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4 July 2022


How coaching can help build both

Self-belief can be defined as confidence in oneself and one’s ability, while Confidence when referring to oneself is feeling sure about your abilities, qualities and ideas (according to the Collin’s Dictionary).

What strikes me about these two definitions is the focus on self. Whilst there is undoubtedly a role to be played by others in building confidence in our abilities, qualities and ideas, how we view ourselves plays such a key role in how confident we feel. 

I also think you can have high self-belief based on the challenges you have already tackled, but every new challenge probably comes with its own confidence trajectory, until you tackle it. 

One of the earliest experiences many of us remember regarding self-belief and confidence is learning to ride a bike. 

Typically, it goes through several stages:

  • The balance bike, there are no pedals, and your feet just touch the floor
  • The pedal bike with stabilisers 
  • The pedal bike with no stabilisers and someone holding onto the saddle
  • The pedal bike with no stabilisers and no one holding onto the saddle, but shouting “you can do it, pedal, watch that fence!”
  • A couple of crashes, dust yourself down
  • Got it and you are away, no looking back, and very pleased with yourself.

What happens in this process is a great example of how we build confidence by taking on new challenges in life and, in doing so, develop our self-belief. 

This process includes the following steps:

  • Break new challenges down into manageable stages
  • Have a safety net, if required
  • Get help when it is beneficial
  • Get feedback on how you are doing
  • Learn from your mistakes 
  • Keep trying till you succeed.

Some of the issues that hold us back in learning to ride a bike (developing our self-belief and confidence) are also present in other hot coaching topics:

  • I won’t be able to balance and pedal – Self-limiting beliefs
  • I’m just going to stay with my balance bike thanks – Comfort Zones
  • What if someone laughs at me if I fall off – Fear of other people’s opinions.

It’s interesting to see the interplay between these topics and how they demonstrate the way we view and manage ourselves can play such a key role in how confident we feel. The confidential space that coaching offers is great for encouraging a client to explore how they view themselves, how that may be helping or hindering them, and what they may choose to do about it.

Classic coaching techniques to help with building confidence include:

  • Ideal state visualisation – in which the client thinks of a particular challenge they want to build their confidence for and then thinks about how to prepare for it, how to deliver it so it will be ideal, and how it will feel afterwards. They then take the learning from the exercise to build their confidence in doing it for real.
  • Borrowed confidence – identifying with the client the times in their life when they have been confident and exploring what that felt like, what they were they doing, and making a mental log of this to refer back to when they need some “borrowed confidence”.
  • Coping imagery – the client imagines their upcoming challenge and all aspects of it before actually delivering it. They then use coping strategies such as breathing, managing self-talk, and borrowed confidence to build their confidence, before imagining the delivery, which is then hopefully positive. Imaging a positive outcome provides a sense of control over the situation that they can then take forwards to the real event.

Sticking with the bike analogy a little longer, “it’s like riding a bike” means once you learn how to do something you never forget it. However, your confidence in getting back on a bike after not riding one for 10 years may not be where it was 10 years before, but it is worth remembering that “it’s like riding a bike”.

You have done it before, and you can do it again. 

In a work environment, there are many situations, in which your confidence may need some time to get back to where it was before (i.e. starting a new job or returning from maternity), but it is worth remembering that you have been here before, were fine then and will be fine this time too.

As always if you have any questions on this topic or other coaching questions, please get in touch.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

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