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  • Kim Meninger

Want More Professional Confidence? Start by Reexamining the Word.

Want More Professional Confidence? Start by Reexamining the Word.

Do you struggle with stepping into your confidence as a professional? If so, it may be time to reconnect with the true meaning of the word.


Several large-scale studies have found confidence is often a key predictor of success, improved performance, and happiness. Despite this, many high-performing professionals continue to struggle with confidence at work.


In this post, you’ll learn what confidence really means and how to unlock your confidence to find more professional satisfaction and success.


What is confidence, and why is it so hard to own it as a trait?


In my Boost Your Confidence workshops, I’ve noticed that many of the most intelligent, hardworking, and conscientious leaders struggle with the idea of confidence.


A lot of the trouble stems from a misunderstanding of confidence. Confidence is often confused with arrogance, inflated ego, or toxic positivity. This confusion makes it a tricky concept for professionals who hold humility as a value.


But if you consider the real meaning of confidence, you’ll uncover an entirely different story. The Oxford English Dictionary defines confidence as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities.”


This definition reveals that confidence isn’t simply an external set of behaviors. Instead, it's an internal set of beliefs that influence our behavior.


So, to be confident on the outside, you have to start by doing some inside work.


Where confidence gets confusing and what it looks like


Often, professionals feel a lot of pressure to be seen as an expert and get it right every time. This pressure is amplified for women and people from underrepresented groups.


Confidence gets confused with perfectionism and “knowing it all.” You may feel like you have to have all the answers to show up with confidence. And when that goal feels unattainable, your confidence suffers.


The truth is, it’s impossible to know everything. And even if for a split-second you could, it would only last a moment since there is always new information and more to learn. Beyond that, pivots, unanticipated questions, and bumps in the road are inevitable.


When these unexpected moments present themselves, you can respond from a place of anxiety or a place of confidence.


Anxiety is triggered when we overestimate a threat and underestimate our ability to cope. An anxious response is usually driven by fear and reactivity. For some people, that anxiety comes out as nervousness or playing small. For others, it can present as bullying or blaming others. Either way, it’s not the most clear-headed or collaborative response.


If we think back to the definition of confidence, it’s a recalibration of the same factors. Confidence is not, “I am amazing” – confidence is, “I can handle it.” When we proceed from this self-assured position, we can react with a level head and help others feel secure. 


People may or may not trust the person who purports to have all the answers. But they will almost always get behind the person who makes them feel safe. 


Adopting an internal framework for confidence


If you want confidence to become your default response style, you must first acknowledge a few truths about yourself. By trusting these three truths, you'll reinforce internal pathways that help you steadily cope with whatever happens:


1. Resourcefulness

There is always support available. It might feel uncomfortable to ask, but you can leverage internal or external resources and partners to get the support and answers you need to move forward.


2. Problem-Solving Skills

You’ve been solving problems your whole life. You know how to critically approach an issue without letting fear or other emotional responses cloud your vision. 


3. Capacity to Learn

You undeniably know how to learn. You were not born with any of the strengths and capabilities you have today. If you don’t know something, you can take steps to learn it.


The biggest takeaway is this: confidence is not about being the ultimate expert, the loudest voice, or the most unwaveringly positive person in the room. It's about believing in your ability to navigate challenges with the help of your resourcefulness, problem-solving, and capacity for learning and growth. Anyone can develop confidence. And confidence can serve you in many ways—at work and beyond.


Ready to make confidence a way of life in your organization?


If you’re interested in bringing my Boost Your Confidence Bootcamp to your workplace, I’d love to connect. In six interactive sessions, we’ll explore proven, actionable strategies that promote confidence and empower leaders to reach their full potential.


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