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The Confidence Conundrum
Nouns & verbs, a 9 box grid of comfort & leadership lessons from Batman
Photo by Cassidy James Blaede on Unsplash
Many of the leaders I work with are high achievers. They thrive by pushing themselves to do more, taking on new challenges, and stepping into the unknown.
The irony is that it is the most successful leaders who quietly share their struggles with inner confidence. Research actually shows that feeling like an imposter is most prevalent in high achievers, especially when operating outside their comfort zone.
The challenge with confidence is that it is built on your past actions, accomplishments, and successes. It is, in one sense, retrospective.
When you step out of your comfort zone, you are intentionally stepping forward into a space where you are unaccomplished and where it is uncomfortable.
Feeling unsure of yourself and like an imposter is a by-product of operating outside of your comfort zone. The two go hand in hand.
This means that if you are a leader who is constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, that feeling will always be there.
The question is therefore how you manage the discomfort rather than letting it manage you.
Here are six things to help you navigate the uncomfortable:
In leadership, when we get caught up focussing on the ‘noun’ (or the title and everything that comes with it) it can lead to overthinking, worry, and a weakening of confidence. And it self perpetuates.
By starting with small actions instead, your confidence will slowly grow. And what felt uncomfortable yesterday will become more comfortable with continued practice.
What pressure do you put on yourself to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’?
What opportunities exist to make a shift?
What could that make possible for you?
Model: Many leaders are stepping into new roles or projects this year. When you do this, you’re likely trading something that’s within your zone of comfort and confidence for something that will challenge you.
Yet these moves don’t just challenge your ability, they challenge your confidence too.
In the grid below that means shifting from the top right, towards the lower left, almost overnight. That can be challenging for you (and your ego) to take.
Take a moment and think:
Where do you find yourself on the grid above?
Where do you do your best work?
Where do you want to be?
What two actions will help you start bridging the gap?
Reflect: When you’re readying yourself for a new challenge, make a list of all the times that you’ve started a new position or project and lacked confidence.
What did you learn?
What difference do you notice, now?
Name it: We all have internal saboteurs that live in our minds and the imposter is one. A simple yet powerful technique to manage your imposter is to name it.
In times of challenge; if you catch yourself thinking “I’m not ready” try instead “my imposter tells me I’m not ready”. Shifting the imposter to being an external voice rather than your voice, gradually helps weaken its power over you.
Imagine: Being hyper-conscious of your limitations can hold you back. One approach to help you get out of your own head is to self-distance.
Imagine a character (real or fictional) who you think would handle the situations you’re facing in a way that you wish you could. Research suggests there are some real psychological benefits to the strategy. Create an alter ego (think Sasha Fierce) or ask yourself ‘what would Batman do?’
Ear candy: For a quick fix Harvard research projects are starting to show a link between music and human performance.
The brain and nervous system can distinguish music from noise and respond to rhythm and repetition, tones, and tunes. It’s common to use music during exercise, yet rarer to use it for a boost of calm or confidence pre-meeting or in a 3-minute coffee break.
What would you play? And what could it do for you?
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