By Hannah Winter, sport psychology consultant and Sandstone Communications Associate.
Do you view yourself as a confident person? Or do you lack confidence? Perhaps you find it fluctuates a lot. Being able to build and maintain confidence is an important skill. Confidence is a key psychological factor that can determine successful and unsuccessful performance whether that is in work, sport or general life.
Confidence is a belief
Confidence is dynamic – meaning it can fluctuate and is susceptible to change based on the situation you are in. Many people, therefore, feel they cannot control their confidence levels and accept that there will be peaks and troughs.
As a result, many people attribute confidence as a feeling. We hear people talking about this all the time ‘I don’t feel confident about the pitch next week’. However, confidence is not an emotion – it is not something we feel. Confidence is a belief which makes it a thought. It’s therefore important to stop trying to feel confident and instead start to think confidently.
There are several ways that people undermine their own confidence. Examples of this include:
- You focus more on when things have not gone perfectly than when things have gone well
- When describing the strengths of the team you are a part of, you don’t describe your own strengths in the description you give
- You consistently crave feedback from people on tasks you do
- You believe others have been successful in situations you could never be successful in
- You view success and failure as black and white rather than your % success achieved
- You worry that if you are confident people will think you are arrogant
So how can you build your self-confidence? One way is to look at self-efficacy. This is your belief in your ability to perform a required task successfully. Having higher levels of self-efficacy has been linked to greater effort, persistence and performance. There are six sources of self-efficacy 1)performance accomplishments, 2)vicarious experiences, 3) verbal persuasion, 4)imaginal experiences, 5) physiological states and 6) emotional states.
Taking each one in turn, here are some tips for how to build your confidence levels, or even the confidence in those in your team:
1. Performance accomplishments
Reflect on your own experience and performance at work. Note down the times that have gone well and write what about you meant that it went well. Build up a bank of previous successful performances and read them regularly.
To build confidence in your team, consider whether you are setting challenges and goals for people that are challenging yet realistic? Are you creating opportunities for people to succeed? Help the people in your team see where they are doing well. In areas that need improvement, help them understand how they can improve in these areas.
2. Vicarious experience
This is also known as modelling. No, not the catwalk kind. This is about modelling behaviour of others. Do you have someone you respect and look up to at work whose behaviour you can model? If not, can you watch Youtube videos of someone performing the task you want to be able to do? For example, if you have an important presentation coming up, you could watch TedTalks of people giving excellent talks to inspire you to do the same. Seeing people similar to ourselves succeed by their sustained effort raises our beliefs that we too possess the capabilities to master the activities needed for success in that area.
3. Verbal persuasion
It can be hard to ask people to give you positive feedback. Unfortunately, in a working environment, it is common to hear nothing when everything is going well and to suddenly get a lot of feedback when performance is dipping. However, pay attention to the positives people say about your work. Note them down and build up a bank of positive feedback. You could create an email folder to file any emails in which you receive praise. Consider asking managers ‘what do you feel I did well in that situation?’.
If you are a manager, look for opportunities to give your team positive and constructive feedback. Praise the effort of individuals and help them understand the importance of learning and hard work.
4. Imaginal experiences
If you are lacking confidence about an upcoming task such as a new business pitch, job interview or talk, imagine yourself doing the task successfully. View yourself in the first person and think about what you see, what you are saying, how you feel, what the environment is like and what people are saying back to you. Repeat this regularly.
5. Physiological states
When people feel nervous, we can experience an increase in heart rate, sweating, clammy hands, dry mouth and negative thoughts. it’s important to try and control those arousal states. It is normal to feel nervous ahead of something important. However, reframe your thought of ‘I am nervous’ to ‘I am excited’ and repeat this to yourself. Try and view your physiological arousal as facilitative to your performance at work.
6. Emotional states
The final source is emotional states. Experiencing positive emotions at work such as happiness, excitement and joy can help build confidence. Consider whether your environment at work is positive. Do you enjoy your job and working with your colleagues? Do you feel supported by your managers? If not talk to your boss or line-manager about how the working environment could be changed to help you have a more positive experience. If you are a manager, consider how you can create a positive working environment for people.
These strategies are all examples of how you can build your self-efficacy in your ability at work. By taking ownership and devising strategies to build your confidence, you can stop trying to feel confident and start thinking confidently. Having higher levels of confidence can help you cope with and enjoy performing under pressure at work enabling you to work harder and be more persistent in challenging tasks.