Success E-Letter Vol. 7/1 Early Spring Ď07
Sustaining Self Confidence throughout Your Career Search
Nina Ham, CPCC, LCSW
Living here in the West Coast, televised images of surfboarders navigating massive mountains of water - flying across the unfolding ridge, jetting up the next sheer vertical wall, occasionally succumbing to errors of judgment or the waterís unpredictability - offer fascinating and compelling instruction on riding any wave, including that of optimism and self confidence.
While there seem to be the fortunate few who sail smoothly along a stable current of self confidence, most of the rest of us must learn to negotiate its highs and lows as we seek to create sustainable success in our businesses, careers or personal lives. As a coach to women doing career searches or running their solo businesses, the most common pitfall I see- the marauder who hijacks success - is the collapse, often undetected, of self confidence. Like any ailment, the correct diagnosis lets you know what youíre dealing with. The symptoms are familiar:
Challenges that could be energizing become too daunting; risks ordinarily worth the gain become overwhelming; optimism shrivels.
As in all matters of creating success from the inside out, becoming resourceful on our own behalf is the key. With the surfers in mind, what lessons can we learn as we navigate the highs and lows of self confidence?
- Donít expect to stand still.
Knowing that water isnít solid and currents shift keeps the surferís attention on variations rather than on looking for stability. Donít expect to arrive at a time when self confidence holds you up like a concrete slab, and certainly donít stand still waiting for it. Acknowledging the natural ebb and flow means going about your life.
- Chart your course.
ďGo with the flowĒ is not whatís called for here. Donít be aimless about your self confidence, expecting to settle for what comes your way. If youíve scheduled an activity that will challenge your confidence - a job interview, a presentation - plan ahead and build in activities beforehand that will support you: physical exercise, meditation, lunch with someone who enjoys you.
- Ebb and flow is natural.
We can often point to an apparent reason for either a low or a high of self confidence: a success or disappointment in some aspect of a career search, or a period of hopeful excitement or depleted energy. But if we take the time to look more carefully we often note that the same event occurring at a different time most likely would have a different impact. Fluctuations of self confidence are natural, based on variables we often canít explain.
- The ride doesnít have to end when you fall.
Have you noticed how often dips in self confidence refer to the future - ďI wonít be able to do itĒ - as though the future is knowable? Drops in self confidence generally occur between the ears, and in that sense arenít ďrealĒ. So while being respectful of those fragile times and the incidents that led up to them, donít endow them with too much power. Look for the next opportunity to right yourself and keep on with the ride.
- Stay alert.
A surfboarder must draw on subtle visual and kinesthetic cues in order to maintain her balance, cues probably accessed through the right brain more than through the left. To accumulate bits of personal wisdom about boosts for your confidence, donít rely only on whatís directly related to the challenge. Receiving a compliment on a new haircut, making someone laugh, negotiating a good price on a purchase - any of these little events may give youa lift that can be parlayed into making that important phone call or negotiating an acceptable salary.
So bon voyage! as you learn the fine points of your own self confidence ride. Just remember the first thing every surfer will tell you: Donít wait for the confidence to meet that next wave. Confidence will likely be the result of meeting it; itís not the prerequisite.