Confidence is overrated.
We live in a culture of confidence. Be confident! Visualize results! Know it'll work out! Be certain!
This culture of confidence values self esteem, being sure, knowing the answers, and visualizing a preferred outcome.
There are two types of confidence I'm seeing out in the world, which I'll call personal confidence and situational confidence. I'll briefly explain each, why I'm not a fan, and how I think you can get to your goals instead of leaning on confidence.
Regarding personal confidence....
Feeling personal confidence can be...alright.
At confidence's least harmful, it is a feeling of being (at least mostly) sure of our professional work. Confidence usually comes from experience. However, that feeling of confidence can be knocked right over by a hard day or a difficult client questioning your work.
Confidence for confidence's sake is a pretty weak place to put your energy. Sometimes we act like confidence is a personal attribute that we either have or don't have. But do you know what? Confidence goes every which way the wind blows. As such, it's not a personal failing if you don't have it at some point of time. It's also not a personal virtue if you feel like you have confidence in this particular moment.
At confidence's most harmful, it can lead to overconfidence, which is a very dangerous thing.
An (over) confident SLP is someone who is sure of what they are doing whether it be paperwork rules or time spent with clients. An (over) confident SLP talks to families knowing that he/she is in the right and is doing the right thing in a variety of situations. A confident SLP knows there is a right way, and he/she is doing it.
I don't know about you, but I don't want that SLP as my clinician.
I want someone who isn't sure, and so reads the research.
I want someone who is still figuring it out, and is therefore willing to explore new things.
I want someone who isn't set in their ways, and is willing to listen to my perspective as a client.
I want someone who doesn't think they know everything and isn't completely sure of themselves.
Regarding situational confidence...
Here's what we tell each other about that:
You have to imagine it working out. Imagine your highest level of success.
You can't have a fall back plan. You need to plan for success - and don't you dare imagine failure.
You have to visualize getting to your goal.
It's what Olympic swimmers do, and look at the amazing things they do. Right?
Well, you know what else they do? Practice. Michael Phelps practices six hours a day, six days a week. No excuses, no exceptions. Yes, he visualizes. He also works like crazy.
Visualizing getting to a goal may be helpful for some. My concern with visualization is it doesn't directly lead to action. I'm not knocking visualization (it's not my thing, but might be yours), but I am saying it's a way to build confidence (situational confidence), and I think there may be better ways to move forward than to increase our personal or situational confidence.
So, I'm calling confidence's bluff.
Confidence is a thin veneer, and it's not something with much substance underneath.
Whether it be confidence in yourself or your situation, confidence is a fast-burning candle. It makes a bright light, but burns out before it gets you where you want to go.
Confidence versus Courage
I recently watched an interview from author Dani Shapiro where she argues we should stop thinking about confidence start thinking about courage. I agree wholeheartedly, and wanted to discuss how this applies to our work lives.
As SLPs, confidence won't do much. But courage will.
We will need this courage when we are trying anything new (or anything outside our comfort zones) as we are SLP-ing.
The first example that comes to mind in my SLP journey is making a change in work settings. I speak from experience when I say that I've made several shifts, all with very little confidence and quite a bit of courage. My career shifts have (thus far) been successful, and I don't regret them for a moment. I didn't need to feel confident that I'd be able to handle these transitions. Instead, I just needed the courage to try. And keep trying.
We just need courage. Courage to move forward. Courage to start.
What do you need to find the courage to do in your SLP journey, right now?
It could be anything - starting a speech-language pathology focused Instagram account, starting a blog, starting a business, developing an app, or starting a podcast. It could mean working towards that specialty you've been wanting. It could mean taking on a graduate student.
It doesn't have to mean putting more energy and effort into your career. It could mean working fewer hours by looking for a part-time SLP job. It could mean walking away from your desk at quitting time. It could mean leaving this career for another one. It could mean having a courageous and difficult conversation with a coworker to build in some boundaries, so that you can conserve energy in the future. It could mean trying a new work setting.
Whatever it is, it might mean shaking up your career in a way that feels very scary but also very exciting. Whatever your scary thing is, it is less important that you feel sure that it'll all work out (confidence) and it is more important that you give it a try (courage).
Feel the Fear, Do the Thing
We don't have to pretend that we aren't afraid. We don't have to pretend that it isn't hard to start something new or make a change.
But we do need to remember that it takes courage.
What would courage look like in your SLP journey?
What changes would you make in your personal or professional life if it just took a measure of courage to make things change?
Show up. Try. Practice courage.
Courage isn't mastered, it's practiced. With one step at a time.
One slow, shaky foot in front of the other. Then, repeat.