The What, Why, And How Of Building Confidence

It’s My Time Now: Kavita Ahuja

“Find the courage to face your fears, so you can develop the confidence to move forward”

Over the last several years I have had the honor of interviewing countless women who have faced adversities and challenges in their lives yet have somehow managed to move past those challenges to become even greater versions of themselves.

I’ve often asked myself: what makes these women different? What secrets do they have? The answer always boils down to this: Confidence.

Each of these women believed in themselves; believing that they were capable of doing whatever they set their minds to. It is a deep knowing; a quiet understanding that originates from within that fuels their being.

“When you remember what you did to achieve these things, it will allow you to channel your self-confidence.”

What Is Confidence?

But WHAT really is Confidence? According to the Webster Dictionary, it is:

“a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities”

Let’s break that down a bit – “self assurance arising from appreciation of one’s own abilities and qualities”. I would suggest that you go one step further. Not only appreciate your own abilities or qualities but celebrate them! 

You have achieved so much in your life, and now it is time to celebrate yourself. Take some time to write down a list of things or accomplishments – however big or small – that you have achieved that you are proud of. Make a list of your successes and remember – YOU DID THIS! When you remember what you did to achieve these things, it will allow you to channel your self-confidence.

So WHY is it important to build your confidence? Without it, it is difficult to take the first step to realize your dreams, or the steps that follow.

Comfort Zone:

You will find every excuse in the world to put it off – procrastinate, blame others or events or lack of time or money or any other reason for not starting. For example, it took me three years to move from the idea that I wanted to leave my corporate career to actually doing it. Why? Because I was afraid of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Consider this quote from a previous guest I had on my podcast, Dr. Caroline Brookfield:

“There is a comfort zone, a growth zone, and a panic zone. The trick is to find the edge of your comfort zone into your growth zone without going into a panic zone”.

“Fear can either be the brakes that stop the forward momentum of movement.”

When we develop confidence in ourselves, we shift our mindset from a limited mindset to a growth mindset. As Tony Robbins says, “the first step in building confidence is knowing why you want to achieve it. Once you know your purpose, learning how to build confidence becomes a matter of retraining your brain”.

He goes on to say that “confidence is not something people are born with – it’s something you must create. Building confidence creates the feeling of certainty that you can accomplish what you set out to do”. 

But What Holds Us Back?

In a word? FEAR. If you don’t have the courage to face your fears, you will not develop the confidence to move forward. It’s as simple as that. But of course, not simple at all.

Another common theme I’ve uncovered, and that I experienced myself is that to develop courage, we must act, despite our fears. Acknowledge the fear and recognize it is there but make a decision. Am I going to let this fear paralyze me, or am I going to use this fear to fuel me forward? Think of the analogy of sitting in your car. Fear can either be the brakes that stop the forward momentum of movement, or it can be the fuel which moves you forward. It’s your choice.

About six years ago I heard that little voice, that inner being in me kept on showing up, telling me that things needed to change. It was a deep inner knowing that things were not right as they were. Things were fine. But they weren’t great. That’s when I was faced with the fears that immediately arise with the prospect of change:

What if I fail?

What will people think?

What if I actually succeed?

“Slowly but surely, one step at a time you gain the confidence to do one thing..”

Face My Fears With Courage:

These fears, like the brakes in the car, stopped me from moving forward for at least three years. Until that voice inside of me grew so loud that I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and that’s when I decided to face my fears with courage. 

Once you acknowledge the fear for what it is, yet despite it, take one first step – wow, see what happens! Your confidence develops. Slowly but surely, one step at a time you gain the confidence to do one thing, and then the next. You begin to believe in yourself more and more, and momentum builds, and you continue to do more and more until you face the next fear. Then the cycle begins all over again. 

How Do We Develop the Confidence Muscle?

As women, especially in midlife and beyond, we have developed certain habits that undermine our confidence. To build our confidence muscle, it is important to pay attention to the Words we say, the Thoughts we think, and the Actions we take (or don’t take!)  

Words We Say:

As women especially, we are often programmed to play small. From when we were children, we were often told to “be seen but not heard”. Not always, of course, but our upbringing and society has caused many of us to lose confidence in ourselves and our abilities. 

“As women especially, we are often programmed to play small.”

On the other hand, if as children we were encouraged to speak up and use our words, we tend to be more confident as adults. By learning how to communicate with authority, we can begin to stand up for ourselves, and gain confidence. 

This is evident in some of the words we use. For example, in our everyday conversations or in our writing, if we start to take notice of some of these undermining speech habits we use, we can start to eliminate them from our communication. This leads to more confidence.

How We Say:

Take note of some of the words you use in everyday verbal or written communication. For example, using words like “just”, “actually”, and “almost” (as in, “I just think…” “I actually disagree…” “I almost suggest that we…”)

Or unnecessarily apologizing “sorry to bother you, but”. What about when we say, “Am I making sense?”, or “Does that make sense?” instead of saying, “I look forward to hearing your thoughts”.

How about when we say, “I’m no expert, but…” implying that you have no authority. Other things we may do is to hide our point of view behind a question, like “does everyone feel sure about this direction?” vs saying, “I think this is the wrong direction!” 

Do you use some of these words, which ultimately undermine your confidence?  Make a concerted effort to eliminate these from your vocabulary and see if that changes your level of confidence.   

“Fear is a very real emotion, but often it is something that we make up in our thoughts about a future”

Thoughts We Think:

I referred earlier to the fact that it took me at least three years before I left my corporate job and that was because I was afraid of going outside of my comfort zone and trying something new. I was afraid of failing at my new venture, and afraid of what people would think of my decision. 

The reason we don’t challenge ourselves or have confidence in what we can do is, as mentioned, fear. Fear is a very real emotion, but often it is something that we make up in our thoughts about a future, or projected outcome of something. Fear causes us to lose confidence in ourselves. But what are we afraid of?

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of judgment – what will people say?
  • Fear of consequences – what will happen if…?

Ask yourself, what am I afraid of? What fears do you have right now which are causing you to lose confidence? Are these fears imagined or real?

Actions We Take (Or Don’t Take):

There are certain things we do as women especially, which stop us from acting and being confident in our next steps. Do you find yourself hiding behind the following actions? Reflect on these actions you may be taking:

  • We think we must do, “this before that” or “I have to get this done first, before I can do the next thing”.
  • Asking too many people’s opinions about a decision or action.
  • Making sure everything is absolutely perfect before you put it out into the world.
  • Feeling like you need to become more qualified, more educated, more knowledgeable before you can do the thing.
  • Using other people’s ideas rather than being confident in your own.
  • Not telling your own story or putting yourself “out there”.
  • Not negotiating our true value (for example, for a higher salary, a promotion, etc.)

“The words we say, thoughts we think, and actions we take are important.”

Confident In Ourselves:

Do any of these actions (or non actions) sound familiar to you? Ask yourself, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

For example, what if I did put my story out there? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Instead, could other people learn from my story?

The words we say, thoughts we think, and actions we take are important. By realizing some of these things that we do in our lives, we can begin to reverse them and become more confident in ourselves, so we can act on our goals.

I am here to tell you, from my experience, and from lessons from countless other women, that the only way to be a better version of yourself, is to believe in yourself first. To have the confidence, which arises from the courage to face your fears. 

Gain Confidence:

The cycle starts with you. It really starts from listening and acting upon that little voice. My goal is to help you find that little voice, and act upon it with confidence. Remember, you are unique, you are special, and – you’ve got this!

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