I’ve been thinking about the role that confidence plays in a person’s career and life success. An ongoing lack of confidence, self-doubt, and low self-esteem can become a disabling professional condition commonly known as “the imposter syndrome.”
I’ve often thought that confidence was such a fragile thing, kind of like fresh fruit. It’s great when it’s just picked, but can perish quickly if mishandled in transportation, sitting around too long, or waiting forever to be selected.
And yet, there are those people who appear to have an over abundance of confidence. Some of them display their confidence in exuberant, showy and bombastic ways, distorting the quality into unattractive arrogance.
And we all know people who can somehow manufacture confidence on demand, with a “fake it till you make it” method.
But there are many people who appear to be driving on an empty tank. No confidence to fuel them. They seem to be without a reserve of confidence to draw upon to help them through the hard times, like unemployment, sickness, divorce, financial hardship, death in the family, depression, etc. Encouraging words and free webinars don’t seem to be enough to boost their confidence and restore their resilience.
I’m sure there is something in our brains that is responsible for the feeling of confidence. A chemical perhaps? A physiological response? The pre-frontal cortex, perhaps? Or do we all just need to exercise more often to ensure that our bodies release chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins in our brains that make us feel happy?
But deep down, I do believe that WE THE PEOPLE play a huge role in either fostering confidence in ourselves and in others, or destroying it. Our thoughts, words, actions, posts, and gestures have a big impact on individual and collective confidence. And I think we can all do better on this front.
Remembering my Uncle Chuck
Today I came across a wonderful remembrance of my Uncle Chuck. He passed away in 2014 from pancreatic cancer. This photo was taken of him on one of his last big travel adventures in Athens, Greece in 2010. His positive influence on my life and on my personal confidence was substantial and lasting, and continues to carry me forward to this day.
While getting ready for a tax preparation meeting with my CPA today, I happened upon an old thumb drive in my home office. On it was a bunch of documents and presentations from 2013 and 2014. I was tempted to just erase them all (they are way in the past!), but curious to see what was on the thumb drive, I scrolled up and down the file list and was surprised to see my written tribute to my Uncle Chuck. I had composed this tribute on the plane ride from California to Connecticut after visiting with his family in his dying days. It was written with heart and soul, and with plenty of tears! If you’d like to read it (all 1,748 words), here it is: Tribute to Uncle Chuck – if you’ve got it flaunt it
Be an Encourager, not a Critic
Nowadays, it’s so easy to criticize. Technology and social media allow us to send zingers (and praise) without having to take personal responsibility for the outcome.
If we are not happy with a service for whatever reason, even if we were the root cause of the problem, we can send off a scathing 1 star review, a thumbs down, or a warning telling everyone on the planet to never shop there/eat there/go there/work there again.
If we don’t like someone or if we hold a grudge, we can unleash hell on people with a few social media posts. And that critical action temporarily boosts our sense of power in the world. The problem is that that resulting feeling from that critical action is negative power. It’s rooted in our own insecurity, cruelty, fear and lacking.
We have forgotten the sage advice from Vince Lombardi, “Praise in public; criticize in private.”
And while there is a definitely a need for and a place for constructive feedback, we can all do better. We must do better. Let’s invest our time and energy into generating positive energy, not destructive action. Let’s lift up others, especially our youth and the most vulnerable in our communities. Let’s work to make confidence sustainable, lasting and weather proof.
And let’s not forget about “the hidden leaders” – those talented, hardworking people on our teams and in our networks who lack traditional access to mentoring, sponsorship and growth opportunities. Rather than just fending for ourselves, we can use our influence and encouragement to help close the gap in equity and inclusion for women and minorities by raising up the hidden leaders in all sectors of our society. That’s part of my personal mission and the focus of my new program, The Fearless Leader.
It’s up to each of us and all of us to increase the local and global supply of confidence. Let’s invest in ourselves and our future by investing in each other.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with these motivating words of encouragement that were originally gifted to me by my Uncle Chuck. The phrase, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” was something that my Uncle said to me a thousand times when I was growing up. Only now, some 40 years later, do I understand what he was trying to tell me and do for me. He was building up my self-esteem and self-confidence. And I would like to do that for you, my dear reader!