If there is one single thing that I went back to again and again over the course of my first year in my business, it was confidence.
Before I started doing my own thing, I would have never thought confidence would be a problem for me. Not because I thought I was all that, but because I worked for years developing self-esteem. I have always been surrounded with people who made sure to encourage me and acknowledge my strengths. I tackled school and sports with a “can do” mentality and, if it didn’t work out (we lost the game, I did poorly on a test, etc.), I never allowed it to define my self-worth or limit my belief in myself. That is why it was especially surprising to me when all that went out the window as I started my business.
But here is what I know now: You can have all the confidence in the world but the second you decide to turn your passion into your living, cultivating confidence becomes a whole different ball game. Suddenly every tiny facet of your business’s successes and failures feels tied to your self-worth. As creative entrepreneurs, we are all just trying to figure it out as we go along and all that uncertainty can be a tough environment to build confidence.
I am only a few chapters into The Confidence Code: The Science And Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know; however, I am already fascinated by the effect this book could have on how I approach things in the future. I am especially interested because the book explores confidence from the female perspective, diving into the fact that women in particular seem to have a problem approaching situations with confidence.
Following is one of my favorite quotes from the introduction in The Confidence Code:
Why is it that women sound less sure of ourselves when we know we are right than men sound when they think they could be wrong?
And to a large extent, it is true. I think that most women are people pleasers. Personally, I do not struggle with this but I realize that we are taught to be humble. We don’t want to come across as brash or abrasive or cocky because we want to be liked. And we definitely don’t want to be caught feeling incompetent, so we do not assert our full confidence unless we feel we are prepared to deliver.
On the other hand, men seem to be less worried about being liked and more concerned with appearing self-assured. Now, I haven’t read the whole book yet, so perhaps I will have more insight once I do, but the conclusion I have come to as I think about it is this: sometimes confidence has to be intentional.
For the most part I don’t like the phrase “Fake it until you make it” because I think authenticity is key to a core-centered business. However, in the case of confidence, I think it has some validity. Not everyone can just flip a switch in their head and suddenly wake up completely certain of their abilities and talents. However, someone can intentionally decide to approach conversations and situations with less hesitation and over time build up that “confidence muscle,” so to speak. I suppose it is less about “faking it until you make it” and more about practicing it until you believe it.)
To show you an example of how you might apply this to your own life, I will share with you an exercise that a coach tried with me regarding introducing yourself as an entrepreneur when I had just started out.
Can you tell someone what you do in six words or less? (i.e. “I help _________ do _________.”)
When we first tried the exercise, I think I spat out something like 20 words. I was so busy qualifying and meandering through my statement because I did not feel confident saying: This is what I do. BOOM. (Note: I don’t recommend using that verbatim.) But the idea is that once you are able to narrow it down to a concise, powerful introduction you can intentionally prepare to share that when someone asks you the inevitable question, “What do you do?” YOU have to decide to inject those simple six words with enough confidence and poise to leave it hanging in the air so that another person can come back to you with questions. It takes a little getting used to but when you don’t waiver, you will project a sense of confidence that other people will pick up on.
The same idea applies to pricing. It can be difficult for us to state our prices in a matter of fact manner because it is hard to have full confidence in our value and our abilities. That is why you may have a tendency to quote prices by saying things such as:
“Well… I typically charge…” or “How do you feel about $X?”
Instead, by intentionally editing those conversations to say “My rate is $X” or “That package costs $X” we can express that we know our worth and our clients and customers should believe in that value too.
My challenge to you is to find your confidence through intention.
Notice how I said find. It doesn’t happen overnight. It requires self discovery and going within yourself to pull out some of the parts you do believe in. Find ways to approach situations with certainty where you might have done so previously with hesitation. If you begin to intentionally remind yourself on a daily basis of the things you bring to the table and the people you can help with your gifts, you will begin to believe it in time. And that is when confidence can shift from being an intentional, mindful practice to something that is ingrained in everything you do.
We all have something unique to offer the world. Those who anchor themselves with confidence in that belief are the ones who make the difference.