Research has clearly and consistently identified confidence as an important factor affecting performance (Forlenza, Pierce, Vealey, & Mackersie, 2018; Vealey & Chase, 2008). Too little confidence can detract from your experience, too much confidence can make you ill-equipped to handle surprises, while just the right amount of confidence can boost your performance. It is the lack of confidence that often torpedoes an otherwise stellar performance for the majority of us. Consequently, it is important to have a sufficient level of confidence to perform at your best when it matters most. The good news here is that confidence is not fixed and can be built and increased to levels sufficient to boost your chances of success.
To identify workable strategies to build your confidence, it makes most sense to identify the sources that lower your confidence and then counteract them. For most people preparing for an event or activity, there are three primary sources that diminish confidence: a) unfamiliar situations, b) being unprepared, and c) consequences of your actions.
Unfamiliar Situations occur when you encounter an environment for the first time. This might be a new physical environment like a stage, office, people, or culture. This is an experience issue.
- Physical self-presentation (fake it until you make it). While you can’t control your feelings of confidence, you can control actions that indicate you are confident: chin up, shoulders back, hands at sides or behind, eye contact, speak slowly, walk deliberately. Practice these and you will master them like any other skill—regardless of how you feel.
- Environmental comfort (similar situations). We feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar places, so practice your performances in places similar to where you actually perform. Practice a speech on a stage or in front of a room. Have a tough interview? Practice by having someone ask you tough questions. If you can’t practice, look around for something familiar in your new environment—a friendly face, perhaps—and focus on that.
- Vicarious experiences, imagery. Imagine yourself being successful. Hear the applause, or the sound of a boss giving you praise or a raise. Picture yourself speaking to a group or leading a project.
- Tour Guide. Have an experience take you on a ‘tour’ of their experiences that are similar to the one’s you will face. What was it like? How did they handle it? Show me the way.
- Rehearsal (in similar environment; including mental rehearsal). Gives the feeling that a) I can do this because I’ve done it in practice, and b) familiarity (been here before).
Being Unprepared is the feeling one get’s when doubts arise regarding one’s level of skill or knowledge. Do I know enough? Can I actually ‘do’ this??
- Practice skills necessary for performance success.
- Use checklists to ensure you have everything needed.
- Physical preparation—get the rest, hydration, nutrition you need.
- Mental preparation—relaxation techniques (breathing exercises, visualize success)
- Do your homework—learn all you can about the environment and people present.
- Discuss your preparation with someone who has ‘been there’.
- Develop Routines to handle recurring, mundane tasks in performance preparation.
- Learn from failures and build on previous success.
- Get coaching.
Consequences can ding confidence when the outcomes of one’s actions can severely impact one’s reputation, future or quality of life. This factor becomes particularly magnified when the consequence of the losses outweigh the benefits of success.
- Social support (in preparation and execution)
- Look to Leadership/Mentorship.
- Self-Awareness, Self-Talk
- Performance Outcomes and Achievements.
- Gain the Competitive Advantages.
- Focus on Task not Outcomes or Consequences.