Upcoming leaders struggle with confidence. It is one of the things that stops them dead in their tracks, has them stutter, second-guess themselves and make bad judgments. I know, I was there, lacking confidence often. How do you overcome it? How does a leader feel into confidence that may not be there or be hidden beneath the fear and worry? One answer might be to become superman, if only for two minutes.
As an upcoming leader I was sure that everyone around me, including my subordinates were smarter than me. I figured that others had more education and experience and thus had a jump on me. People at meetings seemed more worldly, savvy, funnier and connected and as such I felt, well honestly, a little bit like a hillbilly from the north! I knew I wasn’t the boss’s “favorite” and so I had to work harder to prove myself. Was there truth to any of this? Some of it yes was true. Camping in the Boreal Forest is far more my style than backpacking across Europe. A lot of it however was not true. It was made up in my head. I was, and am, well educated, smart, I have a playful side and I am very well connected. I now know my own self-assessment counts more than whether I am someone’s favorite.
At the time all of my insecurities had me doubt and question my abilities as a leader. In spite of that, I plowed ahead. I tried. I worked hard. I put myself out there. The more I did, the more successful I became, the more I accomplished and the more confident I felt. With that confidence came more. More competence, more opportunities, more successes and more acceptance of my strengths and myself. It appears, I needed to fake it til I made it. I needed to act, appear and come across as confident, to my employees, my colleagues, my world, but ultimately to myself. Faking it was really about harnessing that inner knowing. I had to connect to that part of me that knew I was smart, knowledgeable, capable and able.
Looking back, one of the turning points for me in my confidence as a leader was when I started working out. As my body became stronger, I stood taller. Gaining abdominal muscles will do that for you! I was discovering my confidence was increasing! Now as I research what makes a great leader, I discovered the science behind what was happening for me many years ago. Watching the body posture of others will tell you a lot about them, but how you hold your own body will speak volumes to you. Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist at Harvard Business School, presented her research findings in this inspiring Ted Talk about the power of body language in our own confidence.
Cuddy suggests assuming a power position (think superman or superwoman) for two minutes in private, like your office or in the bathroom before heading into a meeting or onto a conference call will boost your self-confidence. It is similar to how animals make themselves appear larger than they are when they are confronted with danger. By making ourselves bigger and assuming a power position such as sitting up tall and taking up space or spreading your wings, has the effect of releasing a positive hormones that help with confidence.
So next time you are lacking confidence, stand up, take up some space and let those positive confidence hormones flow. The hormones that say, “I can do this”, “I am capable” and “Look out world! Here me Roar!”
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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