Self-confidence refers to a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement. Confidence” comes from the Latin fidere, “to trust.” To be self-confident is to trust in oneself, and, in particular, in one’s ability or aptitude to engage successfully or at least adequately with the world. A self-confident person is ready to rise to new challenges, seize opportunities, deal with difficult situations, and take responsibility if and when things go awry. Another way of putting is about individuals having a deep conviction and feeling in their own importance and value as a person, irrespective of their performance and behaviour. I understand none of us are immune from others opinions, but generally self confidence is like a well rooted tree of self awareness and a positive view of self.
A few overall thoughts on self confidence in relation to coaching;
- The first thought building on the definition of self confidence is that the highest form of self confidence is from the inside out, rather than the outside in. If a person needs validation from outside all the time they look to others too frequently for affirmation, recognition and approval. They gain their confidence through a sense that others are approving of them, their choices and behaviour. One of the the main issues with needing external validation is just how tiring it can be to have to perform for others all the time. This isn’t to say that we don’t need an awareness of others, but a sense that we are filling our own reservoir, with a bit of top up from others, not the other way round. In coaching work this may be looking at how much internal reflection and self compassion the individual gives themselves.
2. I am struck in coaching work in self confidence around the idea of authenticity and values. Having authenticity is about having a good degree of self awareness and making choices that align with knowing who you are, your strengths, your challenges, and ultimately, your values. Values represent your core beliefs: what is important to you? What drives you? These create the building blocks for everything you do (there is more around values and coaching tools for these here). These create your base. Everything grows from here. At their heart, values are fundamental “policies” that define who we are, and when we wander too far from them, we can lose a sense of our core. Sometimes people haven’t ever had the opportunity to look at what their underlying values and purpose are , particularly professionally.
3. The next thought is being able to embrace our vulnerability. I sometimes reflect when I see behind individuals intricately built and outwardly effective screens/masks, how much they are struggling with feelings of low self esteem and “imposter syndrome”. One of the key principles of vulnerability expressed in Brene Brown’s work is to understand that we are not alone; there is a universality to feelings of periodic anxiety and vulnerability that others feel too, and it can help to be able to share these feelings with trusted others that somehow help us to overcome and defeat them over time.
4. Finally, holding onto our resilience. The whole area of resilience is an important constituent of self confidence. None of us sails through life without tough stuff happening. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and adversity: to stay committed and increase our efforts when the going gets tough, and have a well developed “bounce back facility”.This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or even using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected. For me its linked closely to self confidence, as it provides us with the faith that we will steady the ship, that even in the midst of tough times, we will emerge out the other side intact and have gained a lot of learning from the experience. The encouraging thing about resilience is that if we know what to work on to build our self resilience reservoir, we cal learn to do this.
Working with clients with low self confidence issues isn’t uncommon in Coaching. If I reflect on client work over the last few years, I can hardly think of a instance where self confidence hasn’t been part of the coaching work in some form or other. There are a number of possible tools that may help identify the causes of low self esteem, and some that help “find” or bolster self confidence that has temporarily been lost.
These are tools that help the Coach identify in more depth the issues and challenges the client is facing with self confidence, before moving onto possible ways of working with them to understand where things go wrong, and how they can react differently (click on the blue highlighted words to go to links/downloads of the tools) :
- Asking someone starting work in Coaching about the whole of themselves is a useful and probably essential part of the initial session. The “whole” person has evolved from life experience, so for both the client and the Coach, telling and hearing the life story is one way to begin to understand the client’s world.
- It’s important to take care with this tool, and not to stray too far into interpretative aspects, but it can unearth important aspects of where aspects of low self esteem originate from, whether recent or longer standing
- It’s also important to stress the Coaching approach here, rather than more of a therapeutic approach. In the latter, it may be enough to bring issues around low self esteem to the persons awareness to be able to “work through”, but in a Coaching context its more about an action orientation; e.g. using CBT techniques in troubling situations the client faces
- For more information on how to use the AUTOBIOGRAPHY tool click on the highlighted word
Self confidence assessment
- A series of questions to help the client (which could be done at a session or independent of a session and brought to talk through)
- Covers areas such as: what is self confidence; where do you struggle with it? What are your coping mechanisms?
- To view an example template of the Self Confidence Review, click on the highlighted words
- Or alternatively, complete the Mind Tools self confidence questionnaire
Practical Working exercises
A CBT technique that helps clients challenge difficult situations they encounter by taking them through a 5 step process of challenging negative thoughts and feelings, and thinking about difficult situations in a more balanced and realistic way
- To convince yourself that you’re a successful person who can continue to achieve great things, it may be helpful to take some time and reflect on all your achievements and what matters to you. This exercise commits people to acknowledging their achievements through looking at their values, their skills and attributes, and tangible and intangible achievements
- Part of the sustaining part of the work is for the client to keep the exercise close at hand to refer back to over time
The Anchoring technique works on the basis of using an “anchor feeling” of positivity, especially when faced with a difficult situation. It requires the client to select a feeling they would like to have in a particular situation and create a physical “anchor” of that feeling that they can go back to when they need to
- A driver is a part of us that believes if we behave in a certain way then we will do well, avoid problems and earn the respect of others (e.g. hurry up, be perfect, please people). There are five characteristic working styles, called “Drivers”, and each of us tends to have a preference for one or two particular styles, taken from Transactional Analysis theory
- Whilst our driver can sometimes be strength, under stress it can severely limit our capacity to be effective. The more stressed we get, the more we get locked into compulsive driver behaviour. This exercise requires people to find their key and secondary driver, and work out some improvement strategies