Audit Advantage: Self-Confidence

Audit Advantage: Self-Confidence


Self Confidence: ‘the first requisite to great undertakings’ (Samuel Johnson)

We all know what we mean when we talk about self-confidence…don’t we? If in doubt, check out our Resilient Auditor series for definitions, terminology and deeper understanding of what is, and what isn’t, true self-confidence. The bigger issues though, are really the real life, practical ones; the issues around where it come from, why we need it and how we use it. If you’ve ever struggled to find your voice in a meeting, held back when you know you are truly capable, or felt under pressure to conform to something you know isn’t really you, then you know why self confidence matters. 

‘Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes’, Carl Jung

Make no mistake, your confidence is your own, it cannot be bestowed on you by anyone else, nor can it be taken away. The buck stops with you, your perceptions, your decisions, your view of the world and yourself within in. People and events zap your confidence, only when you let them! Where’s the proof? Well take a look at the people who rise from (so-called) failure, who try but don’t necessarily succeed but who grow along the way, adding subtle layers to their self-belief. I see it all the time with audit and accountancy exams for example. For every person who has been crushed and derailed by exam failure, there are at least an equal number who have risen to the highest echelons of their organisations with a set of blotched academic records, as just one chapter of their story. They didn’t let this one chapter define them; they chalked it up as part of the journey, using it to learn and strengthen their self belief around their ability to overcome personal setbacks. 

 If you’ve been working through our Audit Advantage programme you’ll know all about the concept of having a Growth Mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. If you exhibit a propensity for the latter then you believe your abilities are fixed, you are likely to take less risk for fear of suffering ‘failure’ and you operate within a vicious circle of fulfilling your own limiting self beliefs by imposing restrictive boundaries around what you can and can’t do. But neuro-science reassures us, time and time again, that the brain does in fact offer immeasurable plasticity, that’s the ability to change and develop, to create neural pathways to build new habits, behaviours – and indeed thought-processes!

‘Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one’, Eleanor Roosevelt

Ever feel afraid to speak out of turn, question a discrepancy that’s already been pronounced upon by the audit partner, throw in an off-the-wall idea which is, on the face of it, out of kilter with the common consensus? This is exactly why self confidence matters. You are an individual, with your own completely unique set of opinions, notions and creative views of the world. Quash this to toe the party-line and your team loses something of the synergy that is the precious yield from group activity. Speak up and prepare to be shouted down, critiqued or even derided, but it is inner confidence that fuels your courage and builds your strength to get back up to fight another day.  And that is also the very strength you need to forge your way in your career, to optimise your choices to take control and lead rather than letting your career lead you!

‘The quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do’, (anon),

In other words, as Susan Jeffers puts it, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’! Discomfort, resilience, facing up to your own personal demons, these are all the building blocks to develop and strengthen your confidence. How? Well check out our suggestions in The Resilient Auditor; in particular, work your way through Part 5 to enhance your growth mindset and Part 7 on Confidence. And here’s a bonus technique, one that I’ve used personally over and over again. It’s from my Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) toolkit and will help you create a confident state at will, invaluable when you need to bolster up your courage or reduce your anxiety. Here goes:

Think back to a particular time in your life when you felt truly confident.  Pick a powerful example, regardless of the context, a domestic example is equally as relevant as a professional one. Create that confident state in your imagination by closing your eyes, shutting off from the rest of the world and putting yourself back into that experience as if it were happening now. Notice what you see, hear what you are hearing and feel what you were feeling in that moment. Allow it to be as if it is happening right now. Notice how the state of confidence builds up to a peak and then declines. 

Now repeat the process – only this time just as your confidence reaches its peak, make a unique gesture with the fingers of one hand as you say a word or phrase to evoke the feeling of extreme confidence, while also visualising an image that represents the state. (For example, clench your fist as you say softly, ’win’ as you see yourself smashing through the finishing line to 100 metres victory.)

Stay with the feeling of peak confidence for a few moments, then release the anchor (your clenched fist, for instance) and break state by thinking about something completely different. Repeat the whole procedure at least five times to build a strong NLP anchor. You can test the anchor by firing (repeating your unique gesture, saying the words or visualising the picture which you have set to represent your confident state). With practice you should be able to use the NLP anchor to get yourself into confident mode within 10-15 seconds. 

I hope you find this technique a useful addition to your toolkit. But don’t forget, lack of confidence is a vicious circle; holding back from taking risks and feeling discomfort cements the limiting self belief that you can’t. In the words of T Harv Eker:

‘Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don't let these feelings stop them.’

Which topic would you like to read about next month? Look over the list of topics in the original Audit Advantage article here and let us know your choice for the next topic we should cover.

Back to article list