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How to Dial Up Your Confidence

Is something holding you back from chasing the professional outcome you want most right now—the bigger job, the senior mentor, the chance to lead a team? It's possible that your confidence needs a boost. Modern Mentor shares her favorite actionable strategies you can use immediately to dial that confidence way up!

By
Rachel Cooke
5-minute read
Episode #691
Is there something, professionally speaking, that you’ve been afraid to chase? Maybe you keep putting off applying for that big job, or pitching the idea, or asking that leader to be your mentor.
 
What’s holding you back? It may be Imposter Syndrome, a false belief that you just aren’t worthy of that opportunity. Or it may be that you’re battling a confidence problem, which is a belief about what you can do or what you’re capable of.
 
So how do you know which is holding you back? My suggestion is to give your inner voice a listen. It may be saying “You should never apply for that job—you’re not worthy of it, or smart enough, or as good as other applicants.” Or its point of view may be “You can’t apply until you have X experience or certification or practice under your belt.”
 
Hear the difference?
 
That first voice is an assessment of you—you simply aren’t enough. That’s what Imposter Syndrome sounds like. And it’s pretty nasty. And also wrong.
 
The second voice is conditional—the obstacle isn’t who you are but what capability or experience you currently have. That’s a confidence issue. 
 
At times you may battle both. But today we’re focusing on what to do when Voice #2 chimes in. What actions can you take to dial up your sense of confidence?

1. Note the cost

When our confidence is low, it’s just easier to not do the thing. But the question is—what is that inaction costing you?
 
I’m not the world’s best driver. I drive, generally, but I don’t drive in New York City. I know I could… but my confidence is low. The good news is the cost of this choice is also low—meaning there are other alternatives like mass transit available.  
 
In other cases, the cost of inaction is unjustifiably high. The thing you’re not doing—posting for the job, asking for the mentor—what’s it costing you? What are you missing out on? More money, more prestige, more engagement, more learning, more feedback and connection? And what is that worth?
 
Getting real with yourself about the cost of inaction often provides the critical motivation you need to take action.

2. Assess your experience

I lack the confidence to fly a plane or perform surgery. This is just appropriate, and if you ever see me coming your way with a scalpel in hand, I’d advise you to run.
 
Practicing medicine, flying an airplane—these are, of course, professional feats that require years of training and certification. But much of what we do (and fear doing) professionally—like landing the stretch assignment or speaking at the event—doesn’t require specialized training or credentials. It requires competence and confidence.
 
So, when you find yourself hiding behind the belief that you’re just not ready to get on that stage, ask yourself—what do the speakers up there have that you don’t? Have you done the work? Have you led the team? Take an honest look at your portfolio of experiences. Everything counts. 
 
Is it possible that maybe you do have the chops, and it’s just time to own it? 

3. Design a practice 

Maybe you’ve done the assessment and… you just don’t believe your experience has left you ready to do the thing.
 
Then decide what it will take for you to feel ready—to have the confidence to ask that leader to be your mentor.
 
Then ask yourself—what are some “practice” scenarios you can use to help dial up your confidence bit by bit? How can you design a series of experiments to help you practice in lower-stakes situations?
 
What else can you ask for that’s scary but won’t make your blood curdle?
 
Jia Jing gave a great TED talk about how his low confidence kept him so afraid of being rejected that he was missing out on everything. So he committed to 100 days of trying to experience rejection. He asked store clerks for freebies, strangers to share secrets. And through this practice, he got so comfortable with rejection, he simply overcame his fear.
 
So how might you borrow this concept?
 
You’re not ready to ask for the mentor, but can you start by asking the barista for free whipped cream, just to see how it feels?
 
You’re not ready to interview for the job, but can you role play interviewing with a friend until you do feel ready? 
 
There is always something you can do to remind yourself you can do hard things!

4. Close the gap

Maybe for you it’s more than just fear or hesitation. Maybe you’ve done the assessment and determined you’re really lacking something—an experience, a credential, a portfolio.
 
Great. At least now the hurdle between you and the endgame has a name. 
 
Now it’s time to make a plan to close the gap. 
 
If you’re not ready for the stretch project—what would ready look like? Do you need experience leading a team? Do you need more exposure to senior leaders in your organization? Do you need more subject matter expertise? 
 
What is one step you can take to move you in that direction? Is there a project team you can volunteer to help lead? Can you ask your boss to start giving you opportunities to present to a more senior audience? Can you take a LinkedIn Learning course or attend a technical training?
 
When Sofia (one of my four favorite Golden Girls!) decided, in her 90’s, to apply to law school and her daughter Dorothy said “Oh ma, come on, you’ll be 96 when you get out,” Sofia replied “I’ll be 96 anyway.” 
 
Time is marching ahead whether you act or not. So why not take the action?

5. Celebrate every victory 

I once heard an interview with a man who had struggled for years to lose weight. His doctor had advised him to lose 100 pounds. But looking at a finish line so far away was discouraging, and the man kept giving up almost as soon as he’d start a new weight loss plan.
 
Then one day, he realized that all he had to do was lose one pound. And then do it again. 99 more times. 
 
He lost that first pound, and rather than looking at the 99 remaining, he decided to celebrate his first victory. This energized and motivated him. And within two years he had achieved his goal.
 
I love this approach. When given the choice between celebrating a small step taken or staring at all the steps that remain ahead of you, I say celebrate. Every time. It doesn’t have to be a party—it can be a five-minute break just watching a Golden Girls clip.
 
With celebration comes confidence. And you, my friend, will get there.
 
I really hope this has left you feeling inspired to take control of your own confidence.
 
And if you need someone to celebrate your first step with you, you know where to find me. Shoot me an email at modernmentor@quickanddirtytips.com and let me know your journey is going..
 

About the Author

Rachel Cooke

Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.