Cat looking into mirror and seeing lion. Title graphic for Confidence for High Achievers

From Dr. Tricia:

It was early 2021, and I was playing with several book titles.

Two of my clients are some of the smartest people I’ve met in my lifetime. In fact, they inspired the “Genius” part of my Relational Genius book. What shocked me was that both of them were adamant that the word “confidence” be integrated into the subtitle. At a logical level, I know that many of us struggle with confidence regardless of our accomplishments. At a credentialed level, I’ve worked with people struggling with confidence throughout my lifetime. At a personal level, I’ve fought to take my place in the world and stand in it.

Yet, there was something about seeing these wildly wonderful and accomplished me in front of me saying, “I still struggle with wondering if I’m getting it right…feeling not good enough…sometimes feeling like I’ve come from the land of mismatched toys.”

So I put the word “confidence” in the title.

Then this happened. The first podcast I did about the Relational Genius: The High Achiever’s Guide to Soft-Skill Confidence in Leadership and Life occurred at the time of publication. The marketers told me not to prepare so that it would be spontaneous. Hence, the interviewer chose the topic. From the 300+ page book, which is a resource on a plethora of topics, she said, “I’d like to talk about confidence. It seems like you are saying that the key to confidence is feeling good about ourselves in spite of our flaws rather than waiting for after we fix them.”

“It seems like you are saying that the key to confidence is feeling good about ourselves in spite of our flaws rather than waiting for after we fix them.”

CONFIDENCE FOR HIGH ACHIEVERS

For over 20 years, I’ve been working with people across life and business situations. The struggle with confidence cuts across all situations, roles, and revenue thresholds. I’ve learned that people don’t always say, “how can I be more confident?” Sometimes, it is more subtle-“I wonder if I’m getting things right.” “Sometimes I get intimidated by the people around me.” “Sometimes I doubt myself but then get frustrated when I should have listened to myself in the first place.”

You are not alone in the struggle to feel confident.

 

Confidence Reframe for High Achievers

While life feels better when we feel confident, struggling with confidence can also be a mark of humility, wanting to do things well, and not getting caught up in our own press. Developing higher confidence will NOT turn you into a self-centered or arrogant person. It’s simply a calm feeling, of being at home in your own skin.

If you can work on increasing your belief in yourself while maintaining the attitude that you may not always be right, you’ll be in the sweet spot. Increased confidence helps us to take risks and be our best selves because we’re not trying quite so hard to prove or protect our egos. Continued openness that we don’t have all of the answers helps us to check our own biases and remain open to growth.

Confidence Challenges for High Achievers

“Sometimes feel that I am better than everyone else; I also wonder if I am good enough.”

 High Achievers who struggled to fit in socially during school years feel pressure to win approval.

High Achievers have high expectations of themselves and are ultra-aware of their short-comings.

High Achievers with high personal standards feel like they have to hide their flaws or risk rejection.

Personal confidence is what we believe about our self-worth, apart from our achievement.

Common Mistakes High Achievers Make About Confidence

1. High achievers often believe that if they fix something about themselves, they will be more confident. “I’ll lose weight.” “Another degree will help me.” “I’ll work on my appearance.” While improvement always helps us to feel better about ourselves, strong personal confidence relies on self-value REGARDLESS of our flaws. In fact, this self-acceptance usually is an antecedent rather than a consequence of positive change.

2. Confidence is not arrogance. It is not selfishness. “I don’t want to think too much of myself” is the battle cry of those who feel more secure with low self-esteem. Sometimes it is a genuine concern; sometimes it is an excuse to stay stuck. Personal confidence is an acceptance of strengths AND weaknesses. The acknowledgment and acceptance of one’s weaknesses usually prevent arrogance.

Excerpt on Confidence from Relational Genius Book

When we doubt our worth, we compensate by working hard to be “good enough.” Thus, our confidence is always vulnerable to our momentary wins or lapses. We continuously strive to prove our worth. This striving forms the foundation for the duality in which high achievers know that they objectively perform at a higher level than everyone else, but they simultaneously doubt themselves. When we conflate performance with personal value, we will always wonder if we are measuring up.

Excerpt from Chapter 4: Confidence, Relational Genius: The High Achiever’s Guide to Soft-Skill Confidence in Leadership and Life

Longer Term Strategies to Increase Personal Confidence for High Achievers

Reflect

Become aware of the beliefs that undermine your confidence. When did you learn them? What evidence do you have that they are true? What evidence do you have that they are false?

Be Vulnerable with the Right People

I understand that it doesn’t feel good, but being vulnerable helps to grow our internal confidence and optimize our success. Vulnerability allows us to gain emotional support as well as input on items with which we are struggling.

Choose only safe people with whom to be vulnerable. You want to grow a cluster of people who think you are the best thing since sliced bread EVEN if you are a detail-oriented, control freak. You will be able to quickly explain all variables of a situation without masking or self-protecting. This quick disclosure can save you from hours of agonizing and give you the information you need to keep on moving.

Surround Yourself with Positive Support

Become a connoisseur of acquiring positive, supportive friends and colleagues. Supportive relationships increase our personal confidence and help us to reshape our negative self-perception. Distance yourself from people who are negative and critical of other people. Even if they do not say anything critical to you, you will wonder if they are doing so behind your back, and you will be less comfortable in their presence.

Resolve Shame

Most human beings try to avoid negative feelings. When we really mess things up, we emotionally go into a corner, like a small child….or pull the covers over our heads and try not to look at it. Shame is when we feel bad about ourselves as people.

The problem with shame is that the emotion is so painful, that we avoid it, thus preventing problem-solving. Half of our learning is linked to being able to assess what variables caused something to go wrong so that we can correct them for future events. There is a tendency (especially with men) to say “it happened, I can’t change it, it’s in the past.” The problem with this strategy is that the negative emotion is still present and there has been no specific learning about how to prevent it from happening in the future. (Note: saying “I won’t do it again is NOT a specific strategy.”)

Do a Survey

Do a survey. This strategy takes guts but is super-effective. If you are constantly making assumptions about how people see you, ask how they view you. While we are trying to build our own confidence, it can be reassuring to understand that a discrepancy exists between the way we see ourselves and the way others see us.

Quick Tips to Build Confidence Now

If you are able, check out the Relational Genius series of books for more information on confidence. But if reading isn’t your preference, and you are just passing through this website, here are some quick tips.

1. Look at the people around you that you respect. List their flaws. Are they perfect? If the answer is “no,” why do you have to be?

2. Make a list at the end of the day of what you got right. When we are hard on ourselves, our mistakes have undue weight.

3. Being successful requires feeling stupid because you will always be growing into unfamiliar territory. Make a list of the times you lacked confidence in a learning curve. Then list the accomplishments you gained from your willingness to tolerate the discomfort.

4. Distance yourself from all people who criticize you. We formulate opinions of ourselves based on the reactions of those around us, so supportive relationships increase confidence. How do you distance if you can’t break the relationship? Decrease the frequency, intensity, and duration of interactions. Keep it cordial, but don’t go deep. Try to have people around you when you need to have a conversation.