Is confidence something you're born with, or something you build up over time? It's both, according to a survey of 500 highly confident women executives conducted by Helene Lerner, founder of WomenWorking.com author of several books, most recently The Confidence Myth: Why Women Undervalue Their Skills, and How to Get Over It. While more than half the respondents believed it was a combination of innate qualities and building up confidence over time, less than 1 percent thought confidence was a matter of genetics alone. So how do you build up your own confidence? Eighty-six percent said it helps to use one's skills and make an impact--in other words, when you do successful work, that will make you feel more confident. Interestingly, the inverse is also true, with 76 percent of respondents saying that making mistakes and then recovering from them enhances confidence. In other words, get outside your comfort zone and--win or lose--your confidence will grow. So what should you do if you want to increase your own confidence levels? Here's Lerner's advice:
1. Remember, you're not the only one who's afraid.
Confidence with a big C is a myth, Lerner says. The only advantage confident-seeming people have is that they're able to take action and project confidence, even if they're feeling terrified inside.
2. Pick a role model.
Choose a leader you admire, Lerner says. What qualities does this person possess? Which of those qualities do you already have, and which do you need to build up? What could you do to develop those qualities in yourself?
3. Upgrade your network.
Pick someone who would be a powerfully useful contact for you. How can you meet this person? Is there a mutual contact who can introduce you? Before meeting, do your homework on your new contact. Look for ways you can help your contact achieve his or her goals. (Here are 8 tips for how to network effectively with key contacts.)
4. Take the long view of your career.
What role or position do you eventually want to have? What skills will you need to fill that role? Write them down, and then write down a list of the skills you already have. Make a plan for acquiring the ones you still need.
5. Don't give in to self-doubt.
If you're in a position of leadership or power, that's not an accident. Know that you have what it takes to be there. Others believe in you--prove them right.
6. Own your strengths, as well as your weaknesses.
Are there ways you can turn one of your weaknesses into a strength? Start doing what it takes to make this happen, one small step at a time.
7. Take a good look at your priorities.
You have a lot to do. But do you find yourself getting the low-impact things done first? If so, what are you avoiding, and why? (If you're not sure what your priorities should be, here's a simple test that will help.)
8. Try something outside the scope of what you've already done.
It could be as simple as making a pitch in a meeting or approaching a prominent person at a business function. If you feel uneasy, remember that's a natural result of stretching your own boundaries. Discomfort equals growth.
9. Take stock of all you do.
Chances are, if you took a few minutes to write down everything you've accomplished in the past week, you'd be pretty impressed with yourself. So do it. Then slip one or two of those accomplishments into your next conversation with a higher-up or customer. Modesty doesn't work in business.
10. Learn to be kind to yourself.
Are you putting unrealistic expectations on yourself? Probably--most of us do. Adjust your own expectations, whether that means changing your timetable for accomplishments or getting others to help. You deserve to treat yourself at least as well as you treat anyone else.
11. Take stock of your greatest strengths.
Select one of them, and think about how you could use it to move yourself and your career to the next level. Make a list of steps you need to take to make that happen, and a plan for when you will take those steps. If you're not sure what steps to take to get to the next level, here are some tips that may help.
12. Trust your own gut.
Your experience, your intelligence, and your instincts will lead you where you need to go. So next time you face a challenging situation, get input if you need it, then take decisive action.
13. Give yourself the credit you deserve.
How have you grown in the last six months? And how have you positively changed the lives of other people? Thos accomplishments should be celebrated. So celebrate!