How to Build Your Confidence by Minding the Gap

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“I’m so nervous I feel like I’m going to throw up.” That’s what I overheard in the ladies room as I was preparing to head outside to lead the riding portion of the motorcycle safety course.

She didn’t know I was in the bathroom until I walked out of the stall. 

“What are you nervous about?” I curiously asked. 

“I’ve never done this before… that motorcycle is so big and I’m afraid I won’t be able to ride it.”

It is something I hear often, especially from women who are learning how to ride a motorcycle. She lacked confidence.

I didn’t fault her for her nervousness… my student had every reason to lack confidence. She had never ridden a motorcycle before which made that 125cc Kawasaki (just one step up from a moped) seem like an uncontrollable bronco that would buck her off the second she got on.

Not to mention the sensation of fear she was experiencing. She was probably envisioning herself careening out of control, hitting the nearest parked car, and getting trapped under the motorcycle.  Add the horror of the other students witnessing this! It’s enough to make a girl throw in her helmet right there!

You may have felt the same way she did but in a different situation. I sure have...

It’s also a theme with many of my female coaching clients. ‘I want to increase my confidence’ is one of the things I consistently hear from my clients when we’re focusing on a development plan. Heck… that’s what I want when working with my coach too! 

Most of us are lacking in the confidence department and it’s holding us back from experiencing the full, purpose-driven life we desire and deserve to live.

Confidence Breakers

There are lots of things (real and self-imposed) that stifle our confidence levels:

Feelings of Incompetence - The thought of ‘if I don’t know what I’m doing, I won’t be able to do it’ holds us back from trying something new. 

Overthinking - Have you ever thought (or talked) yourself out of something? Yeah… me too. Or at least I think I have… maybe I haven’t… or yes, I have… I don’t know…

Fear of ____________________– Failure. Success. Rejection. Judgment. Commitment. Hard work. The unknown. Public speaking. Getting hurt. Spiders. Heights. Dying. Living.

Comparison – Sometimes life isn’t fair and it certainly isn’t fair when we’re comparing our bad days to someone else’s I-kicked-butt-and-took-names days. Or we’re comparing the slow first part of our story to the climactic end of someone else’s story.

Negative Self-talk – Our inner critic (that, mind you, is only trying to keep us safe) will say things that make us feel inadequate, unworthy, and incapable.

Perfectionism – Robert Hillyer said it best “Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world.” Perfect is unattainable and eventually we’ll be crushed by the weight of our own expectations. (Ask me how I know…)

Confidence Makers

So how do we increase our confidence?

If we were to mirror our list of Confidence Makers to our list of Confidence Breakers above then all we would need to do is:

  • Learn new skills and increase our knowledge base.
  • Stop overanalyzing or ruminating to the point of inaction.
  • Change our relationship with fear and understand fear as a natural part of the process.
  • Stop comparing ourselves to others and instead compare where we are with where we’ve been and where we want to go.
  • Recognize our negative self-talk and splice in what we know to be true. 
  • Strive for preparedness rather than perfection. 

Easy! Right?

There’s a missing piece… 

The Key to Building Confidence is Minding the Gap

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman wrote the book on confidence… literally.

In The Confidence Code, these two highly successful authors and journalists, use Richard Petty’s definition of confidence as they guide readers through the neuroscience and psychology of confidence.

Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action. ~ Richard Petty

As I read that sentence, I got a glimpse of a two-part answer… action and the piece that comes just before the act.

Author Gary John Bishop put it simply, “Confidence is nothing more than experience. We feel it when we look at a task at hand and see something familiar. We feel it when facing down a task that we have physical or emotional experience with; in other words, when it’s something we’ve done before.” 

In looking back at the conversation with my nervous student, her lack of confidence was rooted in the fact that she had never ridden a motorcycle before. It was an entirely new experience.

Confidence comes from experience.

Experience comes from action.

Action builds confidence.

But we can’t ignore the moment in time that bridges the gap between our thought and our action. The gap between deciding to ask for a raise and actually walking into your boss’s office. The gap between agreeing to go skydiving and jumping out of the airplane. The gap between realizing you’re in an abusive relationship and walking out the door for good.

That moment could be a split second or it could be years.

When we lack confidence the only thing we can do is fill the gap with the right thought, belief, value, mindset, vision, feeling, or like-experience that propels us to action.

Without confidence, we must mind the gap until it becomes a familiar experience.

When you don’t have confidence, how will you mind the gap between thought and action? Will it be belief in yourself? Focusing on the outcome you want to achieve? Unhook from praise or criticism from others? Envisioning yourself in the future? Support from a friend or mentor? Or 20 seconds of insane courage?

When we don’t have confidence, we don’t try.  

When we don’t try, we don’t do.

When we don’t do, we don’t become.

Mind the gap. 

PS – You’ll be happy to know that my nervous student passed with flying colors and is now confident in her abilities as a motorcycle rider!