Who here wishes they could feel more confident about their business endeavors? Okay, I can’t see your hands up, but I know that mine is up. Not always… but sometimes I feel those little nagging doubts creep in.
Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for a while, it’s good to do an internal check to see where your mindset is at. Are you facing most days with a sense of confidence and an accurate view of your skills and abilities, or are you feeling down on yourself and holding back from opportunities because you think you aren’t good enough?
In a previous blog post titled “You’re Better Than You Think,” VAClassroom Co-Founder Craig Cannings shares a powerful video where he talks about his own experience with self-doubt and some practical ways we can gain an accurate view of our skills and abilities. He discusses the following strategies:
– Avoid the negative self-talk.
– Make sure that you’re tracking your progress in your business.
– Enlist a mentor or join a mastermind group or a group of other Virtual Assistants.
– Take an inventory of all the skills and abilities that you’ve developed in the last year or that you’ve developed as a whole.
– Never stop learning.
After watching Craig’s video, I was immediately struck by the first strategy. In a way, it’s the strategy that drives the rest. How does our self-talk impact our confidence?
Lessons from The Sound of Music
As I was preparing to write this post, I couldn’t stop myself from humming the song “I Have Confidence” from the movie The Sound of Music (with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). At first, I tried to drown it out so I could concentrate on more businesslike applications of confidence, but then I realized Julie Andrews’ character is actually on her way to a new business venture as she’s singing this song.
In a nutshell, while studying to become a nun, her character, Maria, is sent from the abbey to the home of a retired naval officer to work as a governess to his seven children. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d feel daunted by that type of client work too! Show me a challenging blog post topic any day, but seven children to look after?
In any case, my mind kept returning to the part of the song where Julie Andrews/Maria is singing in a strong voice, dancing purposefully down the road, energetically swinging her suitcase and guitar:
“I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain. I have confidence that spring will come again! Besides what you see I have confidence in me.”
Those are the lyrics I was remembering. What I forgot was how this character achieved her confidence mindset. If you look at the whole song, it’s evident she doesn’t immediately feel confident, and she doesn’t maintain her confidence without revisiting her doubts and boosting herself up again.
So what does this mean for us? It’s a great illustration of how to develop and maintain our own confidence mindset.
1. Acknowledge Your Doubts.
While there are certain behaviors and body language that can help us exude confidence, it’s best not to look at confidence as a mask we use to hide our doubts and sweep them under the carpet. While we can certainly act and feel more confident, we need to acknowledge the source of our doubts so we can give them less power and move ahead.
At the beginning of the song, Julie Andrews sings,
“What will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be? I wonder. It could be so exciting, To be out in the world, To be free! My heart should be wildly rejoicing. Oh, what’s the matter with me? I’ve always longed for adventure, To do the things I’ve never dared. Now here I am facing adventure Then why am I so scared?”
Can you relate to those feelings when starting your Virtual Assistant or Freelance business? The idea of freedom and flexibility is exhilarating, but it’s also a bit scary. Will clients want to work with me? Do I have enough skills? What if I fail and have to return to a regular 9-5 job?
So, the first step is to acknowledge your doubts and determine the source of any negative self-talk you are experiencing. As Craig mentions in his video, everyone can benefit from a good therapy session now and then, so if you feel you need to speak to a counselor or therapist, seek out a professional who can help.
I was bullied when I was younger, so I’ve had to learn to acknowledge that my negative self-talk is often a reaction to ways people have criticized me in the past. I also tend to minimize my accomplishments to be polite and avoid making others feel bad. In your life, you may have family members or friends who are skeptical of your new career move. Whatever the case, it helps to give voice to our doubts and determine whether the voices of others are affecting the way we speak to ourselves.
2. Decide What You Need.
In an article titled “6 Simple Ways You Can Build Self-Confidence and Succeed,” Murray Newlands suggests that establishing objectives can improve your confidence. He says, “Do not make goals that are overly broad, such as ‘I want to make a lot of money.’ Instead, aim toward something like ‘I want to add three new customers a month’ or ‘I want to see a rise in my search each week.’”
Establishing measurable objectives can help stop negative self-talk because it gives you a positive focus and purpose. Do you need to take a course to learn new skills or update existing ones? Do you need to join a mastermind group or find a mentor? Do you need to meet with the people you’re already connected with for encouragement and advice?
Track your business progress to see what you’ve already achieved and where you can encourage small steps towards growth. Avoid shaming yourself with thoughts of inadequacy; instead, tell yourself these goals are a healthy part of owning a business.
In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’ character has very little time to formulate goals since she’s already on the road, just steps away from her new job. But she manages to assess the situation and decide what she needs to focus on in those few seconds:
“Oh, I must stop these doubts, All these worries. If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back! I must dream of the things I am seeking. I am seeking the courage I lack. The courage to serve them with reliance, Face my mistakes without defiance. Show them I’m worthy And while I show them I’ll show me!”
3. “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” – Brené Brown
I came across this quote a couple years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since. How many times have you done something clumsy and said without thinking, “Oh, I’m such an idiot!” Now turn it around, and think of saying the same thing to someone you love dearly.
It’s hard, isn’t it? Often, we’re much harsher with ourselves than we are with others. So, part of developing positive self-talk is talking to ourselves in a loving way. If it helps, imagine yourself saying the same thing to your loved one and edit the statement as needed.
Morris warns against getting caught in a cycle of “rumination” that involves replaying “upsetting or cringe-worthy thoughts or events over and over again in your head.” This type of thought process can make problems seem overwhelming.
In the example below, Morris illustrates negative self-talk followed by a positive alternative:
“What an idiot! I really screwed up that presentation. Well, that’s the end of my career.”
Alternative: “I can do better than that. I’ll prepare and rehearse more next time. Maybe I’ll get some public speaking training. That would be good for my career.”
Now, back to our movie heroine, and here she is putting positive self-talk into practice:
“So, let them bring on all their problems, I’ll do better than my best. I have confidence They’ll put me to the test! But I’ll make them see I have confidence in me.”
4. Rinse and Repeat.
When I first pictured this scene from The Sound of Music, I forgot that the character doesn’t maintain her attitude of confidence throughout the entire song. Towards the end, just as she’s nearing the gate of the officer’s villa, her voice falters, and she stops singing. After a long, uncomfortable silence, she says, “Oh, help.” Then she determinedly opens the gate and resumes her positive self-talk, singing with a strong voice and marching forward with confident body language.
This example shows us that a confidence mindset may need some nurturing and effort to maintain. Don’t be alarmed if one day you manage some great positive self-talk and the next day stub your toe and say, “I’m such an idiot!” And don’t hesitate to stop for a moment and gather your strength so you can refocus on your goals. At some point you may need to go back and investigate the source of your doubts again, and that’s okay.
So, as you’re building your Virtual Assistant or Freelance business, be aware of your self-talk and take time for self-care and goal-setting. Consider choosing a quote or vision statement you can return to in moments of self-doubt. Hang it on your wall to reawaken your confidence whenever you need to.
And if it helps to choose a theme song for yourself, do so! Singing along with a powerful, motivating tune or just listening to it can often stop negative thoughts in their tracks and return you to a more positive mindset. I know I’ll be humming along with Julie Andrews for days to come. ☺
Now we’d love to hear from you! How do you boost your confidence when you’re running on empty and need some encouragement to carry on? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
And of course, I thought it would be appropriate to close this post with Julie Andrew’s herself… Enjoy!