When I facilitate Zoomly’s ‘How to build confidence’ bite-sized workshop, one of the tasks we do early on is identify our ‘confidence gremlins’. These insidious little creatures can give us A Really Hard Time, and sabotage our confidence. Confidence Gremlins can show up after we’ve given our confidence a test, and maybe it’s taken a knock. They can also show up just as we’re about to need a confidence boost, such as taking our turn in a team presentation. Just was we need to feel confident, they show up in ways that aren’t helpful (although they may mean well, of which more later).
But there’s good news. We can get to grips with our confidence gremlins.
Where do our confidence gremlins live? In our minds. Which means we can modify them or uninstall them completely. Confidence gremlins can be sticky; some of them may have been installed long ago. Try these steps to get a grip on your gremlins and take a step up.
Notice when they show up
First, make a note of when your confidence gremlins really take over. In what situations are they causing you problems? Is it just in presentations? Small audiences or large? Or meetings with more senior colleagues? Perhaps it’s when you need to negotiate?
What do the gremlins say?
Yes, they can speak. They say stuff like, “I’ll never get through this presentation without fluffing it”, “I’m rubbish at presentations”, “I’m such an idiot” or “Who do you think you are?” Sometimes they use the 2nd person, which may indicate they’re echoes of someone saying that in the past. Mostly they’re our own inner critic sounding off. They can dredge up past disasters and project future debacles. Notice exactly what they say and how they say it.
What possible danger are they saving you from?
Believe it or not, our confidence gremlins have a positive intention for us. Usually it’s to protect us from harm, or taking unwise risks. But they’re not as discerning or as up to date as they should be. If we were to give in to them completely, we’d never push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, try something challenging, go someplace different or learn anything new. What is your gremlin concerned about if you do what it’s frantically trying to stop you doing?
Cross-examine your gremlins
In a court case, the judge and jury hear from two teams: defence and prosecution. Then they reach a verdict. You can do this with your confidence gremlins. First, draw two columns and in the left-hand one, list the evidence that supports the ‘prosecution’. What’s the proof that you really are utterly rubbish at presentations? As in court, we need facts, not opinion or conjecture. Evidence that a witness could corroborate. So ‘I was a mess’ doesn’t cut it. But ‘I hadn’t rehearsed’ might stick. And ‘I kept looking at my slides’ would be damning.
Then do the same for the defence in the right-hand column. Perhaps your audience ‘asked questions and got clear answers’ said ‘thank you’ and ‘gave good feedback’ (and if they applauded, why are you reading this?). Keep going until you’ve got evidence for both sides. Finally, note the outcome. What were the results?
Weigh up the evidence
Now you’ve heard the evidence from both sides – it’s time to decide. Maybe it’s not that clear cut. There’s some evidence you weren’t too well prepared, but generally your audience left happy and agreed to the proposal. You can let yourself off with a caution (if they clapped their hands, you deserve a pardon and again – why are you reading this?). If your meeting ended in difficult questions and no agreement, followed by a blast of criticism from your boss, you need some correction. Identify the actions you will take to improve in future.
Practise, practise, practise
The best way to silence your gremlins is to demonstrate they’re no longer needed. Give them a smile and say ‘I’ve got this’. You’ll need to convince them: the best method is to practise. Practise deliberately – this means you set an achievable target, such as ‘I’ll rehearse my next presentation to my smartphone’, do it, then watch it back and reflect on how that went. Note what you’re doing well and what can improve. Rinse and repeat, and as you do, install a new mantra where the gremlin’s soundbite used to be. So instead of ‘I’m rubbish at presentations’ your mind will be saying, ‘I practise presentations several times until I’ve learned them inside out’. You’ve got this.
You may also find this post useful: ‘Help! I’ve been told to speak up more in meetings’.
Image credit: Gremlins by @RobSnowStock-depositphotos