How to stay confident when things get tough

How to stay confident when things get tough

We all know how good you feel when you’re high on confidence; you communicate better, you think more clearly, you’re more likely to try new things and inspire other people. Put simply, when you’re confident your business is confident and more likely to do well.

But confidence is one of those annoyingly fragile emotions, which is great when you have it but can be all too easy to lose. It might be a tirade from an impolite customer, a knockback from a stressed colleague or even a casual comment from a friend, but it only takes a few imperfect words and suddenly you’ve gone from the top of your game to feeling full of doubt.

Here are some of my tips for building confidence in yourself, even when the going gets tough.

Turn it on

You will often hear people say that confidence is a ‘state of mind’. But what does this mean exactly? The way I think about it is that there are certain hacks and shortcuts you can take to make yourself seem confident even if deep down you are anything but. On one level, confidence is a performance.

So, for example, you can appear more confident by speaking confidently. Try not to stammer and clam up, say what’s on your mind clearly. It also helps to be assertive, not by being rude or talking over others, but making sure you take the opportunity to put your views forward. It might also help to dress in a certain way, try and maintain eye contact and avoid fidgeting and mumbling.

Most important is to find a few things you can do to feel at your best and deploy them in situations where you want to turn the confidence on.

Do the basics well

Very often a truly confident appearance is only the tip of the iceberg. It is built on the knowledge you have everything in place - or as much as possible - to be able to measure up to any challenges you might face.

In business, getting into this position comes down to lots of the basic principles of doing your job well; things such as proper research and planning and having a clear vision of what you want to achieve. It might even be as simple as having a coherent agenda for an important meeting.

It’s important to take time to ask yourself the question: ‘What do I need to know to feel confident?’

When have you felt good?

To try and hack into a seam of confidence it can be helpful to think back to times when you have performed well. Think about that pitch that you won or the successful job interview and ask yourself ‘why?’ Why did you do so well? How did you prepare? Try and emulate this at times when you’re feeling unsure of yourself.

It’s equally important (but perhaps not as much fun) to think back to times when you were low on confidence and things didn’t go so well. What went wrong? What mistakes did you make? How can you avoid repeating them again?

Get some help

Being your own boss is hard work. You’ve got to plan for the future, learn from your mistakes and constantly adapt and that’s all in addition to running the business day-to-day. If you’re having issues with your confidence at the same time it can soon become a nightmare.

It can be easy to forget that you are allowed to ask for help and, even better, there are lots of people out there who want to give you support and advice. Even the most successful business people had to start somewhere and they know all too well how tough it can be.

Social media and TED talks are good places to hunt for inspiring advice or you could look into formal mentoring and support from organisations like ourselves (TEG), Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and so on. There are also plenty of established entrepreneurs who will be only too happy to go for a beer or a coffee and let you ask them for advice. Sometimes it’s just a matter of picking up the phone.

Remember that everyone struggles

We’ve all had that feeling when we’re struggling ourselves and we look at other people and think ‘If only I could be like them? How do they do it? It looks so easy!’ Well, the truth is that most people are in a battle of some kind. No-one is born confident (in fact that would actually be a serious disadvantage!) and everyone has doubts and has to come up with ways of dealing with them.

The very fact that you see confident people around you is testament to how you can feel confident as well, with the right attitude and approach.

Listen to the good stuff

It seems that human beings are all too often attuned to hearing criticism over praise. Of course, criticism and feedback are vital if you’re to improve and grow. However, when it comes to boosting your confidence, it’s better to indulge yourself a little by remembering the good feedback and compliments you’ve received.

Don’t just rely on other people for feel-good feedback, but think about some of your successes and give yourself a mental pat on the back from time to time. How are you meant to feel confident if all you ever do is criticise yourself?

Look after yourself

Sometimes it might feel like you just don’t have the option of taking time out of your business. However, often this is exactly what you need to do. It’s hard to feel mentally sharp and super confident when you’re shattered. Exhaustion can lead to a dangerous spiral of poor performance resulting in an even greater workload.

If you take a day off the world won’t end and, in fact, you’ll probably return to work feeling a whole lot better. The same goes for making time for exercise and hobbies and, really importantly, sleep. Healthy sleep is one of the best performance enhancing drugs on the market, so take some time out and tuck yourself in.

If you’re not so confident, but know your stuff, take a look at some of the many brilliant TED talks out there. Confidence is something you can  get to grips with, and learn how other converse their ideas and knowledge.

Hope you enjoyed this read!

Ollie