November 4, 2014

The Keys to Confidence at Any Age.


I think about self-confidence a lot.

It really came to a head when I gave birth to my two daughters and had the sudden realization they’d be looking to me as their primary, same-sex role model. I wanted more than anything for my girls to grow into strong, confident, young women.

But to lead well I knew deep down I’d have to first face my own lack of confidence, something I’d actively avoided doing for years.

Who knew what I’d find finally pulling back the veil? The cringe-worthiness of this thought is how I knew it was exactly what I needed to do.

Growing up working class, I came from a great family, was well-liked and had plenty of friends. I excelled at sports, art, music, you name it. I was an honor roll student, an All-State runner, earned a Psychology degree from Harvard and a Masters of Art. I then went on to become a senior policy analyst at the US EPA and later, married a sensational life partner and had three incredible kids.

But despite all of this, I never felt the underlying, all-encompassing sense of self-confidence I thought I should.

While I did have moments of situational confidence, they were fleeting.

I was usually able to prepare well enough to go into a test or race feeling strong. But at the end of the day, I’d return to self-doubt.

Looking back, what I was missing was foundational or what I define as an inherent trust to do or be whatever I wanted to in the world. It’s the kind of belief that radiates from within and sticks around.

I’ve since learned that low confidence is universal. It actually doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, what you’ve been through or where you want to go.

Some people just struggle with it for no good reason at all and it makes no sense to beat yourself up about it.

Not until my first daughter was born did I start to grow my foundational confidence in earnest. Having this beautiful little creature completely dependent on me for guidance and protection inspired me to figure it out once and for all.

So, here I was in my late thirties getting to know myself for the first time by understanding what values matter most to me, what beliefs are limiting me and what perspectives I choose to stand in.

I started to define my inner compass and listen to my gut.

I learned to quiet my inner critics.

I felt into self-love and acceptance.

And last, I began to get clear on my desires and dreams.

It’s amazing what’s possible when clarity enters stage right.

Getting to where I am today hasn’t been nearly as scary as I feared.

And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that finding and refining foundational confidence is a lifelong process, not a goal in and of itself.

I’m content with the role model I’m becoming but more importantly I want to now help my daughters see some of the same basic truths I’ve discovered.

1. Building self-confidence is a choice. In every moment and at each turn you have the ability to respond with or without confidence. And it’s a totally learnable skill.*

2. The actions of confidence come first and the feelings come later. In other words, the doing of confidence—taking risks outside your comfort zone—precedes the being.

3. At a fundamental level, confidence is about trusting yourself. Once you learn to self-trust, anything is achievable.

Today I’m a Confidence Coach and when I work with clients one of the first tasks I give them is to think about someone in their personal life who they completely trust. Then I ask, “so, what is it that makes you trust this person so much?”

Folks come back with responses like the following:

1. I know them well.

2. I love/accept them.

3. I choose to trust them.

4. I believe they have my best interest at heart.

5. I believe they’ll do whatever it takes for me.

6. It’s sometimes a leap of faith because everyone is human and can let you down.

The reason I do this exercise is to point out that we can turn this definition of trust, broken down into its various components, toward ourselves.

Once a client sees this new perspective, we’re able to start the real work of building radiating, foundational confidence.

The world awaits for anyone who realizes they have the ability to choose self-trust. And this is what I truly hope to teach my girls.

* Note: I distinguish self-confidence from self-esteem. While the former is about ability, the latter is about feeling deserving of all that you want to be and do. I believe this is separate and more appropriate work for therapy.



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Author: Danielle McKay

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author

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