The Struggle with Confidence - International Coaching Federation
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The Struggle with Confidence

Posted by Kristena Shiflett | May 12, 2021 | Comments (4)

Think back to the last time you were sitting in a room of people and someone was asked to volunteer. Maybe you didn’t think to raise your hand, but you watched the person sitting next to you shoot their hand up and say, “Let me do it.” Now, let’s be honest; what were the thoughts going through your head? Something like, “Oh my goodness; they’re always volunteering! They must be knowledgeable” or “How can they think that they have all these answers? Why do they always think they’re the expert?”  

Those eager volunteers most likely had a level of confidence that allowed them to shoot their hand up. But sometimes the thoughts running through our head assume that arrogance allowed their volunteerism (and maybe we feel a little jealousy toward their lack of doubt). But I want to challenge the assumptions that confidence is the equivalent of arrogance.   We often think that confidence can only come with years of experience or reaching a certain level of expertise, or that if you’re confident then people will think you’re arrogant.  

I dare to say, these assumptions are all wrong.  

But wait … we’re all coaches here, so why are we talking about confidence? It’s not only what we help our clients with; it’s also something that we use as coaches to build our coaching practiceThe things on the other side of confidence are the things we need to grow our business (volunteer to write an article, sign up to speak at an event, speak to potential new clients so we can help more people). And if we’re not willing to raise our hand and say, “I’m willing to try,” then we’re going to struggle to build a business. Networking is not who you know, but also who knows what you know. That requires us to speak up. 

We all love coaching! We have ZERO doubt about the power and effectiveness of coaching, but the moment we put ourselves into the equation, doubts and insecurities creep in. What expertise do I have? What makes me better to talk at that event than somebody else? Let’s be real, there will always be somebody else who knows more than we know. But we can’t leave all the work to only those who have loads of experience and expertise. We must learn how to have the confidence to raise our hands.  

We don’t want to come across as arrogant, but we can’t control what others will think of us. Confidence is not saying you know it all, but arrogance often is. Confidence is when you’re willing to say, I believe I can be of value for this topic or for this event or for that article. Arrogance is saying, I have all the answers already, I don’t need anyone else’s input and I’m not willing to ask questions.” – (no growth or learning happening for those folks). It can feel like a fine line, but most people can tell when someone is arrogant instead of confident. 

The key, I believe, lies in our ability to live with humility (being humble), which is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance.”  It is not an estimation of your abilities but a state of grounding oneself. If you don’t think you’re the best, then you always know there’s more to learn. And the more you learn, the better you become. We never really “arrive” because learning is our constant state. 

If we live in fear of being perceived as arrogant, then we will go through life missing every opportunity that comes our way. But if instead, we focus on living with humility and stepping up in confidence of what value we can bring and all that we can learn, then life will be full of many new adventures.  

Simple ways you can start practicing today: 

  1. Focus on the fact that you CAN bring value through listening and learning (there may be moments where the other person doesn’t see the value but that is not a reflection on you). 
  2. As long as you are willing to ask questions and learn then you can safely stay out of the realm of arrogance.
  3. When those opportunities arise, raise your hand, volunteer to do your best and know that you’ll learn so much along the way. 
Headshot of Coaching World contributor Kristena Shiflett.

Kristena Shiflett

Kristena Shiflett is a mother of four amazing munchkins, daytime manager at a tech company, side-hustle coach and an avid seeker of new learning every day. You can learn more about her at kdpenn.com.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (4)

  1. Mikal Long says:

    Well said. Sometimes the beginning of confidence is just by raising your hand that first time. When I was a Marine Corp recruiter, I used to use to tell my potential recruit that there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness (arrogance). It is not knowing everything or having done everything, but rather using what you do know and have done as a steeping stone for other accomplishments. That is why a Marine can seem confident in making decisions and doing new things. A fine line indeed, and a fine article!

  2. Amy Vargas says:

    Excellent article! Going into things with a learning mindset makes a world of difference. People will have a hard time seeing you as arrogant if you make it clear that you are willing to learn.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to read this and provide your thoughts!

  4. A good mentor and a life coach can fill up the confidence problem. One thing that really accelerated my career was having a Mentor! I use Lisnic to connect with mine and would definitely recommend joining the platform if you are looking to scale a startup or small business!

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