Six ways to boost your self-confidence after parental leave

Transitioning from parent life to work life can take its toll on your confidence. You’ve navigated a myriad of learning curves, and along the way you might have forgotten about all the strengths you’ve built, skills you’ve developed and achievements you’ve conquered. Career coach Shannon Lyndon-Lugg shares her tips for finding that spark of self-confidence and returning to work ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

I am lucky enough to be a business coach to many amazing women, and a common challenge I see is building self-confidence. This is even more acute for women as they return to work after a period of parental leave or time off looking after children.

If you feel like your self-confidence could do with a boost then read on, because here are six easy things you can do to build genuine, authentic, self-confidence.

1.Reflect on your proudest moments
Make a list of the things you’ve achieved that you’re most proud of. It could be overcoming an obstacle, nailing a key project, learning a new skill, the amazingness that is becoming a parent, or doing something nice for someone around you.

Firstly, take some time to reflect on these great moments and the lovely memories they bring. Then ask yourself:

  • What was happening for me when I was involved in these proud moments?
  • What was happening in the environment around me?
  • How can I create more moments like this, more often?
  • How can I use these memories to give me more confidence when I need it?

2. Get to know your strengths better
Your strengths – your key qualities and behaviours – are a source of achievement, pride and energy IF you are aware of them and harness them. The problem is that too few people readily know their strengths or intentionally plan their activities to harness them.  Your strengths will help you with the most difficult challenges you face, you just need to use more of them, more of the time.

Ask yourself:

  • When have I been most fulfilled? What strengths was I using?
  • What qualities do others consistently praise me for?
  • What activities energise me? What strengths am I using?
  • What are three actions I could put in place to help me use more of my strengths more often?
  • How can I stop doing activities that don’t align with my strengths, and replace them with those that do?

3. Take small steps
My favourite quote is “The journey of one thousand miles starts with one small step”. Every day I see people trying to climb mountains in a single step. They set crazy-big goals and want to achieve them almost instantly. Then they get disappointed and even despondent when they don’t feel successful.

Now, we know that you need to work hard to achieve big things, but what’s more important is to start walking before you run. Taking small steps in the general direction of where you want to go builds momentum. Get moving and let yourself feel happy (dare I say confident) that you are on your way towards your goal.

4. Tune in to your negative self-talk to tune it out
We all have voices in our head, chatting away. Sometimes these voices can be supportive and build us up, and sometimes they can be terribly critical. Often, though, we aren’t aware on an intellectual level of what is being said. So start to ‘tune in’ to this self-talk. Consider it as if you were an unemotional scientist reflecting on a research subject. Notice what is happening, who and what is around you, when the voices are supportive and, likewise, what’s happening when that self-talk gets more negative.

Make decisions based on what you’re noticing about who and what is giving you energy and who or what is zapping your confidence.

What situations, people and environments do you need to be in to have more confident moments, and which ones should you stay away from?

Ask yourself:

  • What situations, people and environments do I need to be in to have more confident moments?
  • What action can I take when I notice my self-talk turning negative?
  • Are there situations, people and environments I should reduce contact with or stay away from all together?

5. Create a list of your new skills
I didn’t realise the impact that becoming a parent would have on my ability to prioritise and get stuff done. Seriously, I am so much more productive, faster and goal focussed than before. I am sure that this is true of all parents, and I’m sure there are many more skills that we all grow or enhance over our parental journey.

So what are yours? Make a list of all the cool things you can now do better than before, and think deeply about the transferable employability skills that go into them. An example might be, being able to feed a family of five on a very limited budget. It could include very transferable skills like research, budgeting or cost-focus, problem solving and negotiating.

Once you have a few skills listed, take a moment to bask in the awesomeness of you, and then look for opportunities to put these in to practice in a work context.

6. Ban the ‘C’ word
I’m talking about ‘can’t’! We put so many limitations on ourselves with the word ‘can’t’. ‘I can’t’ is one of the earliest phrases a child learns and we repeat it often in our lives.

Next time you think “I can’t” add the word YET to the end of the sentence to feel an amazing transformation. “I can’t… yet” gives you permission to consider if you actually want to put in the work required to do whatever it is you’re talking about. It also says “but one day I could, if I wanted to”. What a powerful little word. ‘Can’t’ is passive and gives away your personal power. YET is empowering and it lets you own the outcome.

Written by Shannon Lyndon-Lugg. Shannon is a mother to two lovely children and an expert in human resources, talent, leadership development, diversity and performance. Shannon works with individuals and companies to support career transitions and grow talent.

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