confidence-next-exitBecoming confident is a tricky thing. If we were gut-level honest, most of us would say that we want to feel more confident. We would also probably say something like this, “when I finally get recognized as _____ (talented, a leader, an expert, etc…), then I’ll feel confident.” Can you see the irony? How will others see you the way you want them to until you embody that confidence? Waiting for someone to anoint you with confidence is not a strategy. There is no such thing as a confidence fairy.

The confidence fairy

Years ago, I once waited for the confidence fairy. I had just completed my MBA and I was poised to begin my career as an executive coach and, unbeknownst to me, a workplace therapist. I was ready to be seen as an expert. So there I sat, waiting. Waiting for someone to tell me I was talented. Waiting for someone to tell me I was ready to work with senior leaders. Waiting for someone to tell me I was an expert. Day after day, night after night I waited for the confidence fairy to anoint me with some fancy title and the accompanying confidence that I so desperately wanted. But to my surprise, she never came. “Well of course she hasn’t come,” I told myself after some reflection. I hadn’t turned X age yet. Like losing your first tooth, she must surely come when you hit life milestones. After all, confidence and expertise must surely be tied to age. And so I waited and waited some more.

And then it hit me. She was never going to come. And more importantly, I was the reason why I wasn’t an expert. I was the one standing in my own way. Ultimately, I had the power to change the situation. I waved the wand, declared myself an expert and the rest is history.

Are you waiting?

Are you waiting for the confidence fairy? Are you chasing external designations in your search for confidence? I can’t tell you how many Ph.D.’s I’ve met that don’t have an ounce of confidence. They thought that by acquiring such a prestigious designation that confidence and respect would surely follow. Not so much. Others aren’t chasing designations; they are chasing titles and promotions. Are you waiting for that promotion to finally feel like you arrived? I’ve had hundreds of conversations that involved this trap. Stop waiting, grab the wand from that negligent fairy and anoint yourself today. Here’s how. Answer the following questions and hold onto your answers. You’re gonna need ‘em for the next step.

  1. I’m good at _____. What are you good at? Make a list of what you know deep down you are good at. Go on. Don’t be shy.
  2. I’m great at _____. Go back to your “good” list and circle the items that you are fantastic at; the areas that you are an absolute rock star.
  3. I’m an expert at _____. Here’s where the rubber hits the road. What areas are you near the top of your respective cohort at? What are you an expert at? It doesn’t mean that you have to be the very best, it just simply means that you know you belong in the same conversation as the very best.  Whether its financial statement analysis or making gourmet lunches for your kids, nothing is off limits. Note: aspirational expertise counts. Maybe you aren’t an expert yet but you are on your way. Go ahead. Call yourself an expert. You’ll be there in no time.

Claim your expertise

Got your lists? Good. Here’s the hard part. Go to your professional or personal bio (corporate bio, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, your website, etc…) and declare yourself as an expert. No excuses.  One important point of clarification: shying away from your expertise is not humility. It is a fear of standing in the light and claiming who you are and meant to be. Claim your expertise boldly. The world is ready and listening.

Several months ago I was working with a colleague and I stumbled onto her bio on her firm’s website. I was stunned. Here was this accomplished professional and yet her bio was a shy, timid and awkward 13 year old. It mumbled about the kinds of projects she does and the typical clients that might hire her. Her bio was embarrassed to be read and you could feel it. It left you with the impression she was a junior associate in her firm and not someone as senior nor as accomplished as she was. The next bio that I read was that of one of her colleagues. His bio spoke of his expertise and was quick to claim his unique strengths and areas in which he is world class. His bio had a boldness and confidence that I’m sure he possessed in real life. My colleague’s bio unfortunately mirrored her own lack of confidence she puts on display at work and at home on a daily basis.

Stop waiting for the confidence fairy and get moving.  You’ve got the wand. Wave it and who knows? You might just get that confidence and recognition you’ve been looking for. It was there the whole time you just didn’t know it.