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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

5 Ways to Build Your Inner Confidence

Are you a confident leader?

Confidence affects how we show up in every area of our lives, and it is particularly important for our success in our professional careers. While many of us know that confidence is a great thing to have, not all of us know how to have it.

In my career, I have often been the only woman in the room and sometimes, I was even faced with situations like: leading a room full of military men at 3AM in gym shorts and a ponytail because I’d be called to deal with a crisis in the middle of the night due to an attack on our personnel such as our convoys hitting IEDs. If there was any time to learn about confidence, it was in these moments.

It can be a daunting challenge to lead others if we are lacking confidence. It can often leave room for imposter syndrome to creep in and make you feel insecure and unsure of where to begin, what to do next, or in my case, how to command a team in a crisis.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned some ways that are sure to create confidence in your core so that you can lead as your best and most authentic self, no matter the external circumstances.

The problem is, we are not born with confidence so we have to develop these skills as adults. And, as leaders, confidence is key to growth, change, success, and leading a team. Confidence allows you to make critical decisions, take risks, and speak with clarity and competence. If you can use your body to show confidence, develop self awareness, get clear on your mission, set realistic goals, and own who you are, you will be able to feel confident as you boldly step forward in your career and life.

So, here are five ways you can become a more confident leader.

1. Em-BODY Confidence

Many times in my career I have had to go into meetings where I felt unsure of myself and out of my depth.

What I discovered was that by simply squaring my shoulders and straightening my spine, I was able to feel more confident, and reflect confidence immediately to everyone around me.

Our bodies are actually designed to mirror what we are feeling. So if we are feeling insecure, our posture will likely express that. We can “trick the system” by embodying a confident posture and likewise our feelings will mirror the confidence. Even though it may feel initially like you are just faking it, assuming a steady strong upright posture will improve your overall awareness, calmness, and most importantly your confidence under pressure.

It’s all about finding the practices that work for you, especially ones you can start doing daily.

(For more ways to make embodying confidence part of your every day, check out this article!)

You have to start somewhere and for me it was power positions! Find what makes you feel the most confident and commit to doing it daily!

2. Develop self-awareness

Developing self-awareness is important for two reasons:

  1. You are able to highlight your strengths

  2. You can use your weaknesses to your advantage

When you gain self-awareness around who you uniquely are and how you best show up as a leader, you are able to put your strong suits forward more confidently and begin developing support around you that compliments your weaknesses.

When I became a Naval Officer I had to assume leadership roles at a young age before I had any real background in leadership.

I wasn’t sure what a leader really was, so I started to act like other leaders I had in my life, many of which had their own styles of leadership that did not work well for me.

As I questioned how I could lead more authentically, I began studying personality traits and patterns (and took lots of personality tests) so that I could discover more about how I lead from a place of confidence.

Through this self-awareness, I was able to engage with others effectively, receive feedback openly, and developed a clear picture of what it looks like for me to be my most authentic leader.

3. Get clear on your mission

When you start to feel your confidence escaping you, it’s essential to get clear on your “Why?” Why are you in this career field? What led you here? What vision and dreams are you pursuing? What mission are you here to lead your team through?

Intrinsic motivation is much stronger and longer lasting than superficial drive and it will help you to find the grit and strength you need to face the challenges that inevitably arise as we grow in our career.

If you feel a sense of sureness in why you are doing what you are doing, it will be easier to develop the confidence that you need to do it and do it well.

Remember, failure is inevitable, but if you have a growth and purpose mindset rather than a power-driven mindset, you can turn every mistake into a learning opportunity that will deepen your competence and confidence within yourself and with your team.

4. Learn to set realistic goals

In all areas of your life where you want to grow, and especially in your professional career, creating short, medium, and long-term goals that help you continue to push your edge and expand your abilities will help you to stay on target and accomplish your mission.

The key, though, is to set realistic goals. Oftentimes, as leaders, we set a high bar when it comes to what we want to achieve and what we expect our team to achieve. A lot of times, these lofty goals create overwhelm which leads to avoidance instead of accomplishment of your goals.

If you can learn to set effective goals for yourself and your team, you are much more likely to achieve great things.

For short term goals, think about something you want to incorporate into your life or with your team on a daily or weekly basis, set a goal around it that is realistic, and aim to achieve it.

If the goal is easily met, then set another goal. If you find that the goal was too difficult, take some weight off the bar and find a level more realistic for where you and your team are at.

Likewise, set mid-range goals for the year, and long term goals for the next five to ten years. Always be sure to check back in on your goals and the progress being made. If the progress is slow or stalled, see if the goal wasn’t all that realistic to begin with and create a new goal with the same intention, but with more manageable steps to get there.

Goal setting is pivotal to getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself and your team to grow. We must do it in a way where we develop strength and confidence rather than creating goals that set us up for failure and instill discouragement in our abilities.

Part of growing is failing, and even when we fail, if we put our effort into achieving what we really wanted, we still grow tremendously and clarify what it is we really want along the way.

5. Own who you are!

You have to have confidence and believe in yourself! And the biggest piece to doing that is owning who you are.

“This trait isn't unique to a few people in this world. We all have the ability to own who we are no matter what people think about us. All it takes is saying and acting on what you really think or feel.”

- The Antimaximilalist Owning who you are, even in the workplace, can seem like a scary thing, especially for us introverts and engineers. What I’ve found, though, is that this really is the only way we can lead authentically.

When you try to be someone you’re not, you end up losing respect from others and worse… respect for yourself.

Owning who you are means first understanding who you are. This can be done in many ways. My favorite is through personality tests. The more you learn about yourself, the more confidence you build in your innate abilities and strengths and the more aware you are around your weaknesses and areas of improvement.

And remember, it's okay to wear some camo when you’re stepping into a new place or role and want to blend in a little at the beginning in order to get to know who people are, what their values are, and how they operate. As you get to know people and they get to know you, you’re able to start to relax and become more comfortable taking off your camo and leading from a place of true authenticity.

And then you can really own who you are. Own it!

Confidence is key to authentic leadership

Confidence isn’t built in a day, but when we find the tools and changes in our patterns that really work for us, we can see almost immediate results.

In my career, these are a few of the simple ways I’ve found that can begin to enhance and deepen my confidence almost immediately, and continue to serve as foundational elements in my long-term leadership development.

When you commit to the habit of excellent posture, instill self-awareness, get clear on your mission, develop realistic goals, and own who you are you will be able to show up more authentically in the world.

Confidence does not look the same on everyone, and it doesn’t mean you need to shout to be heard. It’s about developing trust in yourself, and you best lead others.

If you are ready to work with me to develop a deeper sense of confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed, reach out to book me today.


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