Written by: Caroline Brewin, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
The Land of Confidence was always my targeted destination—a place where I was effortlessly charismatic, knowledgeable, and unapologetically myself.
But how could one reach these lofty heights? What was the recipe which cooks up this effortless aura? I always thought it was a blend of genetics, experience, and in-depth knowledge, so you know ALL the answers when quizzed by the experts themselves.
So I strived and dived into my work and professional development – learning finance expertise, whilst doing every course available on Executive Presence, Leadership, Powerful Influencing, and more. I was learning the theory of how to be confident whilst looking around me for mentors whose behavior I could borrow and embed.
The problem was this: All of that training, whilst having some value, didn’t fill the confidence gap. Yes, I may know the theory, but how did that help with the high-pressure sweaty palms and pounding heart? Over time and with repetition, I realized: what really made the difference was being scared, pushing myself into being skin-crawlingly uncomfortable (with a deep breath and silent prayer), and coming out the other side (mostly) unscathed. It was the process that gave me the confidence: trying, learning from my mistakes, knowing I was still alive, and having pride in pushing myself – not that I gained it through books or theory.
As it turns out, there is a reason for this. Dopamine. When we step into the unknown, it triggers a dopamine release – like our brain’s cheerleader giving us a chemical high-five for taking that brave action (1). Due to neuroplasticity, over time, our brain is also rewired (2), so we are then more likely to engage in that behavior in the future. This is a smart evolutionary response that drives us to grow, drive and survive. So, you have to experience the discomfort to grow your comfort zone. Each step outside the zone is one further forward in your confidence levels.
‘The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do.’ Swati Sharma
So how can you use this in real life? With Micro Confidence Challenges.
How it works:
1. Pick something you are nervous about; something that scares you or makes you feel uncomfortable, e.g., public speaking
2. What’s the Fear Level from 1-10? (with 10 being, I’d rather boil my head than do it)
3. What would be a Micro Step you could take towards overcoming it? e.g., speaking up in a meeting or volunteering to take part in a presentation. If the fear level in part 2 is at 8, begin at a level 4 to start off with and grow from there. You should feel a bit uncomfortable as it’s outside of your comfort zone.
4. Now take that step. And celebrate wildly when you do – whether you perceive you have failed or succeeded (very important). You tried, and you learned. Again, the dopamine trigger is hit, and your brain will want to do more. And voila! Your confidence level is raised. Your brain’s cheerleader is doing its routine, pompoms and all. And you’re ready to go again.
So, far from confidence being a destination, it’s a journey over many steps lacking confidence, to prove that you can deliver in uncertainty. Have a go and celebrate the hell out of each milestone as you made it.
Now I don’t hold back, rejoicing each step on my path as I keep pushing my own micro-challenges. And I’m aiming to keep that brain cheerleader quite busy.
(1) John D. Salamone, Mercè Correa. The Mysterious Motivational Functions of Mesolimbic Dopamine. Neuron, 2012; 76 (3): 470 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.021.
(2) MedicineNet. www.medicinenet.com/neuroplasticity/definition.htm — Published on January 20, 2021
Caroline Brewin, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Caroline Brewin is a professionally trained Executive and Confidence Coach, complemented by over 18 years of Global Investment Banking experience. From Chief of Staff to complex Regional & Global roles, she’s seen it first-hand: the long-term success and profitability of organizations are inextricably linked to the trust, motivation & diversity of their people. She is the founder of Brain Powered Coaching, which uses a neuroscience-based approach to improving Confidence and Leadership; enabling lasting, exceptional results. Through Executive Coaching and her unique Authentic Confidence program, she is committed to empowering Individuals and Corporates to achieve their personal and professional potential.