Have you ever found yourself low on confidence? Feeling small, insignificant and invisible? I have. In fact, I spent roughly the first 25 years of my life like this. It was only once I met a mentor at the quarter-century point of my life that I slowly started to come out of my shell.
And so I look back at my journey of building self-confidence and wanted to reverse engineer that process to hopefully share with you a no fluff way for you to grow unstoppable confidence for yourself.
Whether you want to be more confident with your sales, develop clearer communication, speak on video without stuttering, increase your assertiveness, or help more people in a group/one to one based setting, this guide will help you.
Before we start though, I thought it might be important that I share some context with you.
HUBBA BUBBA AND THE MILK BAR
It would've been when I was around 7 years old and staying on the coast of Victoria at my Nanna's house that I first developed my lack of confidence. We were on a family holiday (my mum, sister and I).
Now if there's one thing you need to know about 7-year-old Hayden, it's that he had a really big sweet tooth. This meant that at any opportunity I was continuously pestering my mum to go to the local milk bar to buy some lollies...especially while on holidays.
I guess on this particular day she must have gotten tired of me asking so many times, so she handed me a shiny gold $1 coin and said: "OK, off you go". As happy as Larry (or a kid with $1 about to head to the milk bar for a quick sugar high) I ran the two blocks to the shops to make my selection.
In all honesty, though, I knew what I was there for - 2 packets of Grape flavoured Hubba Bubba (a very sweet, sugary bubblegum)! I knew for the price of 50cents each, which meant I'd be getting two.
I grabbed the goods and placed them in front of the clerk on the counter that stood between us. Smiling ear to ear, I looked to the owner who was chatting with his friend. I was only 7, so I can't have been much taller than the counter itself, but even so, looking back, I do remember feeling a little intimidated as these two men looked down at me.
I handed over my $1, which, intellectually, I knew was the full amount for the items, but for some reason (maybe out of pure habit) I stood there and waited for some change. Both men just stared at me, and even though it was probably only 5 or so seconds, it felt like an eternity.
Finally, it clicked in my brain. There would be no change. Duh...
So I smiled and said: "Thank-youuuuuu" in this really weird voice before embarrassingly walking out. I don't remember much else except that they were both laughing. I ran home, completely humiliated.
I ran straight past my mum, crying (but trying to hide the tears), and collapsed on the single bed I was staying in at my Nanna's house. I don't think I left the room for hours. Just replaying the event over and over. How could I be so stupid? They must think I'm so dumb and weird and awkward. They honestly probably didn't think twice about it. Yet I did. I can't really say I know why... Maybe it was these two grown men laughing at me? Maybe it was some prior experience that was re-triggered? Not 100% sure.
Regardless, from that day on, I swore I would never be put in that situation again. Thing was, that event became the catalyst to head back into my shell in most social situations and the beginning of my lack of confidence. And so for the next 18 or so years, my default was to shrink, hide and step away from any attention.
For years I would shy away from talking, making phone calls (even to friends) and being in the spotlight. Until enough was enough though.
ENOUGH WAS ENOUGH.
It wouldn't be until the age of 25 however, that I decided I needed to GET OVER my lack of confidence and just move on. For anyone who's ever felt 'social anxiety' (or whatever you'd like to call it) it's kind of like there's a secret inside joke that everyone's a part of (except you), and you're the subject. It consumes your mind and dictates what you do (or more specifically, what you don't do).
Through trial and error and putting myself out there more and more, I started seeing that it DIDN'T kill me to make a phone call or have a conversation with a stranger. And over the past 5 years, I've learned how growing your confidence is an incredible gift that can empower many areas of your life.
If you've ever experienced anything like the above or feel like you could benefit from increasing your confidence, I hope the below can be a helpful resource for you. I've found it a wild (and sometimes painful/confronting) journey of self-discovery, but well worth it. No matter what level you're at, just know, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and like anything, confidence is a learned skill that you'll benefit greatly from.
BUILDING SELF CONFIDENCE
Along this journey, I guarantee at times you'll want to give up, quit, hide, run away, duck, dodge, and dive from 'the work'. It's human nature to shy away from change and discomfort.
Just know, the deeper you go, the harder you push, and the more courage you ultimately show throughout, will directly correlate with how quickly you build your confidence. Embrace the challenge.
STEP 1: Know why you want what you want.
If you want to get anywhere, you've got to know your destination first. Ask yourself, why do I want more self-confidence? Is it to help me sell my training services easier? Talk to prospects without feeling 'salesy' or stumbling on my words? Start a podcast or connect with other industry experts? Take the time to understand why you want this, and get super clear on it.
STEP 2: Commit to the goal.
One thing that held me back for much longer than it should have, was keeping a lot of my business stuff private. I was struck with imposter syndrome and just kept thinking, who am I to be doing this!? Plus, because I kept it relatively low key, if I failed, none of my friends would even know about it and consider me a failure.
It takes guts to come out in public and tell people who you (truly) are and what you're going after. You can see this as a major barrier, or see it as a major opportunity. Personally, I leverage this potential social failure to call it out nice and early. I've built the habit of doing what I'll say I'll do, when I say I'll do it. People respect those who take action. I encourage you to do the same. Call it out and commit to the process.
STEP 3: Build your Plan.
You've set the destination in step 1, but now you'll need to know the exact steps to get there. The question you'll want to be asking at this stage is 'What do I want to be, do or have by the end of this? (as outlined in step 1) and what would be a logical sequence of steps to get there?'
Dump it all out onto a page in your journal, before giving it some order and structure.
Once you've done that, put it into a plan. I like to work in 100-day blocks to maintain a high-level of focus and momentum on my current goals. It also helps me keep on the offence and continue to push myself hard.
I'll then chunk my stuff down ever further into weekly objectives that I call my 'BIG 3' and then into daily tasks to execute. By keeping my time, energy and focus blocked like this, I find I don't get as distracted by shiny objects and am able to protect my most valuable commodity. It also helps alleviate anxiety (as long as I do step 4).
Keep your plan short, sharp and actionable. Use the three levels (100-day blocks, weekly BIG 3's, and then daily tasks), and focus on the outcomes and results before working backwards from there.
STEP 4: Do the reps.
I've always found the more I do the work, the more the anxiety seems to disappear. Just like you only build strength in the gym by doing the reps, confidence works the same way. You can't read a book or do an online course hoping confidence will just show up. You've got to get out there, display the courage, try new things and learn on the job.
For most who have low confidence, (me 5 years ago) you may wish step 4 was available through some kind of USB upload like in 'The Matrix'. But there isn't. So for now, you'll have to settle for getting uncomfortable and focusing on your personal growth through a lived experience. Just remember, each time you push yourself, you become slightly stronger. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Every day it builds.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN
And now, there ain't nothing more to it, than to do it. It's time to focus, act, make the mistakes, learn from them, grow stronger, and come back harder than ever each time.
I know you hear it all the time, but there really is only one life. Don't waste it on worry. Do the work that counts, and watch as your confidence grows. I'm living proof it's possible.