How to build the confidence to succeed

Child with cape

If you want to progress your career you need to be able to push yourself. To do that you need confidence, and here’s how to build yours…

The difficult thing about building confidence, is that it’s so incredibly subjective. The attitudes, behaviours and beliefs that have been learned are so incredibly hard to unlearn and each person has slightly different needs to achieve the desired level of self-confidence.

Some people grow up where expressing themselves emotionally would mean vulnerability, the people that they lived with, would chastise and humiliate them, and take advantage of that vulnerability, to the point where, as an adult they don’t want to express themselves. They choose to hide their authentic selves and spend their adult lives avoiding their own emotions and being rejecting of those that try and instigate an emotional connection, never truly experiencing true fulfilment, overwhelmed by anxiety.

It’s sad, especially when these beliefs are inflicted on us, but it, and many cases like this, exist everywhere. But it doesn’t mean we can’t break these negative patterns and grow our confidence.

Where to start?

It isn’t easy, but it starts with breaking those thought patterns. Formed from thousands of repetitions, reinforced because every time you fail, struggle or give up, it reduces your self-belief. To break that thought, that inherited belief, we must first analyse it.

To do that, you need to start thinking about a “thought court”. It’s a common practice in cognitive behavioural therapy involving an individual taking their thought patterns to an imaginary court. If you feel like you are unable to achieve something, feel like you don’t have the capability to achieve your goals - take that thought to court. Argue it’s validity, then undermine it. What logical evidence do you have for this thought? What advice would you give to a friend? And of course, analysing that evidence to decide whether or not the thought is something that should control your life.

It isn’t a simple process, it’s actually deeply wired in humans as we crave the known and fear the unknown, a belief that we should be safe and secure and away from any potential failure or risk, could be considered essential for our survival. Evolutionarily inherited fear of public speaking, being terrified of an exam, being undermined by your fear of promotion are all deeply wired.

The science of confidence

From the very moment that we are born, we learn about ourselves and the world around us, it’s here, that our emotional learning begins. Our limbic centre, which is our emotional centre, our hippocampus and amygdala, our emotional memory and our fear generator, learn about the world and absorb information the moment we leave the womb. Hence why children do as we do, not as we say!

How we communicate with each other, what love is, what we should be avoiding and what we should be enjoying is all learned from an early age. Before you can even communicate and speak coherently you have already learned about fear and pain and how to treat your loved ones. As you grow and begin to make sense of the world around you, that too is greatly influenced by the people around you and the examples that we witness.

So, there is a very good chance that to build the confidence that you crave, to have the kind of confidence that draws in success, that makes you perpetually fulfilled, you must don an imaginary suit and get yourself to the court. It’s time to put these negative patterns to the sword.

Sure, you are scared, but what is fear except for “False Evidence Appearing Real”?

I rest my case.

James Elliott is a military mental resilience coach who has worked with the British Army on its OPSMART mental health programme. You can find him on Instagram @jameselliottofficial