What to do when your confidence leaves for the tropics

by | Mar 5, 2010

It’s pretty hard to succeed at self-employment without confidence. But every once in a while, confidence takes a vacation.

There are any number of things that can send confidence running for the beach. You could be going along nicely, doing good work and enjoying your life, when you notice that a colleague seems to be doing even better. Or you might make three public mistakes in a row. (Ask me about that one.) Or perhaps your mood takes a dive after six straight weeks of rain.

Whatever the reason, one moment you’re cruising along nicely, and the next you’re driving without wheels.

So fickle is confidence that I claim that it’s better to know how to minimize the slumps and get back in the groove than to aspire to try to on to it come hell or high water. Besides, the people you work with will have a lot easier time relating to you if you come across like a normal human being instead of a superhero.

Which begs the question, how do you minimize the damage when confidence leaves for the tropics?

For the answer, put a paper umbrella in your beverage of choice and read on.

Three Reasonably Reliable Ways to Get Confidence to Come Home

There are any number of ways to entice confidence to come home from regular meditation to taking a brisk walk to playing upbeat music. (Hmmm, when I re-read this post, I read “medication” instead of “meditation.” That has it’s place for sure.)

Here are three reasonably reliable ways to get confidence back.

1. Do what you say you are going to do, especially what you tell yourself you will do.

This is a doozy. Are you better at living up to the commitments you make to others (sometimes to your own detriment) but fall down on the promises you make to yourself? It’s a common enough pattern, and it can erode confidence quickly.

The root of confidence means to trust fully, and when we can’t trust ourselves fully, confidence takes a big hit. Of course, making and keeping promises to ourselves is difficult when we have high expectations without building in structures to help us reach them.

The problem is we sometimes set huge goals for ourselves without breaking them down into baby steps. Or we try to take a whole bunch of baby steps at once.

The key, then, to living up to your commitments to yourself is to break goals and objectives down into discrete actions. Decide to do one a day. Set it up so you will have guaranteed success. Repeat.

(For more on “guaranteed success,” listen to the Getting Clients Makeover call.

2. Find a way to do your best work everyday.

There’s nothing like doing great work to restore your confidence. If you can’t do it with a client, write an article, make a video, record a podcast. Get yourself in front of your prospective clients with a free teleclass or give a talk at your local library. Visit blogs in your field and engage in conversation. Do volunteer work for a non-profit that you want to support.

Do what you do well and your confidence will grow.

(If you’re too wrung out to do this, read your fan mail. You do keep copies of the kudos that come your way, don’t you?)

3. Take time to really feel your successes, especially the little ones.

Ooh, this is so important. And it’s a natural companion to the first key.

Every time you do what you say you are going to do, you are a success. It doesn’t actually matter whether you got the results you wanted (though that’s nice). What matters is that you come through for yourself and others.

To make sure you celebrate the successes, write down each baby step you are going to take today. Then cross them off as you do them. Keep the list short and simple to guarantee success. And celebrate that success with each accomplishment.

Confidence comes and goes, but you can always be there for yourself

As you can probably tell, I don’t know how to get confidence and keep it no matter what. But I do know that we can be there for ourselves through thick and thin by taking the small steps listed here.

Addendum November 24, 2012

When I re-read this article I saw a glaring omission. I didn’t talk about the critical role of support.

For ten years, more or less, I’ve had the support of the Brain Trust, a Mastermind group of fellow coaches. The BT is there for me when I’m not really here for myself. They see what I can’t see, which includes, variously, the good, the bad, and the ugly blindspots that cause me to stumble.

I now build Mastermind groups into¬†Profit Alchemy. It’s just not enough to learn tools and practice self-awareness if we want to succeed as Accidental Entrepreneurs. We need a little help from our friends.

It can be difficult to reach out for support when your confidence has gone south, so look for ways to give and receive support when things are going well. And if confidence has already flown the coop, look for little ways you can help someone else. Confidence grows as a result of the support we give as well as the support we receive.

Photo by epSos.de via Flickr