Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to Build Confidence

When I first went into business for myself, I was confident that I had the marketing tactics my clients needed. I was also confident that I would learn to be a strategic advisor. What I didn't realize was that I did not have confidence that I would be able to run my own business. The biggest challenge is that I didn't even know it!

Nonetheless, I pounded the pavement and successfully landed several clients within just a few months. I was pleased with my progress, but couldn't help but notice that at every networking event I attended, I was hit on by men. I even had several male clients who were hitting on me while we worked together. I was alarmed: I wanted to be taken seriously ... as a serious professional! I immediately decided that I didn't look "serious" or "professional" enough.

I made a list - How to look more professional:
  • Buy some fake eyeglasses
  • Learn how to style a classy chignon
  • Buy some business suits that made me look frumpy
Needless to say, the above list did not actually solve my problem. Instead, I realized that the trouble was not in how I dressed on the outside, but how I felt about myself on the inside. As a business owner and a professional, I was not confident, and my clients and prospects (and the men at networking events) could sense my vulnerability.

In fact, I learned that most people in business will admit that their greatest fear is that they will be exposed for not being as smart/professional/sophisticated as other people think they are. This comes not from the fact that we are not smart/professional/sophisticated, but that we don't believe that we are.

Thus, I created a new list - How to build confidence in my professional abilities:
  • Keep a list of all of my professional successes - big and small
  • Keep a list documenting anytime someone says something positive about my professional abilities
  • Before any event or meeting at which I will meet clients or prospects, review the above lists and remember that I am in fact smart/professional/sophisticated
  • Do my homework before meetings and events so that I know who will be there and what is important to them so that I can speak confidently about those subjects
It worked! I stopped getting hit upon at every networking event, and discovered that I can do more to impact how people perceive me by tweaking my inside than I can by tweaking the outside.

Of course, I must admit ...when an optometrist found that I had a very slight vision problem, I still jumped at the opportunity to get glasses :-)

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