self improvement

How Do Confidence and Self-Belief Relate?

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My friend and colleague, Paul Lyons (CEO of Mental Toughness Partners in Australasia) recently shared this post and although it is specifically in reference to poker, I thought it was an absolutely great read.

Whilst mental toughness is about resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks and failures, it is also about having the confidence and self-belief to spot and seize opportunities as they arise, in order to make the most of any given situation. This often involves taking risks which you might not do when in a more negative frame of mind.

Although I’m not a poker player, I was interested to read this article by poker player and writer Matthew Hunt on the effect of decision making on the brain during a game and specifically the difference between confidence and self-belief around the poker table. I find Matthew’s distinction between them really interesting and also potentially applicable in the real world (as Matthew puts it).

Over to you Matthew.

Playing poker for a living or even taking it seriously as a way to make money recreationally puts a lot of strain on your mental processes. It forces you to examine in great detail the way you think and behave and allows you to get to know your own brain better than you ever have before. This can be both a blessing and a curse at times.

One of the primary reasons why poker is so taxing on your brain is because of variance. Your brain doesn't always get positive feedback from a good decision, so you have to rewire it not to need the feedback at all. This is completely contrary to how human beings usually operate.

In the real world (by which I mean when we're not at a poker table), we're conditioned to expect that when we do something good, good things happen, and when we do something bad, bad things happen. This is how we learn everything from morality to how to avoid pain and suffering on a physical level.

When it comes to our perception of ourselves, this can be especially confusing. It's entirely possible – frequent, even – that we'll make a correct decision at the poker table and receive immediate negative feedback in the form of our opponent showing down a hand at the top of his range or a card coming on the river that loses us the hand. These instances chip away at our mental conditioning and lead us to subconsciously reevaluate our definition of "good decisions."

Over time, this can lead to an erosion of our confidence at the tables. The last time we check-called the river with top pair and a weak kicker, we ended up losing to a rivered two pair, so the next time it happens, we no longer trust the instinct that says "call." The last time we check-raise bluffed the turn, we got called and busted the tournament, so we shy away the next time. Of course, sometimes this is a good thing because it can occasionally protect us from mistakes, but the longer it goes on, the more gun-shy we become.

Confidence is so important in poker that a loss of it can significantly affect our profitability. Not taking those thin bluff spots, folding to 3bets too often, not making big calls on the river, and attempting only to take the most obvious pre-flop shove spots are just four of a large number of common weaknesses caused by loss of confidence and, over time, these weaknesses will manifest into huge leaks.

In some instances, paradoxically, the only thing that can reverse this pattern is one of two things: we make a bad decision and get good feedback by winning the hand (which feels good and lifts us from our funk, but can be damaging because it reinforces bad habits) or break the cycle and follow through with a marginal play because we willed ourselves to overcome our doubts and we receive good feedback as a result.

In this second instance, the determining factor in our ability to make the right decision wasn't confidence. We actually didn't really have confidence at that moment. What we had was self-belief. In poker terms, I like to think of confidence as the act of following through on one's instincts, the ability to think clearly and rationally on a moment-to-moment basis without the influence of external factors. Self-belief is a little different.

Self-belief doesn't come when you're in the middle of playing a hand and your mind is racing to find the best play. That's when confidence is taking over and driving your thoughts. Confidence is visceral and fluctuates over the course of a session, tournament, or even a specific hand. Self-belief is something that happens away from the table and it's the foundation of confidence itself.

Self-belief means the acknowledgement of and trust in your own abilities and skills. It means being able to accurately identify that you are a skilled poker player, thus having a reason to continuously prove to yourself that listening to your instincts is a good idea. It gives you the ability to say during a hand, "I'm not sure about this river shove. It didn't work last time, but I'm usually pretty good at these spots. I'm all-in." If you have self-belief, your confidence can never dip below a certain level.

One reason why many novice players lack confidence is not simply because they lack the knowledge of what to do; it's because they know they lack the knowledge, so they don't trust their instincts. They have no self-belief, which gives them no foundation on which to build confidence.

If you're struggling with confidence at the tables, try to reinforce your self-belief. Work away from the tables at reminding yourself that you are good at poker, that you have the capacity to improve, and that you have achieved success in the past. Build a foundation. When you come to work on things at the tables and difficult decisions come up, building a greater base of self-belief will allow what confidence you do have to show itself more readily.

