Entrepreneurs, it’s time to talk confidence.
The entrepreneurial journey is incredibly challenging. Sometimes it can feel hard to keep pushing on, especially if you haven’t built up a level of self-confidence to take on the challenges that come your way (and in business, there are a lot of those).
But what is confidence? And how can we overcome low self-confidence when running a business?
For me, to have confidence in yourself is essentially to believe in your abilities. Confidence is that core belief in yourself as a capable adult to pursue whatever it is you really want to do.
Some people look at a seemingly successful person and think, “he or she just ‘has’ confidence.”
However, being confident isn’t something that a lucky few of us are born with. If low self-confidence is holding you back from being your best, the good news is that it’s something you can overcome.
Being Confident is Something You Can Build Over Time
You read that right. Confidence isn’t innate or exclusive to just a lucky few. It’s grown, harvested, and thrives in environments where the best version of yourself is fed back to you.
Here’s a question for you to think about: are you someone who can honestly say you are fully confident in yourself and your capabilities? Or do you feel more like there’s room for improvement?
If you answered ‘no’, then you’re not alone. Moneypenny surveyed 500 current and aspiring business owners to find out how confident they are about their future prospects and those of their businesses and a staggering 85% have some concerns.
Following the impact of Covid-19, the cost of living crisis and rising energy prices, it’s natural that many business owners have found their confidence dented over the last couple of years.
If this applies to you too, know that it’s not a permanent state. You can still improve your level of confidence if you know how.
How to Increase Confidence as an Entrepreneur
With this in mind, I want to share some simple tips to increase confidence, even if you’ve found yours has dropped in recent years.
Do Something Good for Others
One of the most profound ways to gain confidence is to help others. This can improve your self-esteem by allowing you to see first-hand the positive impact your actions have on the lives of others. It’s why people who volunteer or devote their time to helping others have higher self-esteem and overall wellbeing than those who don’t.
Helping others helps you to see value in what you do.
If you’re dealing with a lack of confidence, consider offering your services and help to those who might need them the most. What are you good at? Where can people benefit from the skills you have? Work directly with them – do your best work, and you’ll both see and feel the impact that your work brings the person in front of you.
This could be professional work or in a more charitable capacity (e.g. volunteering). When you get the opportunity to see the impact we can bring others, it immediately lifts your spirits, improves self-worth and, ultimately, helps to grow your confidence knowing that you’re making a positive impact. Here are some ideas you can consider:
- Local voluntary groups are a great way to give back to the community, whether this is hands-on experience or offering your skills in blogging, marketing, speaking or campaigning for a good cause.
- Could you set up some workshops or do a talk for young entrepreneurs at a local college?
- Look at ways you can involve fundraising in your business. It’s also a great chance to organise events that will in term help boost your brand awareness (as well as improve your brand image: it’s a win-win for all involved).
Set Yourself Achievable Tasks and Reflect on Your Progress
Confidence is built on accomplishment. If you set your ambitions too high too soon, you set yourself up for failure and risk knocking your confidence back. And after each knockback, you might start finding it harder and harder to get back up again.
To avoid this, take a moment to be realistic with your ambitions. Creating more manageable goals, especially when starting something new, makes success more likely at the start when you’re potentially facing the unknown.
As you make progress and your confidence grows, this will set you up to take on bigger tasks more comfortably in future.
Make a list of things you can do today that you consider achievable. Ticking things off your list as you successfully achieve them will give you more confidence in your own abilities as time goes on. Every six months, take time to reflect on what you’ve achieved so far. Write down what you can do now that you couldn’t do six months ago.
Then do it again for 12 months.
You’ll find it incredible to see how much you’ve grown and the skills you’ve acquired in that time (and if you can feel proud of yourself for it, that’s a bonus).
Be Sensitive To Your Current State
You’ve probably noticed that confidence fluctuates; sometimes you’re bursting with it and feel like you can take on the world. Other times, especially after a setback, you can feel like the least confident person imaginable.
To help overcome this, I recommend tweaking your workload to suit. What I mean by this is that when your self-confidence is low, recognise this and rearrange your tasks so that you hit the easy wins first. It’s okay to leave the more challenging tasks till you’re more ready for them.
