How to be creative with confidence

Did you think confidence in your professional life was a personality trait? Think again!
Photo of old woman dressed vintage outerwear holding gadget pointing empty space isolated turquoise color background

Ellenor Cox provides regular insights and advice for supercharging your creative career. They all just happen to start with the letter C. In her last In the Key of C column, she discussed how the key to courage is letting go of certainties. Here she identifies the relationship between confidence and self-doubt.

How many times to do you say to yourself, ‘I wish I could do that or try that: If only I had the confidence’? Many of us view confidence as some kind of gift that’s genetically bestowed upon us rather than something that we have control over. My favourite definition of confidence is by author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins:  

‘Confidence is the willingness to try.’

The reason why I love this definition so much is that it focuses on the action that needs to be taken and the fact that we are the ones in the driver’s seat and making the choice to try. There’s nothing helpless or externally focused about this definition.

So many people assume that confidence is a personality trait you either have or don’t have, like being introverted or extroverted, and that there’s nothing you can control about this. This is not the case at all.

Confidence is actually a learnt behaviour and an active skill, which means if you stop working on it, then you’re not going to have as much of it anymore. At one stage in your life, you might have felt confident ordering a meal in Italian but try doing that now if you haven’t been practising the language for years.

This brings me to the ‘Confidence Competency Loop’, which is a great way of understanding how to overcome self-doubt and experience self confidence in a consistent manner. It’s completely natural when you try something new for the first time that you’re going to feel a lack of confidence. Anything outside of our comfort zone brings with it a feeling of discomfort as we struggle to overcome the self-doubting thoughts that bubble up.

If confidence is the decision to try then self-doubt is the decision NOT to try! 

Notice here that I’m describing self-doubt as a choice and not a feeling.

So the ‘Confidence Competency Loop’ follows:

You make the decision to try something new despite self-doubt and feeling a lack of confidence. In doing so, you are learning something new and mastering a new skill. The more mastery that comes about, the lower your anxiety, nerves and doubts become since you realise that you’re learning something new. As you become better and better at this new skill, your confidence rises because of the competency you’ve gained.

Gaining confidence can’t simply be an intellectual pursuit of studying Italian and claiming to be fluent unless you attempt to converse and communicate with someone.

So confidence is the decision to try!

Confidence must be earned through action and the willingness to give something a go and in doing so this is how we experience growth.

Growth is inextricably linked with change and challenges in life. An often overlooked area that we can control is our attitude towards situations. Our behaviours and attitude in times of stress define us as they are an insight into our core beliefs about ourselves, and our ability to withstand change and uncertainty to allow for growth.

If you are going through a challenging or uncertain period where your self confidence is taking a battering, one thing you can do is to reflect by asking yourself: ‘Will I be proud of how I conduct myself during this time of uncertainty?’

If you’re challenged by the answer to this question, then it’s not too late to ‘start where you are and change the ending’ as author CS Lewis would say. If you catch yourself early enough, you can choose more positive thought processes and emotional reactions towards events. Switch out the spiralling negativity with affirmations and mantras such as ‘I am enough and I’m doing my best right now’. Observe how quickly your mental state can change.

A note about self-doubt during challenging times:

Whenever we evolve or decide to go to the next level of our lives then this is when we’re going to be plagued with self-doubt and a lack of confidence. It’s part of the deal and also a big part of the reason why a lot of people don’t pursue growth. There’s a misnomer that if we’re on the right path and if we’re going towards our destiny that it should feel effortless.

What I’d like you to consider is that when we pursue growth and set a goal for ourselves, it’s supposed to feel like a challenge. It’s supposed to feel like self-doubt and its natural that we have to actively muster up our self-confidence.

Your brain wants to stay in its comfortable pattern of efficiency and not stretch itself. When you start pushing yourself that’s when the brain kicks in and says: ‘It will never work. It’s never going to happen.’ Just notice that’s what your mind is going to come up with. It’s like a natural reaction to growth. Self-doubt is basically thoughts that don’t support us in our capabilities: ones we can develop and the ones we already have. Our ability to grow is only limited by our self-doubt. Our ability to grow is really our ability to move beyond our own doubtful thinking and to realise that confidence appears the moment we choose to take action.

We need to think about our futures in terms of whether we’re going to have a future created with self-doubt or one that’s created with commitment and determination. We need to also realise that self-doubt does not mean that something has gone wrong. In fact, self-doubt usually means that we’re stretching ourselves and that we’re asking more of ourselves.

I want to invite you to know that self-doubt is something that is part of your process of growth and the way that you build your confidence muscle.

So, next time you experience self-doubt and a lack of confidence, it doesn’t mean you turn around and go home rather it means you’re on the right path, so keep going!

Ellenor Cox is a veteran Emmy and AACTA award winning producer now providing the industry with coaching and mentoring services. More information and extensive free resources available at