Courtney: When I was first learning about confidence, one of the biggest “a-ha” moments was recognizing that confidence isn’t a skill. It’s not like math or golf or something that we can practice and get better at, it’s actually an emotion. I think when we recognize that confidence is an emotion, we can also recognize how it can be very volatile, and sometimes completely absent, when we need it the most.
There’s this popular expression in society right now, “fake it till you make it” and it’s absolutely not true. When you’re able to muster sincere confidence, it can be very inspiring to others. Yet to develop the confidence that is inspiring, it has to come from within and it has to be sincere. It’s important for us to know as leaders that it’s all internal. The advice, tips, and practices I’m going to give you, I’ll never know if you’re doing them. But when you can demonstrate them inside, you’ll be able to outwardly project strong confidence. So, I’m going to talk through a couple of these practices in the context of a recent success that I experienced. It was one where I rode the confidence roller coaster.
About eight months ago, I decided to run for public office and the decision was a bit spontaneous. The gentleman in my local district had passed away while in office so they needed to hold a special election. Some recent political events had left me wanting to be more involved. I never thought that I would be a candidate, yet I knew I wanted to engage more politically. I was very fortunate that a couple members of the community came and asked me to consider running. The moment they asked, I’ll be really honest, my instincts were that it wasn’t for me. Candidly, I think it was a moment where I was lacking confidence. So, I started thinking about it and I found that it was really important to experience success.
When we’re facing a moment where we feel we don’t have the confidence we need to take a first step or to move forward, we have to reflect back on other tough moments where we faced a challenge and we’ve been successful. Sometimes that’s as simple as surviving a difficult Tuesday. We remember that day so much and just looking back and realizing that we survived it when it was tough and daunting can give us confidence. Experiencing success is internal. It’s really about, “hey, I’ve got this capability and I’ve done things before.”
When deciding whether to run for office, I was mindful of having done some things that were challenging before and thought this was something I should move forward on. Stepping up to run for office is a really public decision and a lot of people don’t really like politicians. Political leaders are not high on the spectrum of trust. They like Marines, they don’t like politicians. There were a lot of people that had negative things to say and I had to keep a strong internal dialogue of positive self-appraisals. Was I going to be my own worst enemy and tear myself down – there were plenty of people willing to do that for me – or was I going to be this voice within myself that allowed me to have the courage to heighten, sustain, and continue my efforts? I had to stay positive internally.
The funny thing when you run for office is that a lot of people come out of the woodwork to give you advice, but the key is not all those folks have your best interest at heart. I really had to work to surround myself with positive role models – my husband was an amazing supporter, my friends, people that knew me before I entered the political world, they were the folks that I trusted, and I knew had my best interest at heart. I spent time in their company because, candidly, my confidence needed it. It was tough to face folks that were negative consistently.
And then there were other emotions. I think that it’s important for all of us as we work to develop our confidence to recognize that if confidence itself is an emotion there are going to be other emotions that are like kryptonite that can kill our confidence in an instant. Emotions like fear, worry, and insecurity are all natural, normal human emotions especially when we’re facing something that’s challenging.
So how do we overcome that right back at the start? Right at the moment we sense those emotions, we have to work to experience our success and take action in the face of them. Every time I was scared, and there were many times over the eight months where I feared that I had made the wrong choice, I was going to make a stupid mistake, or maybe this wasn’t for me, I had to work internally on my confidence. Now that the election is over, and I’m happy to say I won, I have this whole new opportunity to develop my leadership skills and hopefully add value to other people.
I feel very fortunate for the experience I have helping others develop their confidence. That’s the beauty of leadership development. It works and it’s not a magic solution. It requires a lot of rigor and discipline, and a fair bit of consistency. In the end, we can build our confidence just like we can build our ability to be credible, our habit of being of service to others, and our ability to be accountable when we make mistakes – something I think I’m going to be doing a lot of as a rookie politician.