Just as I pointed out in the previous tip, building up those small wins first helps grow your confidence ready to take on those bigger challenges in future with a more positive and determined mindset.
Don’t lose sight of the little things you can do today by spending all your time worrying about tomorrow.
Challenge Yourself When You Can
Where can you challenge yourself when you’re ready?
I’d encourage you to seek out all the little areas where you can challenge yourself – if you can tackle the things that might have scared you previously and do it successfully, you’ll gain a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.
What could you do today that will leave you better off tomorrow? This doesn’t necessarily have to be business-related. It could be as small and simple as meditating daily or doing a mini workout. Just as you’d do in business, make these goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
For example, perhaps you’re finding it hard to keep up that new year’s resolution to “run regularly” and have skipped one too many workouts. Instead, perhaps you could aim to run 10 miles a week, every week for six months by getting out on your lunch hour or setting the alarm a little earlier. Pick the days when you know it’s most convenient for you. As your fitness increases, you can then increase that distance and adjust your goals to suit.
No one gets out of bed and runs a marathon – it’s why people have plans to build them up slowly, day by day, mile by mile.
Whatever you choose, set yourself a manageable goal, build it up little by little, and set the bar a little higher next time. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve over time.
Silence Your Inner Critic
The biggest reason so many have confidence issues has less to do with other people and more to do with ourselves.
We all have a voice of doubt within us. You know the one: it’s that voice that challenges you when you’re most vulnerable and tells us “you can’t do it”. Some schools of thought call these thoughts NATs: Negative Automatic Thoughts.
There’s no rhyme or reason to them intellectually – they just happen, sort of like brain farts. And the truth is, they happen to everyone (yep, even the most seemingly confident person in the room). It’s how much we listen to them that makes the difference.
Often, those inner critics are there to keep us safe – to avoid unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations and to ensure we don’t embarrass ourselves. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re nervous and your palms get sweaty and your heart starts racing? That nervous ‘fight or flight’ response might have been useful long ago when a predator came running at us, but it’s not so useful if you’re about to deliver an important presentation.
Learning that these negative thoughts happen to everyone made a huge difference in helping me to switch them off. So did recognising the impact they had when I listened to them – the opportunities they spoiled and the potential that remained unfulfilled.
Take a bit of time to reflect on situations where you’ve held yourself back before. What was the negative voice in your head saying? What was the worst-case scenario going around in your head? And what could you have achieved if only you hadn’t listened to it?
Some tips to silence (or at least quieten) that inner critic include:
- Giving your inner critic a name – Not only will this help you detach yourself from the negative voice, but it means you can give yourself the space to respond to it. If your inner critic tells you you can’t do something, argue back.
- Practice self-awareness – Take a moment to check in with how you’re feeling both physically and mentally. If your breathing is speeding up, take deep breaths and slow it right back down. Pay attention to the thoughts happening in your mind and acknowledge them for what they are – just thoughts. Stay present.
- Reframe your negative thoughts – Instead of saying “I’m a failure” after a setback, you can acknowledge that something didn’t go your way but reframe it in a positive light. What did that setback teach you? How can you use that lesson going forward? Change “I’m a failure” to something like: “Things might not have gone my way, but I now know what I need to do to be more prepared next time and get it right.”
- Stop comparing yourself to others – It’s tempting to feel like you’re not achieving as much compared to those who claim to have had overnight success. But remember, the lives we put online are often just a highlight reel. People are more open about talking about their successes but less so about sharing their failures. Yet even the most successful entrepreneurs will have learned from countless failures along the way. Focus on your own journey – that’s the one that really matters. If someone else’s success isn’t an inspiration, then don’t let it become a distraction. Choose to distance yourself from it.
I hope these tips help you feel a little more confident today. Start taking baby steps and over time, you’ll see a huge shift in your sense of self-confidence.
A year from now, perhaps you’ll be the person people look to when they think about those who are ‘naturally confident’. And if you need a supporter to help build your confidence as an entrepreneur, I’m more than happy to help.
What’s one step you’ll be taking to build your confidence this week?