The 3-Step Confidence Strategy That Could Change Your Life
If we told you that there was a tested three step process that when worked consistently, could create radical change in your confidence levels, would you work that process? If you said yes, then read on, because below you will find the exact strategy we have taught to thousands of women with remarkable results.
But first, some thoughts on confidence.
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.’
Using this definition, 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 to 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 we think, feel, and act.
When our stories turn negative, they can significantly impact, and even derail, our confidence. We need to learn how to stop our negative thoughts from taking hold of us and allowing our self-berating stories to run our lives (and our careers).
The good news is, there’s a simple 3-step strategy that you can use to understand and manage your stories, and significantly build your confidence.
STEP 1 - CATCH THE STORY
We all have stories that limit us, send us spiraling into imposter syndrome and fire up our inner critic. There are some common patterns that psychologists have discovered through their research that particularly challenge our wellbeing, resilience and importantly, our confidence. Dr. Karen Reivich from the Penn Positive Psychology Center, has identified the following stories, finding that we often tell them when things aren’t going as well as we would like:
- “I’m not good enough” which can make us feel embarrassed and lead us to withdraw and avoid challenges or tough conversations.
- “I’m letting people down” or “I should never have done that” leads us to feel guilty and makes us be too nice and over-correct our behaviour.
- “I’m in over my head” or “I’m an imposter” brings us into imposter syndrome, leaving us feeling anxious, over-prepared and even panicked.
- “I’m going to be harmed” or “That’s not fair” can cause anger and lead us to take decisive action that may have negative consequences.
- “I’m such a loser” or “It’s all my fault” leave us feeling sad, helpless and overwhelmed.
STEP 2 - CHALLENGE THE STORY BY ASKING: “IS THAT TRUE?”
One of the greatest challenges with our stories is not just that we have a story playing in our minds, but that we ruminate on it over and over again, often causing a downward and never-ending spiral of negative emotions. The other challenge is that we experience a stream of ‘automatic thoughts’ which much of the time, we are unaware of and may accept unquestioningly.
Cognitive restructuring describes the process by which we can re-train the way we think. One traditional approach is that thoughts can be examined for bias or inaccuracy and then replaced with more balanced thoughts.
The way to do this is by asking the question, “Is that true?”
The goal in challenging our stories is not to delude ourselves with untruths. It’s to find equally plausible explanations and to tune in to how each alternative causes us to think, feel, and act. Then, we can consciously choose to invest our energy in the stories that leave us feeling more genuinely confident.
STEP 3 - REFRAME INTO ACTION
Once you’ve challenged the story by looking for equally plausible explanations and you’ve found an alternative story that has you feeling more confident and empowered, it’s time to take action. Based on your new and empowering story, what’s the next right step? A helpful thing to know when it comes to taking action, is that more important than believing in your abilities, is the belief you can improve your abilities. This is what Professor Carol Dweck refers to as a growth mindset, and it will be your greatest ally in taming that negative voice and moving into action.
What this looks like in practice
Let’s look at an example to see what this 3-step process looks like in practice.
Sarah would like to apply for a new role as the head of new technology development at the bank where she works. But she is hesitating from putting herself forward. As she works through the cognitive restructuring process, here’s what comes to light.
STEP 1: CATCH THE STORY
Sarah - “I only have eight out of the ten skills required for that promotion. I’m not going to apply for the role.”
STEP 2: CHALLENGE THE STORY BY ASKING: “IS THAT TRUE?”
Sarah - “Yes it’s true, but I can learn the other skills on the job. And I have other skills that will add value.”
STEP 3: REFRAME INTO ACTION
Sarah - “You know, I am capable and worthy of this opportunity. I’m going to apply for the role.”
Now that you’ve been shown an example of how to use this 3-step confidence strategy, it’s time to put it into practice in your own life. The more you become aware of the stories that you play over and over again, and begin challenging their validity and reframing them into action, the more confident you will feel.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic and be coached through this strategy, join the next intake of the Women Rising program. Thousands of women have been supported through this 6 month virtual program and 98% of women recommend it to friends and colleagues.
And for more tools to help you tame your inner critic and overcome imposter syndrome, you can download our free guide here.