Confidence to me isn’t always loud or extroverted, and it certainly isn’t arrogant. It is a quiet inner knowing. It is the ability to turn inwards, listen to your own needs and then act upon them.
After returning to work following my first child I was promoted to the position of Ops Director and had a major confidence crisis. Imposter syndrome, low self-worth, the lot! To overcompensate for these feelings, I overstretched myself and eventually burnt out.
After working with a well-being coach, I began to realign with myself and my true values. I had buried them somewhere along the way, trying to prove myself.
It got me thinking, why did I have to show up in a certain way when promoted to Ops Director? What had knocked my confidence? Where did my self-worth go?
I became obsessed with confidence and how it shows up for women throughout our lives. Especially through times of transition and change.
Through my own personal experience, the work I do with women and in businesses, I believe there are some elements we cannot ignore when it comes to confidence. I call these the foundations of confidence.
The foundations of confidence
There are lots of elements that contribute to how confident we feel at any given moment in our day and lives.
When working with clients we’ll explore the wheel of confidence©️;
And whilst some of these elements build upon how confident we feel, others are foundational. Meaning, I believe, we cannot feel truly confident without them.
Have you heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? In a similar way to his hierarchy, I believe building these foundations are crucial to actualisation when it comes to confidence.
These are the building blocks of our unwavering confidence – meaning even on the darkest days, when we’re not feeling ourselves, we can still trust our choices and back our decisions.
This is the foundational pillar to building confidence. If we do not feel safe within our bodies we are stuck in a place of fear.
Our body’s natural response to external stress is to go into “fight, flight or freeze” mode. This is our defence system, it has been honed over hundreds of thousands of years and when it’s firing properly serves us beautifully. But what tends to happen is our very busy lifestyles trigger the response system more than needed, meaning we don’t move back into states of “rest and digest”, which is essential for social connection.
Our mental state and the decisions we make are very different when made from a place of fear instead of a place of safety and social connection.
I use breathwork techniques with my coaching clients to bring their nervous system back to a place of homeostasis before we start to look at any other areas where their confidence may be impacted.
Next up is our well-being. “Fake it until you make it” is a great catchphrase but if we’re falling apart at our core putting on a front doesn’t help us. If your goal is to feel confident when speaking publicly you might wonder why this is relevant. But our sleeping habits, what we eat, and how we move our bodies – all contribute to how good we’re feeling on any given day.
If you are not supporting yourself as a whole person you cannot show up confidently in the moments that matter. By working on the foundations of confidence you can not only build on specific skills, e.g. speaking in public, but you’ll be showing up more confidently in other areas of your life too.
For a long time, I ignored the impact the external had on my confidence – believing it was all inner work to do. But through my own personal journey, my continuous education and the work I do with clients I know how important this foundation is.
We live in a patriarchal society meaning that positions of authority and privilege are typically held by men and in the Western world, typically white men. For those of us that sit outside of this very limited box, it can feel as though we shouldn’t be in authoritative positions (queue imposter syndrome) or that we are not valued when we are there.
It’s important we begin to recognise our intersectional differences and privileges based upon gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical abilities, neurodivergence etc and how this can have a huge impact on how we show up in the world.
This means not only focusing on our current cultural belief systems but also those of previous generations. More and more studies are showing the impact of epigenetics and intergenerational trauma and I know this is having a huge effect on our collective confidence.
Our belief systems form the foundation of our reality and the majority of our beliefs are formed in our early years, 0-14. Since having children I understand more than ever the implications of what we are telling them. Some of the things I notice myself saying include:
“You can’t climb that”
“If you do that you’ll fall”
“No that’s not for you”
All of these things I say to a) keep them safe or b) because I don’t want to do something that inconveniences me. Usually, the thing I’m telling my little boy he can’t climb, in reality, he probably could, however, at that moment it’s highly inconvenient for me. I’ve shared some of the small instances of what I say, now imagine that every day, from lots of different adults (family, friends of the family, school teachers) and then imagine taking those same beliefs formed into your adulthood. Can you see how unhelpful this would be?
As well as beliefs built around what people tell us our brain also begins to make assumptions. For example, if our parents shout at us for being too loud (because they’re having a bad day and are tired) we start to believe being loud or speaking our needs is bad and so stop doing so. At this very young age, our brain thinks it is protecting us – it’s in survival mode as our parents are our providers. But again, can you see how unhelpful these beliefs become as we become our own person?
To understand who you are and to honour that by showing up as the whole of you, every day no matter the environment is standing in your power.
As children, we show up as our authentic selves as we know no other way but as we grow up we are labelled, put into boxes and conform to society’s “norms” to feel a sense of belonging. As adults, we end up completely detached from who we truly are.
It takes a lot of self-awareness and self-enquiry to strip away the layers of conditioning to unlearn who we think we should be and lean into who we truly are. If we are disconnected from who we are and how we want to show up in the world it can lead to us feeling anxious, depressed or have imposter syndrome.
By starting with these five elements and exploring each of them deeply we can connect back to our inner confidence, our north star.
The north star is total trust in yourself. True inner confidence.
- A voice
- Radical responsibility
There are other areas that are important to our personal confidence, such as fun, or creativity but for me, these five areas must be explored first to give you a solid grounding for building out your confidence toolkit.