It seems like every time you get excited and ready to move forward with your goals, you question yourself again and are right back at the drawing board…trying to learn more, stopping and starting….again, just not sure if you have what it takes. You have big plans and know you could do them, if only you felt ready! If only you picked the right thing!
It’s like you’re waiting for a magic something that will tell you that NOW is the time to move forward. You’re waiting to somehow feel confident before you start.
You have all the worry thoughts going through your head…fear of judgment, fear of mistakes, fear you’ll do the wrong thing…
You end up taking more and more courses and ultimately not starting.
But there isn’t any knight on a white horse coming to rescue you and there is no guru out there that can tell you exactly what you need to hear to move forward. Whether you know everything or not, starting something important to you is scary!
The danger comes when you decide to give into the fear and let it stop you from moving forward.
The Best Way Past Fear and Self Doubt
The best way to get past fear and self doubt is to face your fears and do what you’re afraid of.
Even before you’re ready.
There just isn’t any way around this.
When you don’t move forward out of fear, kind of sitting back and hoping for confidence to strike…waiting for one day when you’ll know enough (this will happen, right?)…you don’t show up!
Then you don’t get to face the fear and decrease it.
You end up hiding yourself and playing small. You do what’s safe rather than what will get you the best outcomes.
That doesn’t help anyone.
Especially not you.
The best way to get through self doubt and fear is to face it, to put yourself out there, to fail and to figure it out.
When I was in graduate school I learned this the hard way. I was so scared that I was going to be seen as a fraud. I had a serious case of Imposter Syndrome, though I didn’t know what that was at the time.
I thought everyone was smarter than me and that everyone was a better therapist than I was. I had myself convinced that if I spoke up in class or asked questions that everyone would know I didn’t fit in. I was just there because of luck.
So I didn’t take risks. I picked the easy teachers, the easy experiences…I did my best to stay under the radar.
I regret that so much because I missed so many great opportunities to learn. The more I hid myself, the more I couldn’t admit to not knowing things…after awhile I didn’t even know what I did or didn’t know because I was always trying to pretend.
Lucky for me I’m pretty smart and figured things out and eventually put myself in situations where I could do this, where I could take risks and learn from mistakes. But it took a lot longer this way! And was a whole lot more uncomfortable.
The same goes for all of your important goals. You see, if you truly believe you don’t have what it takes and that no one will want to listen to you…or that people will judge you negatively, you’re not going to reach your goals. These kinds of thoughts hold you back.
You are the leader of your life. You’re in charge. So the question is, do you need to be confident before you can start?
How Important is Confidence?
Confidence can totally be helpful in allowing you to get ahead more quickly. When you’re confident, you take quicker action. You do things without second guessing or getting filled with self doubt.
When you know something well you can answer questions about it without hesitation.
But here’s the thing, everyone has to start at the beginning. No one is born already knowing how to be a leader in a space. Sure, some people are better at acting as if they are totally confident in what they’re doing…
But when it comes right down to it, while confidence is great…learning can be more important. It also makes you more relatable.
Imagine if you were to go skydiving for the first time and you decided you were confident even though you’d never done it before. You tell the instructor “I’ve got this.” (This is a scary story). You jump out of the plane on fake confidence, hoping you can get your stuff together before going splat.
That doesn’t sound very smart.
For most of us of course it isn’t that blatant. We’re more likely to hide or avoid. We second guess and wait until we have all the right things in place. We take 12 million courses hoping that the next tactic will be the one.
We fail to see that the real issue is that we are not being the type of person who does the things to move forward to confidence. It’s not in the books you’re reading or the videos you’re watching.
Before you can have confidence, you need to have the willingness or the courage to try things. You cannot have confidence in doing something before you know how to do it. Knowing how in your head is not the same as knowing how through experience.
The cool thing is when you allow yourself to take the steps to learn and grow, you can become more confident in many things. And in my experience, being open to failure and being open to the vulnerability around that makes you a stronger person, a stronger leader.
But what about if you’re just starting out? Can you go out there and be a leader when you haven’t led?
Do You Need to Feel Confident Before Starting?
In a nutshell, no.
If you wait until you feel confident before starting something you probably will never start. It is difficult to feel confident in something before you do it.
You can be confident in the knowledge about something prior to trying it out but to feel confident while performing the action, you have to have some prior experience
Confidence is a body state. This means confidence is something you feel in your body.
When you try to think yourself to confidence, it just doesn’t work very well.
Thinking yourself to confidence results in a bunch of procrastination, avoidance and perfectionism.
You have to start before you feel confident. The first time you do something is not going to be perfect, but you get to progress over time.
