• Dr. Alessandra Wall

What Confidence is and is Not, and How to Get More of it in Your Life

Do you struggle with self-confidence, second guess yourself, wonder whether you really know what you’re doing, or know what you want? Nobody trusts themselves 100% of the time, but we all know a least one person who walks through life seemingly unimpeded by self-doubt.


You know her, she’s your colleague, the one who always looks like she’s got it all together, and has no trouble speaking up in meetings. She’s that friend who doesn’t immediately shut down and get defensive when someone disagrees with her. She’s the ridiculously successful celebrity who credits her success to her unwavering faith in her ability to achieve whatever she set her mind to. There are just people out there who exude self-confidence.


Setting the record straight

What if I told you that self-confidence isn’t about being awesome, fearless, or having swagger? You can be yourself, fail at something every once in a while, be imperfect and still be incredibly and rightfully self-confident.


Self-confidence is not!

Self-confidence is not self-esteem; self-esteem is believing you’re good enough. Self-esteem is really important, and it’s definitely helpful to have good self-esteem if you want to build self-confidence, but I know plenty of women out there who don’t fully love or accept themselves as they are but still have a ton of self-confidence.


Self-confidence isn’t the same thing as being gutsy, fearless, or bold. Just because someone acts boldly doesn’t mean they’re confident. Likewise, don’t be fooled into believing that quiet, reserved, introverted, or subtler women lack confidence. Boldness is a style, not a belief. Whether you communicate with audacity or not says nothing about how confident you are.


Self-confidence is… complicated

Self-confidence is the emotional and behavioral expression of trust and faith in yourself. In real-world terms self-confidence is what happens when you trust yourself to go for “it”, even though “it’ is scary and you might fail.


Self-confidence shows up as an unwavering faith in your ability to take action, push through fear and discomfort, and follow through on what you want and need.  Self confidence requires courage. Courage is the willingness to take action despite fear, uncertainty or discomfort.

Confidence, Courage, and Clarity

It’s easier to be courageous when you’re crystal clear about your needs. That super poised and prepared co-worker, your friend who can be challenged without feeling threatened, and the über successful celebrity have one thing in common. Each one of them knows why she’s doing what she’s doing and why it’s going to work for her.


Knowing what you need and letting that knowledge drive your actions makes it easier to set goals, come up with solid action plans, and stick through the ups and downs of getting there.


When you don’t fundamentally understand why you do the things you do, and you can’t define your needs, it’s really hard to trust your choices and stick with them. Because you don’t fully get why something should or shouldn’t matter to you, you can’t stay focused. That’s when you waiver, act indecisively, question your choices, stay up at night wondering what if, and backdown when others don’t see things the way you do.


Become the woman, everyone else wants to be:

The work I’ve done with literally hundreds of women has taught me that there are only two ways of going about building real self-confidence: the Right For You way and the much harder Fingers Crossed way.


Let’s start with the latter.


Fingers Crossed this will work:

Also known as the Fingers Crossed (FC) approach to self-confidence involves making a decision and hoping you’ll stick with it despite the inevitable uncertainty, fear or self-doubt.


It can be really harder for a few reasons: 1) It requires you to inherently trust your judgment. 2) There’s actually no guarantee the choices you’re making are right for you, which makes it nearly impossible to not feel anxious while you wait for things to play out. 3) Without a good reason for making a choice - other than it seemed like the right thing to do - you leave yourself open to massive self donut anytime some questions or challenges that choice.


Having said that, the MWIYL approach can pay off.


The more you practice taking action and facing real outcomes rather than the billion “what-ifs” in your head, the more practice you get making decisions, problem-solving, and reaping the benefits of good choices. Every success will help you understand what does and doesn’t work for you. Failures that are not catastrophic will remind you that you can handle what life throws your way. And any opportunity to act rather than agonize over a choice teaches you about yourself.


The Right For You way:

Do you want to show up powerfully in meetings, conversations and life? Do you want to confidently make decisions without hesitation and know what’s right for you? Right For You is the approach I use and the one I have my coaching clients and therapy patients practice to grow their self-confidence and build the careers, success and life they deserve.


Build self-awareness by slowing dowAoN). AoN is a simple two-minute technique I developed nearly a decade ago when, as second-time mother, I realized I didn’t know how to slow down for even a couple of minutes without feeling anxious or guilty. I can now masterfully do nothing for upwards of an hour without guilt, stress or distraction – the insights and benefits that come from this practice are invaluable and I’ve taught this method internationally to busy, stressed out, and ambitious professionals.

