There is a phrase I like, and I try to adhere to it often. I’m sure you’ve heard “fake it till you make it”. The reasoning goes that by acting as if you have complete confidence you will appear more confident, and as a result you will be more likely to achieve the desired outcome.
Having to present to a room of 100 people feels much more intimidating than having to present to just 10 people, but the actual difficulty level is the same in both cases. In this situation, by faking confidence – smiling, holding eye contact, solid ‘A’ stance – the chances are it will go much better than if you look at the floor, mumble and generally look like you’d rather be anywhere else in the world. Even if that’s exactly how you feel inside.
Alternatively, sailing a boat along the coast on a nice summers day isn’t overly challenging for a novice sailor, but if you tried to cross an ocean you will quickly run into trouble unless you have vast experience. Acting like you know what you’re doing in that situation would almost certainly have disastrous consequences. Far better to build up your ability gradually before taking such a big step up.
These are two fairly extreme examples, but often in life, we get these types of situations mixed up and deal with them in the wrong way. “Fake it till you make it” won’t work for everything.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the workplace. You will find plenty of people who are afraid to test themselves and push to the next level, falsely believing that they aren’t ready or good enough to succeed. They find themselves trapped and frustrated.
You will also find people who have all the confidence in the world, and talk a great game, but don’t have the knowledge or experience to deal with tough situations. When push comes to shove they find themselves completely out of their depth.
It’s important to understand the situation in which you find yourself, and know whether you can push through the discomfort and come out the other side, or if you need to take a step back, and gain the skills you need to get to where you need to go.