This extensive article is all about encouraging you to adopt a scientific approach to your self-confidence development with you (hence the term “Project You”) as the main object of your study, research, and experimentation.
BTW – if you prefer an audio version of this to listen to, I have included one just for you at the end of this article – enjoy.
Some questions. Do you struggle with overwhelm when thinking about self-confidence? Do you just try random things and hope something sticks? Worse, do you do nothing at all? There are many ways to tackle these issues, but one good option is by taking a scientific approach to self-confidence. You will identify good leverage points and build self-confidence deliberately and methodically. This is “Project You.”
What is the “Project You” approach to developing self-confidence?
The first thing I want to offer is a full and unreserved apology to any scientists who find my description of the scientific method risible, deplorable and/or insulting.
However, in my defence this is an article about self-confidence and how to develop it. To all the scientists out there, I humbly request your indulgence in allowing me to use the broad workflow outlined as an analogy to help people gain a different and valuable new perspective about breaking down the process of developing more self-confidence
In broad terms then, scientists will identify an issue or area of study then they will observe & acknowledge reality, develop a hypothesis, design an experiment, gather results then analyse data & draw conclusions.
To keep things on the right track, scientists aim to only alter one variable during any experiment. This is how they know what has made a difference. All effective trouble-shooters and faultfinders will follow the same reasoning in other fields too. Imagine you have a car, and it develops a wiring fault. You could replace the entire wiring system with new kit and likely solve the issue. It would be time-consuming, expensive and you would have learned nothing. If it happens again, you are back to square one.
Scientists keep what works until it does not work, or something better comes along. The diligent hard-working scientist will then rinse and repeat to keep their discoveries and progress fresh. Science always is, or always should be, a work in progress. Life is also a work in progress. In my experience it follows that by adopting a “Project You” approach to self-confidence, with you as the raw material of study, you will tap into an extremely effective way of getting hyper-focused self-development and increased self-confidence.
Isn’t all this a bit narcissistic?
It might sound narcissistic to focus substantial amounts of attention purely on yourself as the subject of deep study, but this is far from being true.
Self-reflection, introspection and seeking to develop via feedback from others about us and our behaviour is common and is highly recommended to develop and increase self-confidence.
Using the analogous model contained in the “Project You” approach will help those adopting it to try a patient, evidence-based process of experimentation and subsequent adoption of any successful outcomes. This self-development will go on to benefit everyone connected with the more self-confident individual.
In my view it is far more narcissistic and selfish for somebody to simply assume they are perfect as they are and to make zero effort to improve or change anything at all about themselves and/or their behaviours. They might be perfect, but it is still a very arrogant stance to take. Nobody really benefits in this situation.
Do you have to be a real scientist to do this?
People from all levels of society suffer from low self-confidence. Scientists are no exception. There are in fact many bona fide scientists (self-confident ones and some not so self-confident ones) who do study self-confidence as an academic scientific subject and there are some excellent books and resources out there on the topic.
The answer to the question is no, you do not have to be a real scientist to take a scientific approach to self-confidence. As mentioned above, the scientific approach I have outlined is meant to act as a thought-provoking analogy and it is not meant to represent or teach actual scientific method.
How should you use this “Project You” approach to self-confidence?
You are not going to use full-blown scientific method here. You are meant to use this informally with a process driven approach.
Here is an outline of the general strategy workflow as I apply it to my own self-development as well as to that of my clients. I will leave you to adapt it to your personal situation. It is all about total ownership and a big clue is in the term self-confidence. You can and should take your own approach (scientific or otherwise) and own the process. It also means you own the results.
Identify your exact area of study
Okay this might seem a little obvious. You are looking for more self-confidence, but this covers a vast range of possibilities and areas for exploration and development. It will pay huge dividends for you to get more specific about which area of self-confidence you want to develop specifically. Consider this process more of a marathon than a sprint.
If you have had low self-confidence quite a while, it may take you quite a while to get the self-confidence levels you desire. It all depends on your personal situation but give yourself a reasonable timeframe. Be compassionate with yourself when you make mistakes and always try to be your own best friend on the journey.
The “Project You” approach to self-confidence benefits from being tightly focused.
So, let us say you lack self-confidence when presenting in front of a group as part of your professional role. Rather than saying you want more self-confidence overall to sort things out, it is far better to start by specifically addressing the issue of delivering presentations with more confidence.
You can break this more specific topic down into many differing sub-topics relating more appropriately to your exact situation. For example, do you move about too much, mumble, speak too quietly, avoid eye-contact, forget your lines, say “umm” or “ahh” too many times? Whatever your overall topic for improvement, break it down into very discrete and specific chunks.
