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How to Build Up Confidence: Start With Courage

I wish I had more confidence.
How can I become more confident?

In coaching conversations with junior lawyers, concerns about lack of confidence and questions about how to build it up come up a lot. This is such a common challenge it is addressed directly in the opening session of AMP (Associate Mentorship Plus) Club in the context of career navigation and what to expect in the early years of practice.

Wouldn’t it be easier if I was confident?

Yes, probably.

Lack of confidence can feel like a unique challenge. Looking around is can seem like other lawyers appear confident.

The truth is many lawyers lack confidence, particularly as juniors, and this is to be expected.

When doing something for the first time, or when uncertain about the outcome, it is natural to experience a stress response.

This stress response is the body’s way of supporting performance. A cocktail of hormones is released to boost focus, energy, strength, and stamina.

Feeling this stress response can be uncomfortable and even be mistaken as meaning that something is wrong.

Instead, understand this feeling of stress emerges in the face of meaningful challenge.

Here’s what’s important to know: Courage comes first. Confidence follows.

By taking action, competence is developed.

Increased competence gives rise to confidence.

Instead of waiting for confidence, decide to be courageous instead.

Rehearse. Practice. Research. Prepare. Consult with experienced advisors. Then take a deep breath and go.

To bolster courage, try adopting what Amy Cuddy calls expansive gestures. These are body positions that help stimulate a feeling of personal power. Arms wide, back straight, shoulders back, legs uncrossed.

Cuddy explained in an interview: “how we carry our bodies affects how we feel about ourselves, how we interact with others, how we perform and so on… As Maya Angelou wrote, ‘Stand up straight, and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.’ It’s not just about standing like a superhero for two minutes; it’s about carrying yourself with power and pride and poise, as you deserve to do.”

Don’t wait to be confident. Be courageous and stand tall. Seek out learning opportunities. From these learning experiences, competence will emerge, and confidence will follow.

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Author’s note: Cuddy’s research came into sharp criticism following her 2012 Ted Talk as other scientists were unable to reproduce her results. Since then, the critical attacks have been largely rebutted and there are now numerous studies backing up her findings. Read more here: https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/CzbNAn7Ch6ZZirK9yMGH/full

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