But although you may not feel confident in the tasks required to reach your goal, you do have confidence in some other things. Maybe you have confidence in your knowledge about your goal. Maybe you have confidence in your mission to help people. There is something driving you. There is some kind of purpose you have for wanting to start working toward your goal, even though it’s uncomfortable.
You can use this to start. You can use this to get through this uncomfortable self doubting stuff.
How to At Least Get Confidence To Be Courageous Enough to Start
Confidence is a state. You’ve felt confident before. Think of a time when you last felt confident. This doesn’t have to be something huge. It can be something simple like driving your car. You do it every day and you know exactly how. You don’t even have to think about it.
Get yourself in that space, really remember back to what it felt like. Feel that state in your body. What does that feel like? How is your breathing? What is your posture? Do you notice any sensations in your body? What did you feel at the time?
Since you’ve felt confidence before, you can do it again. In fact, you can actually borrow the feelings from the last time you felt confident when going into your new task.
When I gave a talk in front of a large group of psychologists for the first time, I was TERRIFIED (like to the point of illness). To get through it, I talked to myself about things I accomplished, things I was successful at. I felt those things in my body and started my talk from that place. (Starting is always the hardest).
Is there a time you can remember being proud of yourself?
Is there a time you can remember feeling like you did something well?
If you can think about those times and especially around what it felt like in your body, you can borrow that to go into the next thing.
How to Gain Confidence
Confidence truly comes from competence. So the question cannot be how do I gain confidence before it is how do I gain competence.
What the heck is competence? Well, it is being good at something.
We’ve all had experiences where we’ve done something for the first time and felt super unsure of ourselves. Think of a kid learning to walk? Or better yet, watch how Bambi overcomes several situations where he is unsure of himself in this cute video:
As you can see, Bambi is unsure about standing up at first but then quickly feels confident and is running with the crowd. With each new obstacle, he is once again unsure of himself but then tries it out, and gains confidence by becoming competent. Soon he’s running and leaping with the rest of them!
This is what happens with us as well.
When we first try something, it is awkward. We may feel nervous, shaky, afraid.
The product we put out there might not be great, but it is done.
Your first Facebook Live or Youtube video will be TERRIBLE. Most are. It’s fine. Your first drawing will look like crap. Handlettering? Why is it so shaky? Just about everything requires practice before you’re good at it.
Have you heard the statement “done is better than perfect”? That’s what I’m talking about. You have to let yourself do the thing before you start really feeling confident at whatever it is you’re doing
An Example of Gaining Confidence
I used to be so afraid to talk in class that if there were even two people listening to me, I’d get nervous and flustered. I’d hold my breath and forget to breathe. I would shake and get all up in my head…more and more embarrassed. My face would turn red (lack of breath will do that). It was pretty awful.
My job involves a lot of talking to people. Right after graduating I decided I was going to run this one program that had a lot of group treatment in it. I put myself in a situation where I had to be the main leader/teacher in group treatment every single week.
At first I was super nervous.
But after awhile it was just something I did.
That transferred to me being comfortable in other more advanced situations.
Now I can get in front of a much larger group without really a second thought. As long as I have my material, I’m good.
I don’t worry too much about being judged while speaking. Typically this is due to a combination of things. First, I’ve had to do it so much that it’s no big deal. Second, when I have to get up and speak (or speak up in meetings) it’s usually about something that I believe in strongly. It’s usually something that I feel compelled to say to make a difference.
When what you say matters to you, you can give up worrying about what others think of you.
This applies to business because once you have a mission to help people, your mission matters. Letting yourself be stopped because of problems with self doubt means you won’t help someone.
When you think of it that way you almost have to move forward…because otherwise you are withholding something important from someone.
When thinking about learning a new skill, or taking a new class, holding yourself back means you won’t gain the skill you want to learn.
So let me ask you this:
Are you willing to take steps through fear and self doubt to get your message out in the world, to help people? Are you willing to go through the mess of learning something new to be able to create cool things?
What about this?
Are you willing to take the steps past self doubt and fear to change your life and the lives of your family? Because that’s what’s at stake.
When you have big goals, you have to get started. You can’t wait around until you feel confident or until you think no one will judge you.
People judge you all the time.
But you know what, a lot of them aren’t even showing up. You are. So who is winning?
What can you commit to do in the next week that you don’t feel confident about but that you know you need to move forward with in your business or career?
Marlena is the blogger behind apenandapurpose.com, where she writes about using journaling for self improvement and reaching goals in life and business. Using her experience as a Licensed Psychologist with a Master’s in Business, she teaches people how to break through negative thoughts and fear to do what matters. For more about me read my about page.