You can then decide which of these you want to tackle, in what order you want to tackle them and what resources you may need to do this. Whenever you set out on any journey it helps to have a specific destination.
Let us dig a bit deeper into each stage and how you can consistently and practically apply the “Project You” approach to self-confidence.
A terrific way to get the point across is with a worked example. For this, I will use the lack of confidence when speaking to a group in a professional situation as the overall topic. Assume you have identified an extremely specific element within that overall topic, and you have selected saying “umm” and “ahh” too many times as being your element of focus. We will embellish for illustration purposes as we go.
“Project You” Step 1 – Observe and acknowledge reality
You have observed that you use too many umms, ahhs and other noises and fillers in your presentations. Your evidence is the fact that you have clearly noticed it yourself. You have also had the same feedback from several credible sources which backs this up. You have even seen video footage of you speaking at a team meeting. It showed your use of many uncomfortable umms and ahhs. This is understandably knocking your confidence about public speaking at work but at least you are aware of it and acknowledge the truth of it. This is a key step in the “Project You” approach to self-confidence.
You have observed and listened to several excellent speakers in your organisation, and they use fillers far less than you and, in some cases, do not use them at all.
As you are nobody’s victim, you have decided to fix this specific issue on your way to becoming fully confident when speaking to groups at work.
You have researched several public speaking resources as part of your learning, and you now know that there are many suggested ways of making inroads into the elimination of this filler noise problem. The ones which seem most promising will take time and practice, but you are okay with that and determined to succeed.
“Project You” Step 2 – Develop a hypothesis
There are quite a few options with which you could experiment. Many involve an act of will and a great deal of concentration. You have a few other things which need improving in your speaking skillset so any fix which puts more pressure on you will not be helpful.
You have noticed already that the good speakers around you seem replace the umms and ahhs with silence. They create a pause. This also makes them sound more controlled and confident and it allows the audience time to process information. This sounds like a winner to you but how will you achieve it?
The evidence you have points to the problem occurring most when you are thinking at any point during a presentation. You therefore would benefit from a way to replace noises and fillers with silence during the thinking phase. This sounds eminently doable for a first experiment.
“Project You” Step 3 – Design a suitable experiment
Many of the suggested solutions you read about mentioned using an “anchor” of some sort to remind you not to make noise when thinking. This sounds right up your street. During a presentation, you could try touching the finger and thumb of your left hand gently together whenever you are thinking. With practice, this will trigger a pause at the same time rather than using fillers.
You decide to have three “live” trials with feedback before deciding any next steps.
You will need to see if all this works so apart from practicing in your quiet time, you arrange for some feedback from trusted people at your three live presentations and you also arrange to have each of them video recorded.
“Project You” Step 4 – Gather results
Solicit and collate the event feedback, and review the videos. You will also self-reflect on your own performance. Do not get defensive here. The “Project You” approach to self-confidence development relies on self-honesty.
“Project You” Step 5 – Analyse data & draw conclusions
After the three “live” trials, the feedback from your observers is positive. There are still some issues but nowhere near as bad as previously observed. The video footage confirms the improvement. You will keep this anchor technique going for a while until your pausing habit is fully ingrained.
You conclude that you are feeling much more confident that success in presenting at work is just a series of experiments, feedback, and new habit formations away. Well done you.
Rinse and repeat
Like rust, good self-developers never rest. If this one does not work, try another. Run the process again with a different experiment. Are there any other potential solutions you could experiment with to help even more with this issue? Can you now move on and address a different specific element?
What might make a good starting point?
You could test the approach on a non-critical item in your self-development list but where is the glory in that. You would be wasting valuable time. The rest of your life starts right now. Own it. Go big or go home is my motto. Do not count your days – make your days count.
I highly recommend choosing the area of your life which is currently giving you the most cause for concern. First choose a big goal for how you would like it to be. Now set to work and disassemble it into manageable sub-goal chunks. You can now choose which one you want to work on first using the “Project You” approach to self-confidence.
Goal breakdown & the “baby step” approach
Taking any large goal or desire and breaking it down into manageable chunks, each with its own clear and measurable outcome, is a super-effective way to go. Drill down to the smallest sub-goals and work from there one step at a time.
I have written another post on the “baby step approach” as I call it and you can find it here: The Baby Step Approach to Goals.
Getting these specific elements under control, one step at a time, will also raise your general levels of self-confidence to benefit and support all your future efforts.
That is all for this one
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PPS Here is the audio version of this article if you would prefer to listen.