Confidence is a risk business

Ever wondered what it’s like to be in the same room with Oprah, the Dalai Lama and Bill Clinton? It’s like being caught in the gravitational force of a small planet. I can very gratefully thank a career in television journalism for each of these outer body experiences. All three are compelling communicators with one thing in common – through decades of diligence, they built a degree of unprecedented competence in their respected fields. The automatic side effect of this expertise is a strong sense of self-assurance, self-belief, a sense of natural authority and presence. I call this category of people the ‘super-set’.

They are truly powerful because they are bold enough to show us who they really are without apology. And they’re open to concepts, ideas and new information that could challenge them on any level, which never tips them into the arrogant zone. Talk about hitting the sweet spot. For many of us aspiring to a higher level of presence, a blueprint to building confidence can be narrowed to three steps.

  1. More action. The science says it all. What holds us back from believing in ourselves is making a choice not to try. For example, if we’re offered a chance to present on an industry panel and we turn it down, or pass it on to another colleague – how can we expect to build confidence? Take more action, more often. Dare yourself in incremental stages.
  2. Regular risk taking. Thinking about confidence doesn’t give us more confidence. Our neural pathways respond to action, so we need to take more risks, more often. It might be as simple as speaking up in a boardroom meeting, it might be running for 50 meters at a time around a 10km track. If you have a confidence gap speaking up, then that’s easily fixed by enrolling in a workshop. Not just enrolling, but showing up ready to stretch yourself.
  3. Fast failure. Failure is incredibly under-rated. It happens to me frequently, but because it’s on a small scale, I can take away specific lessons, process it quickly, make adjustments and move on. Take building a new tech platform for example. I invested a small amount of time and money into the delivery platform for an online career development program and users told me it wasn’t ideal. No drama consumers. Let’s try another one. The fact that it’s an off the shelf option and far cheaper happens to be a massive bonus. I didn’t burn time punishing myself or over-analysing the decision to my colleagues. It failed fast – in 2 weeks to be precise. No big deal, moving right along. I bet most successful people around you would say that failing fast has made them feel more confident about taking on the next project.

In my practice training women to communicate with authority, the worst advice I hear is ‘fake it til you make it.’ I say, let’s give ourselves a chance at building true and lasting belief. Let’s ‘wing it til we bring it’ instead.

A former US and Middle East foreign correspondent, Andrea Clarke now runs a career development program for women across corporate Australia. The next CareerCEO program begins 1st August.

Such powerful words Andrea. Thank you for penning this great article and inspiring me to back myself. 

Great piece Andrea, I too am not a fan of "fake it, til you make it." But rather "faith it, til you make it."