Self-belief is paramount when navigating the world – particularly when it comes to business.
Our self-belief has the ability to accelerate our career and professional success – it underpins multiple factors in our lives and careers, impacting our thoughts, behaviour and, ultimately, our results.
International high-performance coach, keynote speaker and bestselling author Shona Rowan emphasises the pivotal role of self-belief in both our personal and professional life.
“Having genuine self-belief in what you bring to the table impacts how we communicate and interact with others, if we say ‘yes’ to opportunities and put ourselves out there, and our resilience around bouncing back from setbacks,” she said.
“On top of this, it affects how other people see us – when we believe in ourselves and our abilities, other people believe in us too, which is really important in business.
“With such wide-ranging benefits, it’s no wonder self-belief is often referred to as a superpower.”
Crux of confidence
Australian Psychological Society Perth Branch Chair and Clear Health Psychology Principal Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director Maxine Hawkins said business leaders needed to have a certain level of confidence for success.
“There are times, where no matter how much risk assessment is conducted, there’s a point where you need to trust your gut and make decisions."
“You need to be able to accept that you will get some things right and some things wrong,” she said.
“From the errors comes learning opportunities to do better next time.”
However, confidence does not always equal competence.
Ms Rowan said there was a complex relationship between the two.
“The Dunning-Kruger effect is often misunderstood as a claim about overconfidence in general, which it isn’t,” she said.
“Confidence doesn’t always equal competence, as we know.
“As a high-performance coach, I have met and worked with many highly competent and experienced people who are confident in their abilities or expertise, as well as many others who are not.
“Several factors can impact our confidence, including our upbringing, education, personality, life experiences, work environment, and what we attribute our successes and perceived failures to.
“I always say to my clients, don’t wait until you feel more confident as that might take a while to come – instead, take action and your confidence will grow.
“One of my favourite sayings is feel the fear and do it anyway – people shouldn’t let a lack of self-belief or waiting to feel 100 per cent ready hold them back.”
Self-belief is something many people try to work on every day. Yet there are days where a pervasive feeling of self-doubt or inadequacy – often in the form of imposter syndrome – may arise, despite evidence of success.
Dr Hawkins stated that although this is common, imposter syndrome could be paralysing.
“Like a heckler in the crowd, it can put you off your game and make you lose focus and doubt yourself,” she said.
“This is when people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, and often, internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud, which can cause high levels of anxiety, as well as panic attacks.
“In others, it can make getting out of bed difficult or results in sleepless nights and fatigue.”
Ms Rowan said people who struggled with imposter syndrome often questioned their own skills, abilities and intelligence, attributing many of their successes to things such as luck or being in the right place at the right time, rather than owning and internalising their skills, talents, knowledge and achievements.
“There’s a lot of research to say that imposter syndrome is high amongst high-achieving populations, and I know from my own work with many high-achievers over the years that it often goes hand in hand with perfectionism,” she said.
Although these imposter thoughts may creep in, Ms Rowan said it was important to identify and challenge the thoughts and beliefs keeping us small, acknowledge all your past successes and achievements, and watch out for comparisons.
Hushing the inner critic
We can work at gaining self-belief by focusing on our strengths and seeking out supportive and positive relationships.
“There’s so much research to say that people with higher levels of self-belief or confidence focus on their strengths more than their weaknesses,” Ms Rowan said.
“They focus more of their attention on developing and leveraging their natural strengths rather than trying to eliminate their weaknesses.
“As such, they feel more confident and also perform at a higher level.
“The people we hang around really do influence how we feel about ourselves, our career and life in general – they influence the opportunities that come to us and act as great buffers when we go through tough times and setbacks.
“Seek out those supportive, positive and encouraging connections in your personal and professional life, and if you need to, get a coach or mentor, go on a course and read books – there are lots of things we can do to strengthen our self-belief.”
Dr Hawkins said self-belief can come from having compassion for yourself and others.
“Know that not everything is a 100m sprint – it takes time, so be realistic and curious,” she said.
“Learn to develop inner self-talk that’s validating, so you’re not desperately seeking it from external sources.
“Live your values and use this as your own map for directions.
“Those who demonstrate self-belief are also able to support others – these people are secure enough in their own skin to not criticise or negatively judge others.”