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by Pete Mosley

Published: May 2018



Every day we hear the word confidence bandied around in the news. Business confidence, consumer confidence, confidence in profit forecasts - the economic pulse-rate of the world seems to be set according to so many different ‘confidence factors’.

Yet very few of the makers I work with think about confidence in these terms. It’s all too abstract and frankly seems irrelevant to our everyday concerns.

I’ve been thinking about ‘day to day’ confidence a lot recently.

It's a mercurial quality at the best of times and one which ebbs and flows for everyone throughout their lives. It's not something that you get once and then have forever. You have it once, then it escapes you, and then it comes back seemingly in a different form.  We all need to find our own ‘brand’ of confidence and employ it in ways that are unique to ourselves.

It’s not an area of self-development that lends itself to easy mastery. On the one hand we might experience criticism from others, with our confidence bruised as a result – and on the other we find ourselves actively pulling the rug out from under our own feet.

And so it goes in our businesses – trying to keep our customers stimulated and engaged while we paddle like billy-o to stay confident, keep the business alive and keep the ideas flowing.

I know this isn’t easy. When I’m out on the road delivering talks and workshops to creative people I often note that it’s usually not the quality of work that holds people back – rather the quality of their courage and self-confidence.  So how do you build a clear foundation of confidence beneath all this?

Don’t struggle on your own.

Surround yourself with supportive people; find someone close to be accountable to. Ask them to keep an eye out for you whilst you climb your mountains, and keep nudging you now and again to keep on track. This best set up as a two way process with you doing the same for them in return. This accountability alone can often make the difference between survival and failure.

Don’t pull the rug out from under your own feet.

We all feel like a fraud sometimes. This fear of being found out is pretty universal. We mark our successes down to luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking we are more intelligent and competent than we believe ourselves to be. As such it can stop us in our tracks – we feel we are not worthy, so we don’t push ourselves forward on more prominent platforms. We fail to ‘stick our head above the parapet’.

Hmmm... familiar?

This impostor syndrome manifests itself powerfully in the lives of a lot of creative people – and I include myself in that number.

For some it’s a minor hurdle – and simply reminding ourselves that it’s largely just another threshold of anxiety to be stepped over on a daily basis – does the trick. For others it’s a fairly constant companion, and a measurable hindrance to progress.

So how can we overcome this barrier to self-development? The first step is to recognise that it is happening and to accept that we have to factor it in rather than ignore or deny it.

The second step is to figure out just how it gets in the way – what’s it stopping us doing? As part of this step, you need to give yourself credit for your past experience – take the time to list all your past successes and allow yourself to enjoy reflecting on them. This alone can boost your confidence again.

The third step is to strategise – how do we behave, how do we plan, what support and advice do we seek in order to tiptoe round it or break through it?

Get some ruthless compassion

I first came across the concept of ruthless compassion whilst studying for my coaching post-grad. Essentially, it describes an approach where one person is able to point out to another (hopefully in a timely manner) the need to rethink actions or behaviours in order to avoid a potentially damaging outcome.

Checking things out with a trusted peer can boost your confidence no end.

It's the grown up equivalent of intervening when you see a child about to stick its finger in an electrical socket, or otherwise place herself in danger. You wouldn't just stand by and let disaster unfold, would you?

Once you grasp the value of the concept, it’s easy to see that from time to time, its worthwhile asking someone you trust to exercise ruthless compassion on your behalf.

We all get a bit close to the edge sometime - tempted to launch an idea into the world without thinking it through, let something through our internal quality control without requisite scrutiny, respond to a difficult situation without taking time - or even recognising the need - to step back and count to ten before acting.

Get out into your stretch zone

When you are under pressure, staying in your comfort zone seems like the easy option. Even staying under the duvet, perhaps, when times are rough.

Pyjama days need to be balanced with time spent in the rough and tumble of the stretch zone. You need both.

Becoming more confident isn’t always about eradicating stress. Sometimes the confidence comes from knowing that you have strategies in place to deal with the discomfort as you are feeling it. That requires practice. For example, people don’t necessarily become better public speakers because they have eliminated stress. They accept and work with the stress because the benefits of doing do outweigh the temporary discomfort. And so it goes with a lot a business issues.

The more time spent in the stretch zone, the more familiar the uncomfortable feelings become. As the familiarity grows, so does the confidence. This is true of a lot of things that small business owners feel under-confident about. Money issues, social media, sales calls, and chasing unpaid bills - you name it – there are lots of areas where you simply can’t be expert from the get go. So if you want to get confident – dive in. Play around in your stretch zone. As you do, you will become more relaxed about living with the stressors. Some may simply fade away. Then it’s time to stretch even further, and so it goes on.  Easy to say, much harder to force yourself to make it happen. It works, I promise you.

Mindfulness and visualisation

Mindfulness is the art of paying attention. Mindfulness isn't just about listening - it's all about multi-sensory awareness and requires practice. In some senses, it's closest relative is meditation. People who meditate are by nature mindful, but one can develop it as a skillset in its own right. You can be mindful anywhere.

I use this technique often, to still my mind and get ready for a mentoring session. I have been known to do this in the loo if I can’t find any other quiet space.

Put your palms on your knees, close your eyes, and breathe steadily and deeply for two or three minutes, whilst simply paying attention to what’s happening beyond the clutter of your own noisy mind.

Mental Rehearsal

Once you are able to easily put yourself into a mindful state, you can extend this technique into the realms of visualisation and mental rehearsal. Once in a mindful state it is much easier to mentally ‘walk through’ potentially stressful situations by first of all visualising them, then by rehearsing different scenarios within them – including how you are likely to feel and respond to the situation. All successful sports people now do this as matter of course. It’s part of their training routine.

I hope this video will get you thinking differently about confidence and what it means for you. Good luck!



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