September has arrived! Holidays are over, we’re back to work, the kids are in school, and in Hong Kong we’re heading right toward the busiest quarter of the year––the rush before Xmas and Mid Autumn break….
And before that next holiday break, there’s a lot to do. As we return to the demands of our work lives, we may be taking on new projects and reopening tasks left pending prior to our holidays. For some of us, a good rest or stimulating vacation may be encouraging us to seek new directions in our personal lives. We may also encounter unexpected situations that add to our loads. It can be daunting to watch your schedule filling up so rapidly and wonder––“am I up to this?” “Can I handle it?”
If you are finding yourself somewhat vulnerable and overwhelmed at the moment, I have some practical ideas that can give your confidence a boost.
We all encounter situations where we think we may not be able to rise up to that particular challenge or that we lack the resources to meet it successfully. Uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety creep in as we question our ability or preparedness to handle the event.
If you find this happening, cast your mind back to the past. Have you been in situations such as:
- A presentation to important clients?
- Meeting your girl- or boy-friend’s parents for the first time and wondering if they will approve of you?
- Starting a new job and being asked to complete a task you’ve never handled before?
- Taking your first driving lesson?
- Being interviewed?
- Taking a test and wondering if you’ll remember your study material or if you will fail?
Track back to those memories and identify the situations where you felt no confidence in yourself.
Now, think about times when you felt confident about what you were doing. All of us have situations, areas and activities where we are very capable, as well as those where we’re not.
Looking back at all these past experiences, write them down as your remember them. Ask yourself:
What were my thoughts at that moment? My feelings? My physical responses? Write these down too and compare your responses.
Lack of confidence is first expressed in the mind as a thought such as “I won’t be able to meet this.” That thought becomes a feeling––“I’m anxious about this.” And finally these emotions express themselves externally in your body language––your posture, facial expressions, voice pitch, actions such as distancing, hesitant speech, etc. As these external cues are picked up by the people around you, you are likely to feel even worse and give off even stronger visible signals of no confidence.
Returning to a state of confidence involves three things:
- learning to change your body responses
- learning to stop the thought becoming a feeling
- learning to break the association between thought and feeling
Next, complete the following statements for each of the situations you have identified as ones of low confidence. Be as detailed as you can:
- If I were more confident about …… I would………………………………….
- If I were more confident about ……, I wouldn’t …………………………….
- What I want in [situation], is ………………………………………………………
“If I were more confident about my social skills, I would engage in conversation easily with people. I wouldn’t avoid new people. I want to confidently engage and approach strangers and start a conversation with them.”
Now, think of the behaviour of a confident person: What is their posture like? Their tone of voice? Their breathing? Do they smile? Jot down your answers, or visualise in your mind all the details of the external appearance of a confident person. This person is you. Once again, be detailed!
Take 1 to 3 of the attributes just listed and for the next couple of days, practice them! If you selected “make eye contact and smile,” why not do so yourself with people you meet at work and don’t know well or in the street with perfect strangers?
The key is: practice! Do so consciously for 2 to 3 days. Then choose another 2 or 3 items in your list, and practice again.
There is more to this process, and you can build your confidence skill over time. For a few more confidence-building practices, look for Part Two of this article next week on wwww.pascalealine.com