Guest post by Jessica Sweet
It was 11 o’clock on a Monday morning when the call came in and Paula’s stomach clenched. She knew who was on the other end.
She picked up the phone carefully, but she could already hear her boss yelling.
It made her want to tell her boss to stop, and set a clear, professional limit. Instead, she listened meekly. . .
Matthew sat in the conference room as everyone else battled for space to be heard. He knew his idea was a good one, but he didn’t dare to speak up over the others. . .
Alex knew that he was due for a raise. After all, everyone else at the same level had gotten one. But when it was time for negotiation, it just wasn’t going to happen. . .
What do all of these people have in common?
They all lack the confidence needed to thrive or advance at work in the way that they’d like to.
These examples aren’t at all unusual. Many people feel stuck in their situations because of a lack of confidence, even though they wish they could play bigger roles in the world.
If this sounds familiar, the question is, what can you do about it?
Confidence is a Muscle
You may have heard it said before that confidence is a muscle.
It requires repetition to build, but over time you can gain more experience using your confidence muscle by doing things that require a bit more confidence. Using this same principle, you can even get your confidence back if it’s been lost.
The problem is, how can you build confidence when you don’t feel any to start?
Where do you get the confidence to even begin?
What’s Wrong With Being Confident?
Each of the stories above are scenarios from real clients, and in each case, these clients lacked the confidence even to take the first step toward doing something that might be better for them.
Every time we discussed it, common feelings would arise like fear, guilt, and worry about consequences.
I would ask, “Ideally, what would you like to say or do in this situation?” Then, after telling me, their less-confident self would say, “I could never say that,” or “I could never do that.”
What was going on?
For my clients, their lack of confidence still had a tight grip on them. All of the old thought patterns and emotions were still in place and nothing had really shifted. Even though a part of them would ideally like to react in a certain way, there was a part, a big part, that was telling them that it wasn’t OK to do so.
There were some beliefs about what being confident meant. Maybe it means not being “nice,” or not recognizing your “place” in the world.
What does not being confident mean to you?
A Technique For Being More Confident
To take the first step toward confidence you often have to let go these ingrained beliefs. For example, you’ll have to come to terms with either not being nice, or recognizing that you can be confident and nice at the same time.
There’s also an amazing technique that you can use to start your journey into greater confidence – and no one has to know you’re using it.
First, think about what a confident version of you would be like.
How would that confident version dress?
Style her (or his) hair?
Do her makeup (if she wears any)?
You get the idea. Create a persona for yourself. A confident one. Then name her or him. One of my clients named her persona Badass Betty.
Maybe your persona is a tuxedo-wearing, ballroom-dancing gentleman who commands attention the second he walks into a room.
Maybe you’re a motorcycle, boot-wearing woman who gives killer corporate presentations.
Maybe you’re the kindest kindergarten teacher the world has ever known, and you bake cookies for the entire town and host family parties every weekend.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your persona feels like the most confident version of you that you can imagine. If you’ve ever had a glimmer of confidence – multiply that by ten – that’s your persona.
Now name your persona, and put it on like a costume any time you need a bit more confidence.
I know it sounds silly but bear with me.
The Benefits of a Persona
A persona can be great for a number of reasons.
First, you have a frame of reference. When you’re feeling a lack of confidence in a situation and you don’t know what to do, you can refer back to your persona and ask yourself, “What would [your persona’s name] do?
That way, you can put yourself in the shoes of your alter-ego and understand from a new perspective what a more confident version of you might do.
A second amazing benefit of a persona is that it removes some of the negative emotion related to behaving outside of your comfort zone.
When you can mentally blame some of your new, confident behavior on your persona rather than feeling like you did it yourself, you feel less of the worry, guilt and fear that go along with trying out new, healthy behaviors.
Warning: Don’t Let Your Personas Be Naughty
When creating your persona, make sure that it is, in fact, a version of you. It is supposed to be the most extreme version of your confidence, but not rash, unpredictable, and certainly not violent.
The goal of your persona is to get you to the point where behaving more like you ultimately want to behave comes naturally. This way, you can begin to feel like some of these behaviors are not so foreign.
You can also test out any concerns you might have had that behaving in a certain way would create undesired effects.
For example, you might use your persona to finally tell your best friend that you don’t want to go and see yet another psychological thriller, but in fact you’d like to go see a comedy this weekend. You’ve been afraid that doing that would make her cancel all together. But does she?
Don’t use your persona to tell your best friend that she’s never asked you what kind of movie you want to see and that she’s not really much of a friend anyway.
So in other words, do create a super-confident persona that you can inhabit to get your needs met, but don’t create one that wreaks havoc on your life.
A New Persona Just For You!
Go ahead and give your new persona a try. Create it, and use it to figure out what to do in situations where you could use a boost of confidence. Then, let your new persona take over and make the confidence moves for you.
See what happens!
What do you think? Will creating a persona work for you? Did you try it? Leave your comments below!
Jessica Sweet is a career and small business coach as well as a licensed psychotherapist who helps creative midlife professionals who are stuck in careers that are unfulfilling. You can find out more about her at www.wishingwellcoach.com.
She has also written for The Huffington Post, The Brazen Careerist, Lifehack.org and been featured in places including CNBC, Business Insider and HayHouse Radio. When she’s not helping people find work they love, you can find her being ridiculous with her two little girls.