Your 3-part Framework for Radical Confidence
Confidence is one of those things that can make you scratch your head a little. When you’re feeling less than confident, it’s easy to look around you at women you think of as successful, and imagine that they never have any issues with their own confidence: they never question their right to be in the meeting, never think twice before expressing an opinion or putting themselves forward for a promotion, always speak up for themselves, and rarely think that they’re not good enough. But the startling truth is, that if you think this, you would be dead wrong.
If you ask just about any woman you know, at work or in your personal life, to tell you about their stories of feeling less than confident throughout their life, you would be inundated with stories. In fact, I’d bet that you would need to pull up a chair, pour a long cup of tea and settle in for the long conversation that would ensue.
And yet, confidence can be a really ambiguous thing to address. Until a few years ago, there wasn’t a scientific definition for confidence that was helpful in enabling us to be more so, nor a good framework that would light the path forward. But after decades of work, researcher Richard Petty discovered that ‘confidence is the stuff that turns our thoughts into actions.’
So if we know that to be true, is there a pathway we can follow to build more confidence?
It turns out, there is. It’s all about being more authentic, thinking less and taking action.
One of the keys to being more authentic is learning how to lead, work and live from a strengths based approach.
When you are using your strengths – those things you like doing and are good at – you are wired to thrive. Research shows that in our careers and working life our strengths help us to: feel happier, be less stressed, feel more energised and have greater life satisfaction; our enhanced performance from using our strengths helps us feel more confident, find more meaning in our work and experience faster development and better performance; and strengths based teams perform better, have higher productivity, lower turnover and better levels of customer satisfaction.
A strengths focus works – especially when it comes to being more authentic, and building your confidence. Your strengths represent well-wired neural pathways in your brain and represent the way your brain is wired to perform at your best. This doesn’t mean you forever ignore your weaknesses, but it does mean that you can flip your focus from that negativity bias in your brain that is always seeking out issues, to a strengths focus where you can train yourself to look for more of what’s working, and do more of what you like doing and are good at – and feel like more yourself in the process.
One of the things that gets in our way is that many of us are challenged to recognise what our strengths actually are. Not surprising when we have been cultivated to always look for our weaknesses. If this is you, one tool that I’ve been using for the past decade in my work teaching strengths in workplaces and in my coaching practice is the VIA Character Strengths survey. You can take the free survey at viacharacter.org and once completed, it will rank your character strengths from one to twenty four.
Researchers recommend you focus on your top five strengths, as these are the strengths that will feel most like your authentic self, and are your fast track for more confidence and flourishing at work.
If confidence is the ability to turn our thoughts into action, what gets in our way? It’s simple to identify, but harder to address: Our beliefs and stories.
We are constantly creating stories, as our minds try and make sense of what’s happening around us. At the same time our brains are constantly processing and tapping into what has happened in the past, which shapes our beliefs about who we are, what we believe to be true, what we are capable of, and what we think we deserve.
These stories and sense making shape the way you think, feel, and act. When they turn negative, they can significantly impact, and even derail, your confidence. Studies have found that while both men and women hear negative stories that can keep them stuck, women are more critical of themselves and engage in more negative self-talk.
This is perhaps not surprising, given the tendency for the female brain to think more, worry more, and do its best to avoid conflict. The female brain is prone to overthink things compared to the male brain. Our wiring for rumination leads us to replay our mistakes, go over and over comments of criticism, over prepare to the point of stress, and catastrophise small failures..
We need to learn how to interrupt our stories from running rampant and then use self-compassion to create a more empowering story that helps us feel confident and take action.
There is a simple 3-part cognitive restructuring process that will help you do just that. It involves catching the story, challenging the story and reframing it into action. If you’d like to learn more about how you can use this process to tame your inner critic, then you can download your free guide here.
The third part of the framework for radical confidence is all about taking action, which you can do through cultivating a growth mindset.
Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University has been researching mindsets for more than thirty years. She has a major finding that sits at the heart of all of her work:
More important than believing in your abilities, is the belief you can improve your abilities
And she has found that there are two types of mindset that direct whether we feel we can improve our abilities, or not, and direct how we show up in the world. A fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their most important personal characteristics like personality and intelligence are largely fixed and unchangeable. This leads to a constant need to prove and protect themselves, and constantly validate their sense of self.
People with a growth mindset believe that their basic qualities and abilities are things they can cultivate through persistence and effort. This leads not only to a passion for learning, growth and personal development, but also confidence and a resilient sense of self in the face of criticism, failure and adversity.
When you are in a growth mindset, you are focused on the experience, not the outcome. You know that you can try new things, go for new opportunities and expand your skill set, because you have the confidence that with effort, you will improve so you can give it a go. If you get negative feedback you take it as learning and fodder for your personal development. And if you fail, you know that it's part of the learning that comes with moving up the mastery curve. Your belief is that success is just showing up, and you have the question ‘what can I learn here?’ constantly on your mind to fuel possibilities.
Growth mindset underpins your confidence, and helps to close the confidence gap by getting you from your thoughts, to action.
By using these strategies and understanding and applying the three part framework, you will find over time (as thousands of our clients have) that your confidence will build and you will be able to turn your thoughts into action consistently.
1. What are your top 5 strengths? Are you using and engaging these strengths each day?
2. How active is your inner critic? What are the stories you play over and over again?
3. How do your stories undermine your confidence and stop you from taking action?
4. Generally at work, where do you sit along the mindset continuum?
5. What might be possible for you if you flexed your growth mindset more often by leaning in to vulnerability and the willingness to fail?
Author: Women Rising Founder, Megan Dalla-Camina