Confidence is an ever-elusive state of being. As a big New York Yankee baseball fan, I’ve often thought much of what they’ve achieved came with simply putting on the pinstripe uniform--after all, it’s backed by 27 World Series championships. One player that reminds me of this is former third baseman Scott Brosius, who, before being traded to the Yankees in 1998, had an anemic .203 batting average with the Oakland Athletics, certainly an off year. In the Yankees historic 125-win season in 1998, Brosius helped lead the team to a four-game World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres, batted .300 during the season and was the World Series Most Valuable Player. What a turnaround!
So, what was the difference? Many of his teammates said it was confidence.
With this in mind, I asked Joan how we can all “find our pinstripes.”
Q. Why is confidence important?
Joan: How we feel about ourselves dictates the way we live life. It impacts the way we approach just about everything we do. Yet, sadly, many people struggle to believe in their worth and abilities.
Q. What causes the struggle to become confident? Can your level of confidence change?
Joan: Throughout my life, my levels of self-confidence have ebbed and flowed. Growing up I was an overweight adolescent, which had a significant effect on how I viewed myself. When you’re young, external validation is so important and when that is compromised, it can stay with you forever. When I became a teenager, I lost weight, but, to be honest, my self-image didn’t change. The programming was written, and, as I later learned, only I could modify it.
After college, my first job was as a public relations assistant for a Fortune 500 company. I was a 23-year-old thrust into a position that petrified me. I worked side-by-side with the communication manager, directly with the CEO and other corporate executives. I was solely responsible for writing the employee newsletter, assisting with the scripted CEO speeches, assisting on the annual report, etc. These were high level pros and I was a wet-behind-the-ears kid. But, I worked through my fear and grew stronger with each accomplishment. Each achievement was like a notch on my confidence belt. I felt really good about myself.
Fast forward a few years. My life circumstance changed when I chose to be a wife and stay-at-home mom. Now, this was the best role I ever had with the greatest rewards, however, it was also the job that almost destroyed me. For 17 years, I allowed myself to become “hired help” with no external validation or praise. Outsiders tended to belittle stay-at-home mothers and no one in the home was building me up. I didn’t recognize any of my many accomplishments or successes. I felt neglected, unwanted, and to be frank, stupid.
It was only after I made changes to my life situation, stepped out of my comfort zone, and went inside of myself, that I reclaimed my self-esteem and confidence.
Looking back, I can see the pattern in my life. Whenever I looked outside for validation, I felt horrible about myself. When I went inside, believed in myself and achieved my goals, I became confident. Building confidence is an inside job!
Q. What are 3 things that people can do to begin building confidence?
Joan: Building confidence is not something that happens overnight. There are so many situations and people that can tear it apart, if we let it. Like building muscle mass, confidence is built up over time, with repetition. To get the process going, I recommend:
1. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Many of us go through life living an existence that is not even close to our full potential. The fear of failing or being ridiculed makes us play it safe. It’s only by moving through our fears that we can feel good within. Face your fears. Try something new that you’re not sure you can do. Try something that scares you: take a class, run a 5K, speak in front of an audience, volunteer for a work project. Then, try something else that’s new. Do this over and over again. Give it your best and have fun. With each success, you will chip away at the self-doubt and fear until you feel like there’s nothing you cannot achieve.
This is what I did at my first job and again when I was at my lowest point. In middle age, I had a crazy idea to start and host a radio show. With absolutely no experience or knowledge about the industry, I went for it. It was not easy. Actually, it was the hardest thing I ever did. There were less than positive outcomes along the way, but I persisted. Little by little, I began to believe in me. I stopped focusing on the “failures”—in fact, I viewed them as learning experiences—and put my attention on the wins. Those wins, no matter how small, build you up!
2. Eliminate negative thoughts (yours and negative comments from others)
As I said, self-confidence is an inside job. Stop negative self-talk. We speak to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to another. Recognize that when you speak about yourself, what follows “I am” in your statement defines you. When you say, “I am too dumb,” or “I am not pretty enough,” or I am fat,” or “I am (fill in the blank)” becomes your reality. If you catch yourself having an inner dialogue, stop! Don’t feed it! Learn to catch these thoughts and replace them with a positive affirmation about yourself.
Just as important, do not allow the negative external voices to infiltrate your thoughts. When I started my work, I was told by someone close to me that I was making a fool of myself and everyone was laughing at me. Talk about a self-confidence crusher! It took work, but I did not allow that voice to reside in my mind. Spend time with people who lift you up and remove yourself from those who want to keep you down.
Tip: when someone says something unkind or unsupportive, it usually has to do with the way that person feels about his or her self and has nothing to do with you.
3. Act Confident
You’ve heard the expression, “Fake it till you make it.” Well that’s the golden rule. If you look confident, and speak and carry yourself with confidence, eventually you’ll start to feel like a winner.
Take care of yourself. Shower, wear makeup, comb your hair, exercise, eat nutritious food, rest, get a manicure, read books about a topic of interest. Take off the sweats and faded T-shirt and put on nice clothing, even if just lounging around the house. Take part in little things that will help you feel good about yourself. When you feel good inside, you cannot help but exude confidence.
Q. How does having confidence benefit people in their work, home life?
Joan: When you believe in yourself, you are more likely to maintain a positive mental attitude, which makes you happier. When you’re happier, you tend to be more grateful and see your blessings. You come from a place of abundance and not lack.
Self-confidence can help you manage fears and even eliminate them. Fear will no longer dictate how you live. You’ll stop playing it safe and step into your greatness. You’ll ask for the promotion or volunteer to work on a project.
Believing in yourself will help you tackle life’s challenges with more certainty and strength. You will be able to face whatever is thrown at you with the knowledge that you can get through it.
Q. Does our level of personal confidence bleed into how we raise our children, how we do our jobs?
Joan: As parents, we have to believe that we know what we’re doing, even when we haven’t got a clue. Parenting calls for decisiveness. If we question every move we make, nothing will get accomplished and our children will pick up on it very quickly, which can lead to their lack of respect.
Confident people inspire confidence in others. When you believe that you know what you’re doing (or still faking it), others will believe it too.