As a leadership and confidence coach, getting clear on your needs is something my clients have to do. People with great self-awareness are better at identifying their needs. Understanding your needs is the key to setting meaningful goals you can stick with. 


Build self-awareness by slowing dowAoN). AoN is a simple two minute technique I developed nearly a decade ago when, as second-time mother, I realized I didn’t know how to slow down for even a couple of minutes without feeling anxious or guilty. I can now masterfully do nothing for upwards of an hour without guilt, stress or distraction – the insights and benefits that come from this practice are invaluable and I’ve taught this method internationally to busy, stressed out, and ambitious professionals.


Try practicing the Art of Nothing (AoN). AoN is a simple two minute technique I developed nearly a decade ago when, as second time mother, I realized I didn’t know how to slow down for even a couple of minutes without feeling anxious or guilty. I can now masterfully do nothing for upwards of an hour without guilt, stress or distraction – the insights and benefits that come from this practice are invaluable and I’ve taught this method internationally to busy, stressed out, and ambitious professionals.

 

I developed my own go-to need-defining tool, the Focus Map, to help women become absolutely clear about their needs, and beyond that create realistic and inspiring goals that allow them to show up more powerfully and confidently.  


There’s no easy way to build self-awareness and clarity. Some people spend years and thousands of dollars working on defining and articulating their needs. That’s because knowing what’s right for you is hard, and for many women the idea of asking yourself what you need before considering what someone else needs or wants is just plain foreign.


Step II: Define how your needs will best be expressed.

It’s not enough to know what you need, you also have to know the best way to express those needs.


We each have very specific ways in which our needs are best articulated. When you don’t express your needs in a way that’s right for you, you end-up feeling dissatisfied and disappointed. It’s why so many of us fill our lives with what should be fulfilling and exciting experiences, yet still, feel blah.


Let’s say ice cream is a broad need. There are many different ways you can enjoy ice cream. If you need a chocolate milkshake and I give you a vanilla cone, I guarantee you’re going to feel unsatisfied, despite having ice-cream either. The same goes for professional, romantic, and personal needs, we have specific ways in which we are best suited to have those needs expressed, anything less will be unsatisfying.


Some times you might feel confused, unsure of exactly the best way to meet a particular need. When in doubt experiment with an n=1. Try a few things, see what works. Use your self-awareness practice to examine why somethings are right for you and others are not. Know that getting it wrong doesn't mean you’re wasting time, only that you have better data on how to best express a need in your life.


If time is of the essence and you want to maximize your impact and save yourself the undue effort, work with a coach. Coaches have unique training and the ability to help you define and understand your needs. I have worked with coaches to get clarity and focus around my goals, the result was always this incredible sense of getting it right and feeling on point. I have also coached enough people to realize that the extra perspective and unbiased mind can feel like a godsend when you’re confused or overwhelmed about what right for you looks like in the real world.


Step III: Just do it

Just do it isn’t just Nike’s slogan, it’s the key to building confidence. Insight without action is worthless. Once you know something is right for you, you have to act on it. It’s repeated action that creates the proof you’ll need to challenge insecurities and doubts that have historically held you back. 


You have to try, succeed or fail, make adjustments and try again. Demonstrate to yourself, that you can do it, that you are competent and that you know what’s right for you.


self-awareness + courage + practice →  competence
self-awareness + competence = self-confidence

From Uncertainty to Confidence:

It’s incredibly gratifying to see someone move from a state of confusion and uncertainty to a place where she has a clear focus, goals that excite her, and the confidence to take action. Watching women develop and own their confidence is inspiring and the payoff is huge.


A few years back, a former client of mine referred a friend. “Good luck,” she said, “my friend has a history of complaining about life, but won’t budge or make a change.” The friend in question was a physician. Smart, successful, driven and burnt out, she was in a state of miserable paralysis. She knew she wanted something different, but didn’t know what that was or what to look for.


Interestingly, I didn’t find working with her hard at all. What she needed was a bit of reassurance, a system she could trust, and someone to keep her moving along when doubt and anxiety made her want to retreat to old patterns. One Focus Map and six months of coaching later, she was very clear about what she needed to feel professionally and personally fulfilled. She was also realistic about her circumstances and how best to get those needs met and set goals accordingly.


With the right tools and confidence, my so-called obdurate Doc wasn’t so stuck after all. She changed practice giving up her partnership for a better fit in another private practice, she shifted her dating approach to attract the type of men she wanted to build a life with, and became more open and honest with her family (for the first time in 40+ years showing up as herself, not as they thought she should be).



If you need help or have any questions about the process and how you can tackle it on your own, do not hesitate to contact me, we can find some time to brainstorm and get you started on the right path.







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