Confidence is one of those intangible qualities – like courage – but if it could be measured across a population, I’m sure it would come out, as so many other things in life do, on a bell curve. A small percentage of hugely confident people over to the right, a small percentage of shrinking-violet, nervous wrecks to the left and a bunch of averagely confident folk in the middle.

“Aha! But it’s not that simple,” I hear you cry. “I’m reasonably confident overall in life, but I’m really, really confident when it comes to building bridges, because I’m a brilliant engineer and I’m a total nervous wreck when it comes to public speaking because … because … did I mention that I’m a brilliant engineer?”

And therein lies the rub. Every rational person on this planet has insecurities. If you don’t you are almost certainly nuts. There are two major schools of thought which help the human species deal with these insecurities:

1. Fake it ’til you make it
2. Play to your strengths
I think the ‘fake it’ school a bad idea – it’s self-limiting because you’re so busy putting a good face on things you never address the root of the problem; it will cause you a great deal of stress (for fear that you will be found out); and I suspect it is probably at the heart of a LOT of the trouble and strife out there in our world. Which leaves you with identifying, and playing to, your strengths. If only it were so simple. But it is that simple …
Jack Welch said, “Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach. It lets you take greater risks and achieve far more than you ever thought possible.” “Pah! Very easy for the gazillionaire to say!” retort the shrinking violets. But remember this – Jack did not arrive on planet earth with 50,000 employees at his beck and call. He arrived naked, wet and hungry just like the rest of us. And then one fine day, someone took a chance on him …

Confidence is infectious and reassures the people around us that they can trust us, or give us responsibilities. Lack of confidence is infectious like the ebola virus is infectious. That’s why Wall St measures and tracks consumer confidence so closely. It’s also why CEOs spend so much time rehearsing their public appearances and presentations – one blip, dip or slip in their performance can lead to a shift in Analyst opinion with all the ensuing horror that can entail.

The first step in addressing lack of confidence, if this is an issue for you, is to start generating awareness in yourself. Some people keep a diary, some visually track their confidence level from hour to hour. Whatever method you use, to start with it’s all about observing or notating your confidence level. After some days or weeks of passive scrutiny, it’s time to start determining why there are peaks and troughs.

In the example above (which is real), the person started at a low ebb which got successively worse as they headed to work. There was a significant dip toward the end of the morning, another one late in the afternoon and a big falling off again as the person prepared to retire for the night. This client was suffering at the hands of a very subtle bully and, over time, we identified the little emails, phonecalls, digs and nudges that caused these dips in confidence.

This kind of insight – a simple “Aha!” moment – will give you a foundation on which to build. To confidently build. Once this client realised the root cause of the knots in his stomach, the remedies became almost self evident.

What makes you wobbly?