Confidence is a topic that comes up a lot when I am working with, teach, or coach creative professionals. How to build your confidence as a creative professional is a tricky subject!
As a creative business adviser I teach people business, marketing and planning skills. But often it isn’t about skills or knowledge that stops people from being more successful in their business (as these can all be learnt – on the job!). Often it’s about their personality and traits: be pro-active, have a clear vision, have grit & stamina, and definitely … have confidence.
I find confidence a very interesting topic. Especially how to build your confidence as a creative professsional!
One moment you have got it, then the next moment it disappears.
When I was younger I thought that your confidence would grow, together with your wisdom, when you got older.
But having coached various well-known designers and makers over the years I have realised that in fact the opposite is true: their fears of ‘being found out’ increase the more known they become, it matters more, there is more to loose, ‘Imposters Syndrome’ is always just around the corner.
People often assume that I am a very confident person. I admit that indeed most of the time I am confident, I love my job, but to be honest I too have my worries and doubts! (Especially at 3am when I can’t go back to sleep!) I still get nervous before I do a talk. Still worry about my English not being good enough as I nearly failed my English A-level exams. I get hurt too, and can’t let go when somebody tweets negative feedback (even if I had 12 great comments that day!).
I am even running a very exciting online professional and business development programme called ‘Growing in Confidence’, for a group of established makers across the Highlands & Islands of Scotland with Emergents,
Confidence is a big topic for creatives, especially those who are ambitious and want to grow.
Or so I thought …
A couple of weeks ago I was reading the new business book by Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker, the founders of Not On The High Street, called Shape Up Your Business: The Founders of Notonthehighstreet.com Share Their Story in a 30-Day Success Plan.
It’s an interesting read.
It’s a 30-day success plan book to work ‘on your business’, and in which they share many of their own stories and experiences over the years of growing their online business. Some of these stories are very personal and touching (especially the part where they openly talk about their childcare arrangements over the years really resonated with me.)
And they do talk about confidence. Or better the lack thereof.
Yes, even these two very very successful creative business women openly admit of faking it sometimes, of making it look like they know what they are doing, of being scared witless.
Of the difference between their genuine belief and confidence in their business, but the shakiness of the confidence in themselves. ‘Masters of the universe, walking on air, on fire, so sure of what was coming’, but still wondering ‘if there ever would be a day when we could have a meeting with the big guns and not worry that the papers we were holding would so obviously be shaking in our hands?’
(Thanks for sharing that Sophie and Holly!)
They go on and say:
‘Keep in mind that you don’t need to shout loudly about the things you can do – confidence shouldn’t be a face-off as it sometimes is.
Instead, work out where you need confidence, and where you need other things: empathy, preparation, self-belief, knowledge.
These are the seeds that will help you and your business bloom.’
And then it hit me:
Indeed often it isn’t actually confidence that we need, but …
… self-compassion, being a little kinder to ourselves, a less harsh critic. Would you talk to a friend the way you sometimes talk to yourself?
… really listening to the negative voices in our heads, listening to our intuition (as it is so often right), getting to know ourselves better, even accepting our fears and limitations, and stop running away. Tackling them right on. Running your own business is a roller coaster, right?!
… to actually enjoy the stage fright, the excited-butterflies-in-your-tummy-feeling. In fact: it spurs me on. To do better, to keep growing, to do things I didn’t think I could. And the funny thing is? In return it gives me more confidence next time round! Confidence comes from doing the stuff that you are scared off.
… be better prepared. Research. Learn from mistakes. Pro-actively teach yourself the skills you need. So you really do know what you are talking about. (But don’t turn this into a ‘hidden procrastination phase’ either!)
… practice makes perfect. Get experience in a safe setting. Take baby steps. Learn from others. Don’t retreat or give up, but go out there. Baby-step-by-baby-step.
… stop comparing yourselves to others. Learn at your own pace. Focus on the things that really matter to you. And as somebody wise once said: ‘Don’t compare your beginning with somebody else’s middle.’
… stop thinking and start doing! What’s going on in your head will always be a soap opera: either it’s fantasy, or it’s a nightmare, but it’s never real. Confidence is strongly linked to doing. Only by doing will you learn, and get real experience, which will give you more confidence.
… start taking decision, even if they are the ‘wrong’ ones. Only when you get unstuck will you get anywhere.
… add a sense of humour and lightness. Stop taking yourself so seriously. When I get stressed I stop having the ability to laugh at myself. And I know it’s time to relax. (And otherwise my husband or kids will remind me!)
… Give yourself permission to fail, to learn, to play. To let go of the perfectionism-tendency to get it right first time round.
It seems that ‘the lack of confidence’ is an easy blanket, an excuse even, to cover up emotions that are far more complex:
Start looking at what is really missing.
Only then can you start finding a real solution to what YOU really need to succeed in life and business.
It might not be confidence after all that you are looking for!
What do you think?
When do you lack in confidence? Are there particular people or times you aren’t confident? What do you do about it?
Do you use ‘lack of confidence’ as ‘an easy excuse’?
What’s really going on, and what do you really need?
I would love to hear your experience, so please comment in the comments box below.