Joey Velez, M.A., M.B.A. When things are going your way, or when you are presented with successful outcomes, it’s not difficult to gain confidence from those situations. When in successful or familiar situations, you don’t have to think about being confident because you just are.
But how do you gain confidence when things are not going your way? Or when you are presented with unsuccessful outcomes? Or you are placed in unfamiliar situations? What do you do?
This month, we are going to discuss several ways to build self-confidence no matter what situation you find yourself in.
Self-confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities and qualities. The more confidence we have in ourselves, the better chance we have at being successful. Growing up, my self-confidence derived strictly from positive outcomes and positive reinforcement. This was extremely apparent throughout high school, especially during basketball season, when, during my senior year on the varsity team I constantly questioned my ability. I rarely saw the floor, and when I did, I was playing not to make a mistake.
In those situations, I may not have made a mistake, but I was not giving myself the best chance to be successful. Early on in my recreational golfing career, I would make statements like, “I’ve been hitting poorly all day, would not be surprised if I did the same here,” or something along those lines. More often than not, I would do exactly what I was trying to avoid, which resulted in a bruised ego and my confidence heading into the next shot. As I got older, I realized that self-confidence is just that: the confidence you have in yourself! Nobody can take that away from you and nobody should alter how you feel about yourself. There are three simple ways to improve your self-confidence: breathing, preparation, and reflection.
The Power of the Breath Stressful or pressure situations can cause one to doubt their abilities, which inevitably affects the ability to be successful. Therefore, when placed in a situation like this, a simple deep breath can go a long way. Slowing down your breathing can lower your heart rate, which helps you relax and feel less stressed. By inhaling through your nose, allowing air to fill up your stomach, you are activating the diaphragm and allows more oxygen to be pumped into your body. Follow that up with a deep exhale to release the negative energy in your body, and you have already increased your chance at being successful. Not only can a deep breath slow your heart rate, but it can alter your focus to the breath rather than the stressful situation that is in front of you.
Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail Making sure that you are prepared is another way to increase your self-confidence. Having previous experience is always helpful, but there are a lot of times when we are experiencing something new and we do not want to mess up.
You can prepare by doing your research. Whether it is a job interview, a presentation, or a difficult conversation with your superior, doing your research and having information at your disposal is going to increase your confidence. When you enter a situation with no information and you tell yourself, “I do not know what I am going to talk about,” your confidence is going to plummet.
But if you enter that same situation knowing that you did your research, when that statement of, “I do not know what I am going to talk about” comes into your mind, you can remind yourself that you did the research and you know the information and regain some of that confidence back. Role-playing or visualization can help increase confidence in these situations as well.
How you want to begin your presentation, information you want to get across, how you want to respond to certain questions, these are all things to consider during your preparation phase. Speaking to a mirror, to a friend, or visualizing what you want your presentation, your interview, or your conversation can increase your confidence for when you face the situation in real-time.
Use Your Experience Finally, learning from your experiences increases your confidence the next time you are placed in that same situation by using a reflection process. Whether you had a successful or unsuccessful outcome, take a step back and look at the situation from an unbiased perspective and answer these questions: What went well? What went wrong? What did you learn? What are you going to do differently or the same next time? With negative outcomes, it is important to own them. In a recent interview, NBA great Kobe Bryant said, “Losing is exciting. It means you have different ways to get better… certain things to take advantage of, to sure up. Losing sucks, but opportunities are there.” Failure and mistakes are a natural part of human growth. Own them. Learn from them so that next time you are in a similar situation, you have information you can use.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail It is easy to be confident from a positive outcome or a successful situation, but it is more difficult to be confident in situations we have never been in. A deep breath, doing your research, and learning from similar experiences can help increase our confidence in these new situations. The most important aspect of being confident is that you have to be willing to fail. If you are afraid to fail, then you are holding yourself back from performing your best. Mistakes are supposed to happen, it is how we grow as individuals. However, failing at something does not make you a failure. In fact, it makes you more intelligent, because you can learn from that failure so that you can be even more confident next time. Failing is not easy and is something we do not strive for, but as long as you are comfortable with it, then you have already given yourself a better chance to succeed.