Sully Ali Coaching | Ways to enhance confidence
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Ways to enhance confidence

Ways to enhance confidence

Two Prominent Myths about Confidence:

  1. Confidence is innate
  2. You can fake it until you make it

Myth #1: Confidence is innate

Myths about confidence abound. And one of the biggest is that confidence is innate – you either have it or you don’t. This myth is busted by recent research showing that even those who we assume to be very confident, those holding high-ranking positions of great responsibility, admit that on many occasions they quake in their boots.

People grow in confidence by doing and then learning.

In their book, “The Confidence Code”, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman spoke with neuroscientists and psychologists researching aspects of confidence and human behaviour whose findings indicate that confidence is linked to what we believe – and do.

You have to believe you have the capacity to succeed, you have to take action, to be willing to learn from mistakes, seeing them as stepping stones to succeeding, and you have to build your mastery through practice while learning through failures.

People who seemingly lack confidence may hold a belief in their own lack of effectiveness. They believe they aren’t capable; therefore they avoid challenges, take the easy route, and dwell on negative results.

Myth #2: You can fake it until you make it

There is a distinction between believing in yourself and faking confidence. Those who fake it until they make it are actually working against themselves. When you feel inauthentic, you tend to also feel out of integrity, and this can feed your self-doubt. When you constantly second guess yourself, your ability to make effective, efficient decisions is difficult.

Confidence is:

  • Assertiveness
  • Listening
  • Creating structure and boundaries
  • Speaking up more, being forthright and honest
  • Belief in self and in your capacity to master something
  • Action – trying despite doubt, taking the chance
  • Efficient decision-making
  • Feeling comfortable
  • Having an appetite for challenge
  • Not letting difficulties stop you

Confidence is Not:

  • Aggressiveness, being pushy
  • Self-aggrandising, blustering, talking over others
  • Condescension
  • About being liked, being nice
  • Ruminating – agonising over doubts, internalising set-backs
  • Desire without action
  • Hesitancy

The power of belief:

When we’re confident those thoughts and judgements are likely to be supportive or positive. But it works both ways, doesn’t it? When we’re lacking confidence those thoughts and judgements of what we’re capable of are holding us back.

So, confidence is really about choosing better thoughts – saying to yourself, “I am capable” and “if I try this I might fail, but I will learn and succeed from that failure”.

What you focus your attention on grows:

Most of my¬†clients are incredibly capable. The only thing holding them back is their belief that they’re not. In fact psychologist, Dr. Zachary Estes at the University of Milan found that people tend to be capable of mastering something – even if they don’t believe they’re capable. And when doubters were told, or told themselves, a positive message about their capacity to do something, they performed better in tasks.

Research shows that women, in particular, tend to doubt and downplay their abilities, so it’s important to watch for this tendency and help them lean into thoughts about their capacity instead.

“Where you put your attention is what will grow” seems a quaint notion, but Dr. Sarah Shomstein, neuroscientist at George Washington University, says research shows this is true! Focusing on something with our thoughts does, indeed, make it more likely we will take action in that direction.

Identify Values

Values are the foundation of confident action. When coaching a new client, we tend to begin with values identification and this is a perfect starting place when coaching leaders too.

Coaches have many tools to support our clients in clarifying and living into their values. Helping your client identify, clarify and put her values into action in her day-to-day leadership is a powerful way to support her in practising, failing, learning and gaining mastery in many foundational skills, such as clear communication and listening, being forthright, engagement, trusting (i.e. not micro-managing), and decision-making.

The research in confidence and leadership clearly shows that being in action is the key to building confidence. When your client feels they are showing up authentically, they will feel more positive about their abilities and experience less doubt. Putting values into action is the foundation.

Take bold action

Action learning – support a client in designing actions that may be challenging, but will forward learning. To support a client in mastery, be sure to debrief their actions and deepen the learning around failures or successes.

Confidence is like a muscle, built through action, and the confidence we get from mastery is contagious.


These are just a handful of the broad range of tools coaches have to support leaders in developing confidence.

Confidence comes from gaining mastery through action, changing belief patterns and self-talk, and learning to embrace failure while avoiding rumination on weaknesses and doubts.