Confidence is not a thing you can see. Or hold in your hand. It’s not something you can photograph or get out of your pocket to show someone. As far as I know you can’t get any from Ebay or Amazon. It’s certainly not something you can give someone either.

It makes me so mad when I hear the Spice Girls talking in an interview about how they want to give confidence to women. It’s not possible. No one can give confidence to anyone. It is something you develop inside yourself. But how?

Let me start by asking the obvious question: What is confidence?

Confidence is a concept, an idea, a feeling, a state of mind. It could be described as the ‘level of faith you have in your ability to succeed’  a quiet inner knowledge that you are capable. Feeling secure rather than insecure.

Too little confidence in yourself might prevent you from taking risks and seizing opportunities. Too much confidence and you might appear arrogant and believe yourself to be better than others.

You can project confidence. You can probably think of people you have met, or you know, who appears to be really confident. What is about them that gives you that impression?

Projecting confidence can help you gain credibility, make a good impression on people, help you handle dealing with pressure, and help you to meet your personal and professional challenges head on. And that would be nice to have, right?

If you had more confidence, can imagine how you might behave? How you would walk, talk and act?How different would a confident you be, to the current you?

If you were to develop more confidence, how would it change things for you? Ok, so now I want you to think of a specific thing you have low confidence in. Something you want to improve your level of confidence or attainment in. I don’t know what it is, so I am going to call it the task.

Have you tried this task already? How many times? Is it something you do rarely or quite often? Have you tried this task and been disappointed in the outcome? If that’s the case, your disappointment or frustration may result in your confidence falling, as you were unable to perform this task to the standard you hoped for.

If you were to try this task many many more times, would you increase the chances of the outcome improving? Humans tend to look for evidence all around us, that either proves or disproves the beliefs we have about our ability. Its often easy to find the evidence that backs up our doubt – “See! I told you I couldn’t do that!”

If, for example, I bake a cake and it’s a disaster. It’s flat, burnt, hard and horrible. I am likely to say to myself “Well I knew I was no good at cooking cakes, it’s just not something I can do”. I will immediately have a low confidence level as a baker of cakes. However if I baked a cake every day for 20 days, I can promise you the 20th cake would be perfectly cooked, light, tasty and a total success.  Suddenly my confidence in baking cakes is quite different – “I am great at baking cakes!”

It was the repeated practice, the deliberate practice, that gave me experience. It gave me the evidence that I can bake cakes well.  I now have evidence that proves I am good at baking cakes.

So, if you were to build up a bank of evidence by deliberately practicing your task, your confidence in performing that task well, would rise, would it not? Nobody is immediately brilliant at anything. Skill, expertise and knowledge are built over time, by repeatedly practising or experiencing a task.

Take Lewis Hamilton (or any other successful sporting or business person). He was not born a Formula 1 World Champion. He started karting at the age of 8, and kept practicing and improving. His confidence grew in his racing ability over a long period of time, because with practice, his racing skill improved.  It was the dedicated, continued, deliberate practice that improved his performance, and his confidence grew.

So let’s back back to the task you have little or no confidence inIf you were to practice this task consistently and deliberately over a sustained period of time, would your skill or knowledge or experience improve?  Yes it would.

With this new found level of ability, would your confidence in being able to perform that task improve? Almost certainly. So if your aim is to have more confidence in your task, you must consistently and repeatedly perform this task.  Things won’t always go your way, but this is when resilience will step in.  You will pick yourself, up dust yourself down, and go again.  And again. And again. Fall 7 times, but stand up 8.

What if you have to attend a networking event and it fills you with dread, because you have no confidence in being able to spark up bright conversations with strangers? But you went along anyway and talked to just one person.  It went well, and you have some ‘evidence in your bag’ that you can do this. You went along to another event and spoke to two or three people. It went well, and now you have more ‘evidence in your bag’. You keep going along to networking meetings and before you know it, you are no longer filled with dread. Now, you have enough events behind you and enough evidence in your bag that you can engage in bright conversations with complete strangers. Your confidence in attending networking events, has just grown.

It applies to everything. Speaking at a conference? Delivering a presentation? Running a marathon? Losing weight? Playing the piano? The same rules apply. So, with your task in mind, what deliberate and repeated practice can you start today?

Of course you will have to have a degree of courage to throw yourself into your task in the first place, but with the knowledge that you will improve your performance in time, the daunting feeling will reduce and be replaced by anticipation and excitement.

Improving your confidence will start with a conversation you must have with yourself. You are no longer going to say “I can’t do this”, “I will fail”, “It will all go wrong”. Now you are going to say to yourself “I may be rubbish at first, but I am going to persevere at this, because I know I will keep improving at this task every time I practice”.

Don’t let your internal dialogue drag you down with negative self talk.  It’s time to kill all negative words. Remove all negatives like “I can’t”, “I wont be able to”,”I am not good”.  And replace the with “I will keep practising”,  “I am improving”, “This is getting more exciting and less daunting”, “I will get there”.

Be kind to yourself, and remember that every confident or successful person has effectively built up their own evidence, over time, to support their belief that they are capable, skilful or knowledgeable.

So now I want to ask you again.When you have confidence in performing your task, how will you behave? How you will you walk, talk and act? How has your life changed with this new found confidence?

The good news is that you don’t yet know how capable and skilful you will become. And that is a really exciting prospect!

You are always the biggest obstacle to your success.