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IMG_8159By Christine Brown-Quinn, The Female Capitalist®

Who doesn’t want to be more confident? We all have our personal levels of confidence, but it’s only human to have self doubts. And perhaps these doubts or fears go back to our primal brains when we needed to be in fright and flight mode in order to simply survive daily life. Regardless of why doubt and fear creeps in, one thing is for certain: Confidence is not something we’re born with!

The good news then is that we can teach ourselves to be more confident or re-wire our brains to think and act more confidently.  The first step in conquering your confidence quivers is to acknowledge and accept them and use those feelings to spurn you into action. At the core, confidence is really about having the courage to take action in spite of the fear, rather than the absence of fear!

One of my favourite tennis players is Novak Djokovic. He frames the issue of self doubt eloquently, “If you don’t have that self-belief, then fear takes over. And then it will get too much for you to handle. It’s a fine line. The energy of those moments is so high: how are you going to use it? Are you going to let it consume you, or are you going to accept its presence and say, ‘OK, let’s work together.’ ” Now who would have thought that a guy like Novak Djokovic has self doubts? He looks so confident, right? Novak’s message is a life message which goes beyond the field of professional sports.

When you start to hear that negative chatter in your head, give yourself a pep talk. Mine goes something like this, “Yes, I know this is a bit scary and I know there’s a chance it might not turn out the way I hoped or planned, but you might as well be quiet because I’m not going to let this negative voice stop me from taking action!”.  One of the best ways to gather up the courage to take that scary action is to think about a higher goal, a goal that’s bigger than yourself.  How is taking this action going to help others? How will it change things that matter to you and make a difference? Isn’t being all you can be, beneficial to everyone around you, whether that be your employers, your life partner, children, or friends? Holding ourselves back doesn’t serve anyone!

In the earlier years of my career in Finance I had a tendency to go to meetings and simply listen. It was a bit intimidating to be surrounded mostly by men with bigger physical presence, voices and opinions which seemed t have the ability to state as hard facts. A trusted senior colleague advised me well, “Christine, you obviously have a lot going on in your head, and you’ve got to be less shy and make sure that you’re saying something or asking a question in every meeting.” My higher goal was to be instrumental in building a team and a business which was successful and where people had fun. In order to have this kind of impact on others and feel part of shaping the culture and the business, I had to become a more confident ‘public speaker’. That higher goal helped me get over my fear of speaking in front of larger groups or audiences.

If confidence is learned, that does mean that “practice makes perfect”. The more you take action in the face of fear, the more you train your brain that things are going to be ok. You’re developing positive reference points that you can refer back to each time you’re faced with fear. You say to yourself, “I can do this, I’ve faced fear before. ” In fact, who knows you might even end up enjoying that thrill of “putting yourself out there”. The irony of course is that it’s precisely in those situations where we don’t quite feel confident which offer the best opportunities for personal & professional growth. Now over to you. In what way do you want to be more confident? Why is that important to you? Ok, time to start practicing!