Why is it that people with loads of competence seem to lack equal amounts of confidence? And they often struggle to succeed.

Here's my take on what blocks confidence and how to build it:

1) Take charge of your negative self-talk.
Lower the volume on the “Saboteur,” that voice we all have in our heads that says, “You’re not good enough to lead this meeting (or anything else)” …"Why did you do/say that…?"…"You need to be perfect…"

The Saboteur pretends to help; it actually holds you back and creates self-doubt. 

  • It focuses on the "dangers" of "failure." Recognize you’ll make mistakes; they’re key to learning.
  • It dwells on what went wrong, whether it was five minutes, five days or five years ago.
  • Identify all the Saboteur comments that question your confidence, e.g., too bossy, too nice, too young/old. Write down the negatives, then burn them.

2) Turn up the volume on your "Sage," the positive internal voice that has your best interests at heart.

  • Trust when it says, "You have what it takes to get this done." 
  • So focus on three positive things about yourself each day.
  • Do what you love to do. People may be good at something, but hate doing it. Passion and a sense of purpose drive confidence.
  • Stretch outside your comfort zone. The more risks you take, the more you learn and the more confidence you’ll build.

3) Put your best self forward. Consider how you present yourself to the world.

  • Listen to your voice:
    • Speak clearly, not too soft or loud.
    • Don't end statements with a question. 
    • Be judicious with the word "sorry." It can diminish your perceived competence.
  • Don't sit quietly at the table - put something out there for discussion.
  • Carry yourself in "power pose" – think superwoman/man.
  • Demonstrate likable traits: Be approachable. Show energy, humility, empathy. SMILE.

You can build confidence at any age. Strive for patience, not perfection. 

Monica OliverMonica Oliver, Sp '81, is a leadership consultant and certified executive coach at Monica Oliver Consulting in Bernardsville, N.J. She is also a member of the Marquette University Alumni Association National Board of Directors.