When you are working in the creative industries pitching for work is part of life, but it can be nerve wracking. So building up your confidence to put yourself forward and clinch the deal is vital.
Perhaps you have found yourself thinking “I will be much more confident in myself when I’ve got my first project with company X” or “I will be confident in my abilities when I create something truly standout.”
During my school days I was shy and awkward with nothing but big dreams. No one expected me to become an entrepreneur and communication skills trainer. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened.
Let me share something I’ve gained through personal experience – four actions you can take to build up your confidence and help you when you are pitching for projects, going for job interviews or joining a new team.
Where are you now?
The first and most important step towards building confidence is to be aware of what you’ve already been successfully doing in your life. Spend some time answering the question “What am I already good at?”
The answers may be anything from being brilliant at using certain design programs to being a good friend. Note down any idea that comes to mind because everything you are good at is important.
What you’ll find is that confidence is not absolute. Nobody is fully confident about everything in their lives. All of us feel confident about particular aspects we know we are good at. Equally, each and every one of us struggles with a specific area that needs improvement. And yet, when we face our pain points, instead of offering constructive solutions, our minds may find that there is something wrong with our whole being. This is a trap because each of us is a completely whole being with numerous qualities.
To share an example, I used to be extremely bad at speaking in public. In fact, while giving my first presentation, I totally forgot my script despite having spent three days memorising it. This experience absolutely shattered my confidence. But after a couple of days, instead of focusing on how bad I was overall, I chose to focus only on how poor my skill of speaking in front of the public was. Separating myself from my skill was crucial because it gave me clarity on what I could do about it. The next thing I did was to join one of Toastmasters’ public speaking clubs where I received the help and support I needed to become a confident presenter.
To summarise, once you start working on developing a new skill, your confidence will grow with it. Track what you’re good at and don’t let yourself identify your overall confidence with the areas you feel least certain about. Nobody is good at everything, whereas obtaining new knowledge and developing new skills is entirely under your control.
Using positive affirmations
Our thought patterns are no different to the muscles in our bodies. Both can be trained. Creating a new positive approach towards your area of struggle may sound strange but it will be life-changing.
A great way to start reprogramming your mind is to repeat encouraging affirmations or statements before facing challenging situations. To find what particular affirmation will work best for you, go with the opposite of your negative thought. For example, if you think “I’m terrified of being asked to pitch to a group of people”, you can replace it with “I’m so excited to give my presentation and show my talents.”
Do not expect yourself to believe in what you are saying immediately, because you may have been trained to think negative thoughts for years. Give yourself time to practise your affirmations properly so they sink in.
If a certain affirmation doesn’t work for you or if you feel extremely uncomfortable with reversing your negative thoughts into extremely positive affirmations, you may prefer using slightly softer opening statements. Instead of saying “I’m great at selling myself”, you can be more inclined to affirm “I can be very good at building relationships with people I work with, over time”. What’s important is to create and repeat affirmations which make you feel better about yourself. So, have a go, use your creativity and improvise!
Questions to transform your thought patterns
If affirmations don’t appeal there is a more analytical approach, gathered from my performance coaches. By answering the following questions, you’ll uncover the fears that are hidden behind your lack of confidence and learn how to transform your destructive thought patterns into constructive ones.
Jot down, record, or simply answer:
How can I describe the exact negative thoughts on this particular subject in only one sentence?
Is this thought 100% true? Is it a fact or is it my assumption?
What proves that this negative thought is completely or partially false?
If the event that I most fear were to happen, how would it truly affect my life? What would I do (realistically and without exaggeration)?
If my best friend had this exact thought, what would I tell them?
I’ve found these questions very helpful in difficult times.
Look ahead long-term
Sometimes, an interview or a difficult project doesn’t go to plan. In such situations, it’s easy to forget that one unsuccessful event means little, and that true success is achieved by taking small but consistent steps towards the goal. The key to becoming better at anything is to shift your focus onto your progress over longer periods rather than holding on to the setbacks along the way.
In other words, celebrate all your achievements, even the small ones. It’s your job to always interpret your attempts as steps towards your success. By doing this over and over your brain will become convinced that when you perform that stressful activity something good happens. And you can be sure it will!
Use these actions to build your confidence and gain the creative work and career you desire.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Robertson is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org