some fear to overcome in the process.  That fear eats at us and whittles away the armor of confidence we’ve built up.  That’s the time when there’s a real battle which does a number on our stomachs and hold us back.  One thing which helps is really evaluating what the consequences of failure are.  Often if you look objectively, it’s not as bad as you think.

Almost all the time when there’s not actual physical peril involved, people have issues talking to a person or people and are concerned about their own sense of worth.  That’s because there are concerns about being judged unworthy.  There are a couple ways to get past this which are really one in the same.  The first is to practice what you’re doing in a safe environment.  Role play with people you trust and ask for feedback.  The consequences are removed and you can learn some really useful things you’d never get to on your own.  This removes that fear of judgement because you trust the friends or colleagues who are helping you out.  Then you find out what you can really do.  What this really does is get you to judge yourself.  If you’re the one who’s giving your own sense of self worth then the threat of someone else doing it just isn’t there.

That’s the secret and that’s where personal awesomeness comes from.  It’s a liberating feeling to know that you can give yourself your own value.  That can smash any barrier you’ve got. Once you’ve got that, you can take criticism and even outright failure as opportunities to learn and improve.  And if you know deep down that you’re good enough to get better with work then you’re liberated from the fear of falling short.  It helps you perform in the moment and lets your true skills shine through.

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