By Marty Nemko
Many of my clients say they lack confidence. These approaches have helped.
Most people think lack of confidence is sort of a mental disease that needs to be cured. More often, lack of confidence is an accurate self-appraisal: You’ve determined you probably aren’t good enough to succeed at the task at hand. After all, you don’t lack confidence in your ability to brush your teeth. It’s only when you find a task difficult.
So, lack of confidence can often be cured by picking a better-suited task. For example, if you’re a job seeker and find cold-calling too difficult, put your efforts into getting leads from your personal contacts, using online networking tools such as linksv.com and tribe.net, and by writing compelling applications for posted job ads.
If you must do a tough task, do you first need more training? Courses are generally time-ineffective. More time-effective approaches include: reading an article, attending a workshop, watching a master, having a master watch you or tutor you, watching yourself on videotape. The more you prepare, the more competent and, in turn, confident you will become. The previous point is obvious but I mention it because so many of my clients fail simply because they won’t put in the prep time.
If you feel competent to do a task yet still don’t feel confident enough, try the old but sound advice: break the task into baby steps. Where possible, start with the parts you feel confident about. For example, if you’ve decided to tell people you’re looking for a job, start by telling the person you’re most comfortable with.
If your confidence is so low that you dread seeking a job at your previous level, consider a lower-level launchpad job—one for which an employer would love to hire you. For example, if you’ve been a manager in the Gap’s corporate office but failed, consider a retail job at an Eddie Bauer’s store. You’ll likely be welcomed, soon become a star, and in turn, be offered a promotion. Or you’ll gain the confidence to go after a higher-level job outside the company.
Some people get a confidence boost by improving their appearance. Would it help if you lost weight, bought a new outfit, got a new hairdo, hairpiece, a complete makeover, maybe even including cosmetic surgery? I’m amazed at how much more confident the people get on Extreme Makeover.
A cheerleader—no pompons required-- can improve your self-confidence. Many of my clients (and my wife) attribute some of their success to my believing in them and urging them on when their confidence waned.
Other people report gaining confidence from visualizations: picturing yourself as the person who just had a successful job interview, got a standing ovation for a speech, whatever.
Most winners have had their share of failures, and anticipate they may fail again. And when they do fail, they know they’ll survive—they’ll just move on to some other challenge. In contrast, losers fear failure so much they don’t try, which, of course, ensures they’re failures.
If none of the above techniques work, fake it ‘til you make it. Pretend you are confident and just do it. Often you’ll find that getting into action gives you more confidence than all the affirmations in the world.
Advice I’d Give My Child
Amy, you may still recall my long-ago-said criticisms of you. If they’re impeding your self-confidence, ask yourself, “Were those criticisms accurate?” If so, stop blowing them off and consider changing yourself. If, however, you believe my messages were inaccurate, say (or at least think) “Screw you, Dad. I’ll show you.”
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A client of mine who had been a lifetime procrastinator had a breakthrough this week. I said to him:
You spend an awful lot of energy trying to avoid work so you can get on with life. But work is life, or at least a good part of it: It’s where you do what you do well while making money and making a difference. During your work hours (and that includes any hours you should be devoted to job-seeking), embrace rather than fight work. And don’t give yourself a choice: During your work hours, don’t allow yourself even the possibility of doing anything but work.He isn’t sure what part of that lecture did the trick, but he reports that since then, he’s been much more productive.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2013. Usage Rights