Ashley’s career is thriving. She is enjoying increased responsibilities and a recent promotion offers her a new leadership role in an important organizational project.
While everything appears sunny on the outside, inside, Ashley is stressed out and struggling. Deep down, She is suffering from “imposter syndrome.” She is worried that she “doesn’t deserve” her growing responsibilities. That somehow, she isn’t as smart or talented as people seemed to think she is. She feels insecure. “Am I a fraud?” s“Do I have the skills to lead the team?” “Will I make good decisions?” “Will our recommendations make sense to the senior team?” And her negative self-talk could sabotage her growth as an executive leader — something that should be an exciting, affirmative moment in her career.
Confidence and Executive Presence begins with Self-Trust
When people speak about “executive presence” and “confidence,” what they are typically referring to is external — how do you come across to others? How do you carry yourself? How do others perceive you? It’s usually one of the first things we notice about someone. But what’s happening behind the curtain, internally?
The word confidence comes from the latin “con” (with) and “fide” (trust). Possessing self-confidence, then, means to have trust in one’s self.
If you do not have trust in yourself, external displays of self-confidence will feel artificial and likely to fail when you need it most. Sure, Ashley was following all the usual advice: watch your posture, speak clearly, dress for your next job, look people in the eye… While these things do make a difference (for more about demonstrating true self-confidence in your leadership role, read Arden Coaching’s blog, “Leadership Requires Self-Confidence.”), she felt like she was faking it.
Self-confidence requires self-trust, and that needs to be developed from the inside out. Fortunately, Ashley had begun working with an executive coach — someone trained to help her clarify her goals, change behaviors, and strengthen leadership skills, emotional intelligence, and performance. Ashley was honest with her coach about her feelings, and together, they crafted the following four-point approach to build self-trust.
Speak Nicely to Yourself
We all have a voice in our head that provides a running narrative of our life. Is your voice encouraging? Enthusiastic? Or does your voice criticize, constantly see the negative, and tear you down. Ashley is working to develop a more positive self-voice — one that is approving, supportive, optimistic, inspirational, and seeks to improve her performance based on a foundation of kindness.
Have a Few Important, Specific Goals
While we lead busy, hectic lives, are we pursuing specific meaningful personal or professional goals? Defining and accomplishing an important goal is a significant contributor to self-confidence. Using the framework of SMART goals, Ashley has identified two important personal goals and two important professional goals. As Ashley moves forward and builds success, her accomplishments will feed her growing sense of self-trust.
Take Care of Your Body
This may sound unrelated to self-trust or leadership, but Ashley’s executive coach is encouraging her to consider the many benefits of exercise. Like many of us, Ashley had become “too busy” to exercise regularly. Exercise increases physical energy and mental focus. It, literally, makes us feel happier. And as we improve our fitness and our physical abilities, we view ourselves in an increasingly positive light. Over the course of the next several months, Ashley’s exercise routine and improved fitness will play an important part in her growing self-confidence.
Visualization is a technique with proven benefits. Play out, in your mind’s-eye, what it is that you’d like to do with assurance and confidence. Run a mental movie of yourself. Ashley is beginning to visualize leading her new team — facilitating positive conversations to foster innovative thinking. She is also visualizing herself presenting an analysis of a critical finding and recommendation to her company’s senior team. In many respects, visualization compliments speaking nicely to yourself. It contributes further to growing a sense of confidence and trust in your intelligence, capabilities, judgment, and decision-making.
The key to a sense of genuine self-confidence is to overcome feelings of insecurity, fear, and negative self-talk. Fight imposter syndrome! A positive self-image leads to positive and productive behaviors. You will be delighted with the changes you experience in your self-worth and happiness as you explore these strategies to build self-trust.