What is confidence? Is it an innate personal trait, something we’re born with, something that comes naturally? 

It can often seem that way. From childhood and beyond we all encounter those people who are completely sure of themselves, who seem outgoing, charismatic and resilient. But they are few and far between. Most of us don’t naturally feel that way. Even high achievers (especially high achievers!) can be lacking in confidence. When I run workshops, the attendees are often super successful senior female lawyers. On paper, their seniority and accomplishments speak for themselves – and yet a common theme emerges when we talk. They often have feelings of self-doubt and consequently feel fearful of taking action, of going forward or of doing new things – despite their previous record of success and achievements.

So what is going on here? It seems that many intelligent and highly competent people are not psychologically capitalising on their past experiences. They go through life having many individual achievements – a first-class degree here, a successful job interview there, a difficult problem overcome – but ultimately don’t feel any differently about themselves or their ability to face new challenges. They may gain immediate confidence from an individual experience – but they are not then carrying that confidence forward, building on it and using it to their advantage.

But what’s wrong with that? If it’s a common feeling, and if people are still achieving without growing in confidence, what’s the problem?

Well, if people are achieving despite lacking confidence, imagine what they could then do with confidence!  Building confidence allows you expand your world as you go through life. It enables you to change small dreams into big ones, to turn short-term goals into audacious grand plans, to be the best you can possibly be. It’s the difference between living and thriving.

For this reason, I feel that building confidence is something you really need to work at. Don’t assume it’s a personality trait that you just don’t, and never will, have. Think of it as an asset that you can earn through experience – and take forward into your future. You need to take positive steps to use the value of all your individual achievements and apply it to cumulative effect. Start to see confidence as psychological compound interest – invest the confidence you gain from experiences now – into success for the future. It’s another virtuous cycle. If you make deliberate attempts to capitalise on the confidence you gain from an experience today by using it to try something new tomorrow, your confidence will grow. The more your confidence grows, the more you will try, the more experiences you have, the more confident you become.

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether to leave your confidence behind you, or whether to take it forward and invest it for your future. It takes effort, and commitment – It’s hard work – but it’s definitely worth it!  There are many practical steps you can take. If you’d like to find out more and give confidence investing a go – then tune in to this week’s podcast, Earned Confidence, episode #38.