As a coach, I noticed that many of my clients come to me to improve their confidence levels. I decided to undertake a survey to understand what could be getting in the way of increasing confidence levels and what could help boost confidence amongst my clients. The findings were interesting:
Whilst there is still a gender confidence gap, it’s not as big as we think. 56% of women said they were often or always bothered by their level of confidence, compared to 44% of men. There could be a number of reasons for this, women could be more confident than they have been in the past and perhaps men are now being more open about their insecurities too. Both are heartening. There has been a real movement to empower women over the last decade through personal and professional development and it seems to be making some inroads. Men opening up about how they feel can only be a good thing, considering the mental health challenges facing men – just over three out of every four suicides are committed by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35. (Reference: ONS)
Age was shown to be an important factor in confidence levels. Not only does it increase with age and experience, it also decreases in later life according to the findings. People often think that young people are uber confident, but the research showed that those under 24 were not as confident as we think, they shared that their lack of experience as a big factor. In later life confidence reduces again due to ill health, loss of loved ones and loss of the identity that comes with a job title. As a population that is living longer, this is an area that needs to be considered. How can we empower those over 55, some of whom may also be experiencing loneliness? Hobbies, entrepreneurial pursuits and support groups could be solutions? ‘Imposter Syndrome’ or the sense that as a visible minority you doubt your accomplishments and have a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud, plays a significant role in confidence levels. 52% of those surveyed said they felt their level of confidence often or always held them back.
When asked what has negatively impacted their confidence, respondents most commonly cited their boss and colleagues, this was followed by early life experiences. Bullying by a boss or colleague is difficult to handle, your confidence suffers if you stick it out, or you leave your role prematurely. Much more needs to be done to educate bosses about their behaviour and to protect the employee, so they can report bullying if it takes place. The playground bully shouldn’t be allowed to continue doing this in the workplace. We need to help managers recognise the impact of their behaviour on staff confidence and the implications for workplace happiness, productivity and success.
Ultimately, there are many factors which could impact your level of confidence, including the situation you find yourself in.
New experiences were cited by 67% of those surveyed to increase their confidence levels. Such as going for a promotion, learning a new skill or moving to another country. In short, anything that made them step out of their comfort zone.
Our comfort zone is the space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and pattern that minimises stress and risk. It provides a state of mental security. You benefit in obvious ways: regular happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress. There is a place just outside it where we are not so comfortable, but more productive, it’s not so cosy as the comfort zone and not so stressful that we curl into a ball in a corner and give up,
I wholeheartedly agree that out of your comfort zone into optimal anxiety and gain new experiences, and that it is a sure-fire way to increase your confidence, but I also know that fear usually holds us back.
Here are 3 top tips on overcoming that fear, in order to step into the more confident you:
Blow It Up
Imagine your fear and blow it out of all proportion. Laughing at fears will help get control of them. e.g. You have a fear of public speaking, so you imagine all the things that could go wrong, falling off the stage, saying the wrong thing, mixing up your slides etc, no one turning up, no one being able to hear you and realise that it is highly unlikely that all of that could happen.
Is it true?
What’s the evidence for your fear, find ways that disprove it e.g. the voice says that people like you don’t go to singing lessons, or learn a new language, or do ballroom dancing. Look for evidence to disagree with what you are telling yourself, and also ask yourself who are ‘people like you’?
Do the Opposite
Behave in the opposite of how you’d usually react. Don’t wait until you ‘feel like’ doing it: practising the new behaviour – even though it is not spontaneous – will gradually internalise the new habit. Stepping out of character is one common type of paradoxical behaviour. e.g. a perfectionistic person could deliberately do some things to less than their usual standard; or someone who believes that to care for yourself is ‘selfish’ could indulge in a personal treat each day for a week.
Remember as Ginni Remetty said ‘Comfort and growth cannot coexist’, if you really want to boost your confidence, take a step out of that comfort zone today and try something new.
Jenny Garrett Is an Award winning coach, speaker and trainer with over 12 years’ experience of running a Global Business. She is a freeman of the Guild of Entrepreneurs - City of London and was listed in Brummell Magazine's top 30 City Innovators 2016