We go to university and invest in training to acquire the skills necessary to advance our careers. However, research suggests that this investment is, at best incomplete. It indicates that self-confidence, not skills, leads to workplace advancement.

Most people believe self-confidence is something you have, or you don’t. And that the fastest way to get confidence is simply to fake it till you make it.

Such advice is misguided. It encourages us to adopt a thin veneer of confidence that is quickly threatened when challenged or confronted with unfamiliar scenarios. And when that happens, we go to our defense mechanism of choice, withdraw, or lash out as if the very foundation of our self-confidence is at stake—because it is.

The most significant harm, however, is that these sources draw from lower-level sources of confidence. At Praxis, we highlight that there are five sources of self-confidence:

  • I’m confident because I have power.
  • I’m confident because I have social support.
  • I’m confident because I am capable.
  • I’m confident because I persist.

But when do we need self-confidence most? When we’re doing the familiar and have social validation, and evidence for belief in our capabilities? Or when it all goes away? Such as a new job, reduced scope or title, or disruptive life events such as moving or divorce.

Authentic self-confidence helps you draw from level five confidence:

  • Authentic self-confidence. I’m confident because I am.

This authentic self-confidence is the foundation of true confidence because it is intrinsic and self-reinforcing. As such, it unlocks peak-performance and healthier relationships because, unlike self-efficacy that draws from what we can do and our sources of power (ex. job title), authentic sources of self-confidence cannot be threatened.

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

The challenge is authentic self-confidence isn’t as simple as looking yourself in the mirror and feeling like a new person. It’s a journey; we help leaders through a four-step process: assessment, defining your purpose through reflection, shaping your environment, and reinforcing routines.

First, assess your confidence sources. With this step, we take the time to reflect on the three to five moments where you’ve experienced shaken confidence. Were there any common patterns, for this step its often best to have a trusted friend or collaborator review. Often the shaken confidence will involve threats to one to three sources of the five powers. When our confidence is threatened, take note. It’s usually a sign that you’re leveraging a lower-level source of confidence.

Next, you’ll define your purpose. As Robin Sharma states in “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari,” the purpose of life is a life of purpose. So, to build our authentic self-confidence, we draw from our purpose (different than our occupation). Our purpose is developed through a series of ongoing reflections; what if our confidence source from the previous step is gone? Should we be any less confident? Is our purpose threatened in any way?

We then shape our environment. Triggers influence behavior by initiating patterns of thinking and action. So instead of surrounding our environment with triggers that trigger old patterns of thoughts, we shape our physical environment with triggers, of our purpose and authentic self, this will vary for each leader. Still, it could be as simple as buying a new pen.

Authentic self-confidence is worth it, literally.

And finally, we build this up through reinforcing routines. At Praxis, we call them meditative methods. For many meditations is an intimidating activity which requires an escape from the world that seems prohibitively challenging to cultivate—and even if you do, it leads to uncertainty if you’re doing it right. For those that regularly meditate—you can still augment this with meditative routines. These routines are as simple as writing in your journal, afternoon walks, or a habitual task like refilling our water bottle. We rewire these routines to ground ourselves of our purpose and the safety and strength that comes from it. As routines, we get multiple opportunities to reinforce our authentic self-confidence each day.

And that’s it. If you think that this sounds simple, it’s because it is as simple as weightlifting, and similarly, when we take it seriously, we all benefit from a little help.

So, solicit help from a friend, and assist each of you in the steps above. And for extra support, we’ve developed a new course: Authentic Self-Confidence, if this resonates, now is a great time to join in.

Because authentic self-confidence is worth it, literally.