Executive coach Liz Bentley: 3 ways your past can help build confidence

Looking for a confidence boost? Executive coach Liz Bentley explains why you shouldn't ignore your past.
Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs.
Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs.Miller Hawkins

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By Halley Bondy

When people have trouble with confidence in the workplace, their past might hold the answers they need to move forward, according to executive coach Liz Bentley.

Bentley, who founded the leadership consulting firm Liz Bentley Associates, spoke with Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski about building confidence through examining the past. By looking back, women can break bad habits and embrace their strengths, she said.

Here are three takeaways from their interview:

1. Go over your historic wins.

When people are going through a difficult time or transition at work, listing their past successes is a great exercise to keep confidence up, said Bentley.

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“Historical wins are very important, because they're where we get our confidence from,” she said. “They’re especially helpful for people when they’re starting their career, or making a shift or going through a downsizing ... [For example, say to yourself] 'look at all these great things I've done in my life,' and replay those historical wins just to feel confident when you’re doing something scary.”

Brzezinski compared the process to “banking” confidence.

2. Identify past conditioning.

Everyone is conditioned early in life. Conditioning teaches people important boundaries and life lessons, but some conditioning is no longer useful in adulthood.

Women, for example, are often conditioned to apologize, or to enter conversations with disclaimers like “I know it’s a bad time,” or, “I know you don’t want to talk to me,” according to Brzezinski. Bentley argued that these habits are due to early conditioning.

“First, we have to identify what the past conditioning is. Sometimes it’s so buried ... It might be coming from that second grade teacher who told you to stop raising your hand so much. That’s stuck in you," said Bentley.

3. Let go of negative conditioning.

Once people identify their negative conditioning and where it came from, they can begin the process of letting it go. Then, they can build confidence without all the noise from the past, according to Bentley.

“When we find what [the past conditioning] is, we have to work on letting it go," she said. “It’s OK to let it go and to recognize that’s what is holding them back.”

For example, women might stop apologizing so much once they’ve let their past go.

“You’ve been told most of your young life not to be too loud, to interrupt people, to be boisterous, to be more subtle, submissive and quiet,” said Bentley. “When you get rid of that, all of a sudden our language changes.”