Is Your Lack Of Confidence Holding You Back?
Lack of confidence may not be something that is usually linked with lawyers. However, there are many reasons and ways in which confidence can be knocked and even when you are confident in one area of your life, there may be other situations where you feel uncertain. Confidence can be fluid so there may be times in your life when you feel more or less confident.
Low confidence may be due to an underlying issue linked to low self-esteem, shyness or socially anxiety, or come about as the result of illness, depression or anxiety – it may also be in response to a particular situation, such as bullying or harassment.
As a lawyer, you may have been attracted to your career because you enjoyed the academic side of legal research, but you are now expected to attend networking events and promote client relationships, particularly as your career progresses. Furthermore, although legal training develops competence in analysis, reasoning and other technical skills, there is less emphasis on personal skills and so you may not have received any training in public speaking, confidence or assertiveness.
How can you tell if you struggle with self-confidence?
Some signs that you may have a lack of confidence are that:
• you avoid expressing your opinion or contributing to discussions
• you avoid public speaking
• you try to please people and find it difficult to say “no”
• you are afraid of trying new things or taking on challenges
• you doubt yourself and seek reassurance
• you engage in negative self-talk e.g. “I’m ugly”, “I’m useless”, “I’m a failure”
What can you do to increase confidence?
The first thing to remember is that it takes practice and also involves stepping outside your “comfort zone”. Initially you may not feel confident so it can be helpful to pretend, as this will give the appearance that you are (even if you don’t feel it on the inside!).
Some other tips for boosting confidence
• Accept that nerves are normal and that even the most confident person can feel nervous – it is just that they have learned to manage their nerves (e.g. an actor who is about to go on stage)
• Have faith in your own ability. Think about your past successes and that you wouldn’t be where you are unless you were competent and knowledgeable
• Eliminate negative self-talk – for example, if you make a mistake or receive some criticism, instead of referring to yourself as a “failure”, recognise that this is part of the process of learning and development.
• Practise positive self-talk. Try to find 3 positive things about yourself everyday and learn to accept compliments.
• Take the opportunity to join in conversations and discussions – remember that you have as much right as anyone else to express an opinion and that what you have to say may be helpful to others or open up debate.
• Consider your body language. Don’t slouch, but stand/sit up straight and make eye contact, as this will make you appear more confident.
• Avoid turning statements into questions. When you are unsure it is common to put an upward inflection at the end of a statement, which has the effect of turning it into a question. Simply by ensuring that you end sentences with a downward inflection will help you to sound more confident
• Use silence. When asked a question or are thinking of what to say it can be tempting to fill the silence with things like “um”, “like” and “you know”, but these can make you sound uncertain. However, silence can allow the listener to hear and absorb what has been said and also shows that you are thinking before speaking.
• Practise! Practise! Practise! If you have an important, meeting or court, then practise in front of a friend or colleague who may also be able to give you some positive feedback.