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Episode Transcript

I know that confidence is a familiar topic to you. You keep coming back to it as you navigate your engineering career. Lack of confidence impedes your progress. And even if you have higher levels of confidence, you’re continuously looking for ways to maintain it. 

Today we’ll explore 3 areas to give you more insights on confidence and how to continue building it: speaking up, your inner wisdom, and aspiration.

Confidence as a Result of Speaking Up

I recently heard Dr. Joan Rosenberg interviewed by Dr. Mark Hyman on his podcast The Doctor’s Farmacy

The 2 of them had a great conversation about Dr. Rosenberg’s book90 Seconds to a Life you Love. How to master your difficult feelings to cultivate lasting confidence, resilience, and authenticity.

In her book, she describes how to deal with 8 common unpleasant feelings: anger, disappointment, sadness, shame, embarrassment, helplessness, frustration, and vulnerability.

And she had some great insights about confidence that I want to share with you.

You often think about confidence as related to courage. You garner courage to do something, and you build confidence by doing it. 

On the topic of speaking up, Rosenberg says that you don’t build confidence first, and then speak. You speak first, and then confidence builds. When you speak, confidence builds as a result.

But, she says, “the inability to speak up is not a speaking problem.” It’s a fear of facing the unpleasant emotions involved. Of facing the feelings that arise as a result. And that includes your own feelings and the feelings of the person you’re speaking to.

This is so true. I can think of many times in the workplace when I refrained from offering an idea or my opinion for fear of how others would react. How they would feel. And, in the end, how I would feel. I wasn’t willing to handle the discomfort of that unpleasant feeling.

How many times has this kept you from speaking your truth?

The solution is not to keep yourself from speaking up. But to learn how to process those unpleasant emotions. So when they do occur you can handle them.

Rosenberg refers to it as riding the wave. When a feeling gets activated, a flow of biochemicals rushes in, causing physical sensations, and rushes out – all in about 90 seconds. 

You can choose to be aware of that feeling rather than avoid it. To observe it in a detached way rather than buying into it.

Just noticing your thoughts and feelings go by does you no harm. It’s uncomfortable for 90 seconds. Maybe a couple 90-second cycles. But it does no harm. And then it’s gone. Whereas avoiding the feeling causes more problems.

As Rosenberg says, confidence is “the deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face or whatever you pursue… Avoiding difficult feelings gets in the way of confidence, happiness, authenticity, and success.”

Confidence Means Your Inner Wisdom is Louder than Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic, I’m sure you’re aware, is a primary source of self-doubt. Tara Mohr in her book Playing Bigdescribes the role of the inner critic and how to work with it. Everyone has an inner critic. Even confident people do – they just know how to handle it. 

The cost of self-doubt caused by your inner critic is sizeable. Thoughts are withheld. Ideas aren’t shared. Relationships aren’t built. Questions aren’t raised. All because of self-doubt.

Projects and businesses aren’t launched. And opportunities that would bring joy and fulfillment are sacrificed.

Mohr says your inner critic should sometimes be heeded, but most of us listen to it far too much. Most of us embrace too much irrational criticism at the cost of realistic thinking. 

Self-doubt is destructive. But your inner critic is manageable. And you can learn how to manage it.

Opposite your inner critic, you also have inner wisdom. Practice listening to that voice more that your inner critic. 

You can tap your inner mentor (who, according to Mohr, is a future version of yourself) and follow her inner wisdom. Letting that voice dominate your inner critic is part of building confidence.

In his book ResilientRick Hanson refers to the 2 voices as “nurturing” and critical. One that lifts up and one that weighs down. 

And again for most people the critic goes way overboard. Hanson suggests that you notice it, observe it, and label it as self-criticism. Step back to stop reinforcing it and to separate yourself from it.

Your inner nurturer is an ally, protective and encouraging. When your critic gets going, your inner nurturer is another source to call on. Another source of confidence and resilience.

How Aspiration Builds Confidence in Your Engineering Career

When you aspire, you reach for and achieve results that are important to you. Aspiration is hindered when fear of the outcome gets in your way. Here are 3 lessons in aspiration (also from Hanson’s book) that build confidence:

  1. Identify sources of fear and get curious about them. If fear is preventing you from pursuing your goal, look into it. 

Events may not turn out as you expect. But realize you have the resources to manage that. Rather than focusing on the worst, ask what’s the best that could happen.

  1. Aspire without attachment. Pursue your ambitions and be at peace with what happens. If you’re not attached to the outcome, you’re open to the experience. There are benefits from fulfilling your dream, and there are benefits from simply pursuing it.
  1. Let aspiration carry you along. Instead of pushing and struggling to reach your goal, which is exhausting, let your aspiration pull you. Surrendering to it is more comfortable and sustainable. 

Think of your aspiration as already aligned with you, lifting and energizing and carrying you along.

I often find myself helping clients with confidence. It’s a common issue and shows up for different people in different ways. I hope these insights help you build your confidence.

If you’d like to explore confidence further you can book a strategy session with me. We can brainstorm new perspectives and actionable ideas to help you with confidence or whatever is holding you back in your engineering career.

Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll explore the power of thoughts and words and how they impact your career. Be sure to join me for Episode 53.