by Michelle Guillemard
Everyone lacks a bit of confidence and courage from time to time. If you’re prone to writer’s block, you might start to question your writing abilities.
With an important event coming up, you may begin to doubt your public speaking skills.
As a freelance writer, you could struggle to ask for an extension, query an overdue invoice, contact a potential new client or pitch for a proposal.
Confidence is a common concern for writers. So, is it possible to build self-assurance and courage, and which methods work?
First, it’s important to understand that striving to be confident and brave one hundred percent of the time is unrealistic.
Nerves and uncertainty are, to an extent, a necessary part of your journey – still, they shouldn’t dominate your career.
And, as I wrote a few weeks ago, confidence and self-belief are two mindset attributes you need to develop if you want to thrive, not just survive, as a writer.
Popular ways to build confidence
You’ve probably heard of common confidence-building strategies like dressing well, speaking assertively and acting the part.
But when you’re at home alone, staring blankly at your PC with a looming deadline, will a Chanel power suit really help you write high-quality health and medical copy?
Positive thinking, taking action and solid preparation are other strategies that can help you to feel optimistic and secure when tackling a writing task.
Whereas nodding in agreement with yourself and sitting up straight are two of the more dubious methods that researchers have questioned in recent years.
If you’ve ever taken one of my health writing courses, you’ll know I always prattle on about reading, practice, and feedback being the three most important strategies to help you become a confident writer.
But, perhaps you don’t necessarily lack faith in your abilities. You may be looking to summon up the courage to have an awkward conversation with a colleague or develop the pluckiness to make a major decision.
So, if you need a boost – now, or in future – check out these science-backed methods.
Find out where your confidence went
What’s happened recently? Can you identify the specific incident that impacted your resilience?
Perhaps someone said something that shook you to the core or rubbed you the wrong way.
If you can recognise the probable cause of your lost mojo, the next step is to develop strategies to overcome it.
A key factor promoting courageous action is the ability to feel fear and yet respond productively, according to researchers from California’s Pepperdine University.
The research team argue: If you want to build courage and confidence, you need to understand your fears and limitations so that you can deal with them.
Praise your effort, not your result
As writers, we get so caught up in the final draft we forget to praise the amount of effort we put in to achieve that result.
Since then, research in this area has continued to demonstrate the value of rewarding effort as opposed to outcomes.
Try shifting your focus and celebrating your hard work, research and writing. Don’t concentrate on the result – especially if it makes you feel disappointed – but, don’t praise work you were indifferent, uncommitted or unenthused about, either.
You’re focusing on the journey, not the destination, in other words.
This method can help to give you the self-assurance you need to move forward with your next project or overcome the particular obstacle that has you stumped.
Plus, when you’re less focused on results and outcomes, you’ll be less likely to compare your successes to those of other writers – and, as we all know, the dreaded comparisonitis is a key confidence-killer.
Rituals build confidence
In 2013, researchers Gino and Norton argued that rituals have the power to alleviate grief and loss, curb anxiety, improve performance, cope in high-pressure situations, and increase confidence.
Writing for Scientific American, the duo concluded that performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.
Do you have a ritual? Your routine could be as simple as making coffee before you sit at your desk, not checking email until 10 am, cleaning your desk before you start working or not writing until you have your Ugg boots on (my personal favourite).
Phone a friend
Sometimes, all you need when you’re feeling a little uncertain about yourself is a boost from someone you know and trust. There are many reasons why friends build our self-confidence, and when you’re feeling down, nothing beats hearing a familiar, friendly voice.
Plus, there’s plenty of research and commentary examining how social support alleviates stress. If you’re feeling stuck with a particular project, phone a friend or colleague who will lift your spirits and remind you how fabulous you are. Sometimes, we just need to hear it from someone else to believe it.
What works for you?
How do you build confidence and courage when you’re feeling unsure of yourself? Share your tips in the comments.
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