When people ask me what I do and start talking to me about career coaching and helping people find a job they love, I often hear the response 'I’d love to do something different but I can’t do anything else.’ Inside I am screaming YES you can.

Maybe you are like me. I used to think that I wasn’t brave enough to work for myself, that I didn’t have the skills needed to promote my business and make sales and therefore being a business owner was not for me. The word entrepreneur I associated with creative people who were filled with bright ideas. They were brave and willing to take risks. I would think of inventors and Dragon’s Den and I would dismiss the idea as I just didn’t associate these traits with me. However, what I was doing was getting in my own way. I was letting my low self-esteem and confidence hold me back.

Self-esteem and confidence are words that crop up time and time again in coaching conversations and in particular with my female clients. But what do we actually mean when we say these words.

Self-esteem is about the value, the opinion you have of yourself. For example, I would say I wasn’t brave enough, I wasn’t clever enough.

Self-confidence is about your ability to do something. For example, I didn’t think I had the sales or promotional skills to build my own business.

Often if you are low in one you will tend to be low in the other and vice versa if you have high self-esteem you are likely to be confident in your own abilities to do something. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their New York Times Best Seller ‘The Confidence Code’ talk about the confidence cousins and how we intertwine these words.

  • Confidence – your ability to do something
  • Self Esteem – how you value yourself
  • Optimism – your view/attitude to the outside world
  • Self-Compassion – how kind you are to yourself
  • Self Efficacy – your belief in your ability to succeed as something

Each of these components will enhance the richness of our lives and our ability to function at our maximum capability, to enhance our professional performance and deepen our relationships.

Whenever we face a new challenge in our life which is outside our comfort zone, whether it’s a new job, learning to drive, a first date, we can start to doubt ourselves. I remember the first time I had to interview someone, I started to question my ability to do it, would I get the information I needed?  Did I have the right questions to ask? I can remember the first time I led a training session, standing up in front of people who were significantly older than me with more years work experiencing, questioning whether I could teach them anything and would I be good enough to hold their attention?

We all have these examples of times in our lives when we have faced something for the first couple of times and then we master it and it moves from being outside our comfort zone to inside. That’s the thing with confidence, if we want to improve it we have to take action we have to break it down and do it.   Remember you have been here before with something else and you have mastered and conquered it.  Didn’t it feel great when you did it, weren’t you proud of yourself?

When I first started coaching people I remember questioning whether I would be any good, would I be able to help my clients, I was struggling with my confidence and needed to take action and work on it.

To start with it was about practising my new homed skills on willing participants (thank you to those guinea pigs!), it was about being observed by my mentor coach and supervisors. It was about listening to their feedback and building on it. I didn’t have to go straight out and get paying clients, I first did it in safe environments and practised.

If you have an idea of something you would like to do, but you find you are getting in your own way here are some ideas for you:

  • Be clear which of the confidence cousins is the root of your fear.
  • Remind yourself that it’s ok to question your ability to do something, but it doesn’t mean you can’t. Remind yourself of a past situation when you moved something from outside your comfort zone to within.
  • Don’t over think it and get overwhelmed, just take action and get started. Find one small step that you feel you can take to move you in your chosen direction.
  • Let go of perfection and take the pressure off. There is no universal belief on what perfect looks like and life is about learning, things won’t always go right, but every experience will give you a learning point to which you can finesse. The first time you do something it doesn’t need to be perfect it's about making progress.

So next time you hear yourself saying you can’t do something ask yourself if you are getting in your own way.  If you broke it down and asked for help could you do it? YES, you can!

If you would like to know more about how you can work on your confidence in your career and other tips to master the other 'Confidence Cousins' look out for my masterclass videos in my Facebook group.