Nearly everyone suffers from a lack of self-confidence at some point, whether it’s a concern about succeeding in a difficult market or a fear that niche skills—negotiating contracts, understanding funding options—are out of reach. Becky Blalock, managing partner at Advisory Capital in Atlanta and former CIO of Southern Company, says that self-assurance doesn’t have to be the personality trait that got away.
“My premise is that confidence is a learned skill,” she explains. Blalock is also the author of DARE: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge, and she says it’s crucial that small business owners work to develop confidence in order to maximize their chances of success. “We all want to stay in those zones where we feel safe and accepted and valued,” said Blalock, “but unless you stick your head outside of that and really attempt to do something to take on some risks, then you’re never going to grow and really reach your full potential.”
5 Steps to a More Confident You
1. Surround yourself with positive role models
Pessimism is like a virus, and if you spend time with perpetually negative people you’re likely to become negative, too. The good news, Blalock says, is that the opposite holds true. “If you surround yourself with positive, can-do people, you begin to develop a more positive, can-do attitude about things. Positive attitudes are just as contagious as the negative ones.” Seek out friends and peers who are supportive, encouraging and upbeat.
2. Mind your self-talk
Humans can think faster than they can speak—a phenomenon that can cause trouble on many fronts. Unfortunately, small business owners can actually dissuade themselves with their own brain power. “As we talking about something, we’re thinking about how we can talk ourselves out of it,” Blalock says. With effort, it’s possible to flip all those downer thoughts around. “You’ve got to really monitor your self-talk and make sure you aren’t talking yourself out of something. Instead, talk yourself into it,” Blalock explains.
3. Focus on others
The spotlight can bring out your worst fears and insecurities. “Instead of thinking about yourself, think about questions you can ask people around you,” Blalock suggests. She says it’s helpful to make a game out of learning about the other person—his background, needs, and concerns. “Taking the focus off of yourself lets you be a lot more confident in any situation you go into,” Blalock says. Whether you’re going into a thorny negotiating session or meeting a client for the first time, lessen your anxiety by concentrating on others.
4. Appear confident, even if you’re not
Right or wrong, much of what others think about us forms in the first few minutes of an interaction. That means it’s important to dress and act positive and self-assured. “When you’re dressed professionally, when you make eye contact and when you have good posture, you feel better and more confident about yourself,” Blalock says. As a result, you will come across as more confident. The appearance of a strong self-confidence can have a profound impact on those around you.
5. Take action
You may be anxious about moving forward, but that could be the best way to develop more confidence in your abilities. “Just recognize fear for what it is,” Blalock says. “It’s something we all experience. Don’t let it paralyze you.” Small business owners may overestimate the consequences of failure, and that fear stops them in their tracks. Instead, Blalock says, “Getting out there and taking action and actually succeeding can go a long way towards building your confidence.”
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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