Unshakeable self-confidence is something we’d all love, and can be a huge asset both within the running arena and far beyond. But confidence can seem an elusive concept and our attempts to capture it can feel like chasing shadows. Many of us have experienced our seemingly stable confidence tumbling like a house of cards when an unexpected job loss, relationship breakdown or chronic injury knocks us back. So what exactly is confidence? And how can we harness it to handle life’s challenges?
The dictionary states self-confidence is, “A feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgement”. Quite simply, it’s the belief that we can do something before we come to do it. Some forms of confidence are limited to a particular skillset or area of our lives, such as, “I’m confident I can pass my driving test”, or “I’m confident I’ll get a sub-five marathon today.”
However, this form of confidence may not transfer to other unrelated areas of our lives. So even though we smash our marathon PB, we may not necessarily feel confident chatting to someone we don’t know at the bag collection afterwards.
What we’re all really looking for is all-encompassing confidence; a sense that we have value and worth whatever social situation we find ourselves in. But is that idea really achievable and, if so, how can we cultivate it?
If we believe we don’t have enough confidence at present to try something new – whether that’s applying for a job promotion or signing up to our first major running event – we could spend months or even years trying to build up the confidence to do so.
The result? We end up staying in a job we don’t enjoy, or perhaps never pushing beyond a race distance we are comfortable completing. But without making a change, this approach of trying to build self-confidence is doomed to failure. More time passes and our confidence drops further, as we end up putting our dream career move or aspirations of running a marathon onto the backburner for good.
So why not approach these scenarios from a new understanding? It’s time to realise our current lack of confidence is the natural result of not trusting that we’ll be able to handle a new challenge. Once you move into a job in which you can thrive, or sign up to the marathon that’s been calling you, your confidence will jump to the next level. From this new model, we come to see confidence is an innate quality in all of us, which we tap into by building our lives around areas in which we thrive.
Try these four steps to help tap into your innate confidence…
Your values point to who you are at the deepest level. When you align your life around your values, you’ll experience a natural inner confidence, simply because you’re being true to who you are. To figure out your values, look back over your life and pinpoint times you’ve thrived or, at the other extreme, times you’ve suffered. You’ll have been violating a core value whenever you’ve done something that really didn’t sit right with you, time has dragged or your energy has been drained. Conversely, you’ll have been honouring your core values whenever you’ve felt vitally alive, time has sped up, or your energy has peaked. Once you’ve identified your core values – such as growth, integrity, health or success – build your life around them to tap into your innate confidence. (Visit stevechamberlain.co.uk to download a free sample values list.)
If you’re great at communicating with passion, you’ll love the sales floor. If you have great stamina, you’ll feel confident lining up for an ultra. There’s simplicity in aligning your life around your strengths.
You can still work on building your expertise in areas beyond your core skillset, but confidence is a natural by-product of knowing you’re good at something, so use that to your advantage!
You could be great at numbers, but the thought of working for an accountancy firm may still leave you feeling cold if your true passion is helping others to develop. Teaching maths may be the place where you’ll thrive, and therefore where your confidence will naturally spike. Where your passions and strengths combine is where your confidence will be at its highest.
Once we’re playing in the right space, our mindset holds the key to creating unshakeable self-confidence. These seven tips will set you on the right track:
• Know that, whatever happens, you’ll handle it. True confidence isn’t believing you’ll always achieve your desired outcome, rather that you’ll be fine whatever plays out.
• Know that your worth isn’t dependent upon outcome. If you believe not reaching your goal means your value has been diminished, you’re likely to experience increased pressure, associated stress and
a resulting dip in confidence. True confidence comes from knowing you’re perfect regardless of outcome, which frees you up to excel.
• Focus on what you’re doing, not on yourself. Self-confidence almost becomes irrelevant when all of your attention goes onto the task at hand. So get into your flow and enjoy the moment.
• Make doing your best the priority, not beating others. Our confidence is fragile if it depends upon our performance relative
to others, but unshakeable if it only depends on our own learning.
• Know that confidence comes from within. Many of us aim to get approval or affirmation from others. But self-confidence is exactly that – our confidence in ourselves – so forget what others think and adopt your own positive belief system.
• Choose which thoughts you buy into. If you experience a self-critical thought, and then buy into the validity of that thought, your self-confidence will drop. You don’t have control over whether or not the thought occurs – thinking happens – but you always have the choice as to whether you buy into it. If a thought isn’t 100 per cent true or helpful, choose again!
• Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. True confidence comes from knowing that none of it matters as much as we sometimes
We experience self-confidence when we no longer need everything to work out perfectly in order to feel good about ourselves. We simply trust that, whatever happens, we’ll handle it. The paradox is that by accepting the imperfections that make us human, we’re freed up to achieve levels of performance way beyond what was previously possible.
Steve Chamberlain delivers life coaching and training. You can download a free 90-minute happiness audio programme using the promo code RUNNING at stevechamberlain.co.uk/happiness. If you’re interested in finding out more about his Skype and phone coaching work, please email Steve on firstname.lastname@example.org.