If you do have confidence, but lack self-belief – a common trait among many overly-aggressive recreational players – you'll find that while you're happy to run big bluffs and make big calls when things are going well, your confidence is easily shattered once you lose a big hand. You retreat into your shell and lose that instinct you had earlier.

The short version is that confidence is how you feel at the table, while self-belief is your evaluation of yourself away from it. Confidence is knowing when to pull the trigger, but self-belief is knowing how to use the gun in the first place. If you have one without the other, you risk two things: being too slow on the draw or shooting yourself in the foot.

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For more on developing confidence and self-belief contact Michelle at Bakjac Consulting or via

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Wellbeing Strategist, Leadership and Wellbeing Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness Practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or



6 Ways To Build (not break) Work Place Relationships.

Do you ever feel like you just clash with some people and no matter what you do or what you say, they always take the opposite side of any argument with you? You know… that person that you see in the hall way coming toward where you’re standing and you immediately look down at your shoes so that you don’t engage eye contact, internally reciting “Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me!”

I am currently facilitating some training for a group of staff over several days with the goal of enhancing their working relationships. I am really enjoying working with this great group and it is so interesting to see the many “light bulb moments” they are having discussing their strengths and values. But what is so interesting, is listening to them talk about the “trials and tribulations” they have when trying to get on with certain individuals which they feel they just “clash” with.

I have been hearing statements like “Why can’t she just get it?”, “What is her problem?”, “Why won’t she listen?”, “We just can’t get along!”, “I just avoid him now”………………..Sound familiar?

We so often engage in blaming others for our poor relationships rather than looking for opportunities to be “above the line” and consider how we can focus on accountability and be solution focused.

Stay above the line

Stay above the line

Have a go at some of these techniques to assist you build one of the best workplace tools of all – your relationships.

1)   Understand Your Bad Habits.

Go on, you know you have them. We all sometimes engage in behaviours which we know we shouldn’t, but we just can’t seem to help ourselves. Which of the following are you guilty of?

  • Do I stop listening when I think I know the message the speaker is trying to convey?
  • Do I find it difficult to listen to other’s views if they are different to mine?
  • Do I start thinking of what I am going to say while the other person is still talking?
  • Do I daydream when I should be listening?
  • Do I block the other person out if I don’t like them?
  • Do I sometimes respond to others in a sarcastic or overly blunt way?
  • Can I receive criticism without becoming defensive?
  • Do I interrupt?
  • Am I aware of what body language I am demonstrating?
  • Do I avoid eye contact?

What could you do to manage some of these bad habits and strengthen your relationships as a result?

2)   Schedule Time To Build Relationships.

Relationships need TLC just like everything else. Try this exercise…

Write down your top 8 Relationships?


What specific strategies could you undertake each week to enhance the relationship you have with that person?

(Ideas – spend more time, get to know a personal interest, discover their strengths, just listen (don’t talk), invite them for a coffee, find out if you have any similar interests)

3)   Avoid Gossiping

No more need to be said. Just don’t do it!!

You know how much it hurts when the gossip is about you. So why inflict that on others.

4)   Practice Forgiveness.

I know that sometimes people just plain and simple piss us off. And a lot of the time, we tend to hold a grudge and end up not talking to this colleague for days, even weeks.

But you know what… it’s just plain exhausting and draining to keep this up.

So how can we practice forgiveness?

Now don’t confuse forgiveness with forgive and forget. Forgiveness just means we no longer feel resentment and anger toward the other person. In other words, we let go of the emotion. Try this forgiveness exercise

1.   Write a paragraph on your view

2.   Write a paragraph on the other persons view

3.   Write a paragraph as an observer (fly on the wall)

I did this exercise with a client recently and she recognised with a laugh that “the fly on the wall didn’t really give a shit…. So why do I?”

5)   Flex Your Style.

Self-Awareness is one of the cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence. So ask yourself, do you have a clear idea of your communication and behavioural style? Do you have a clear understanding of your colleague’s communication and behavioural style? Now do you “flex” your style to fit the person you are communicating with? Are you speaking with someone who is quite analytical and therefore wants details? Are you speaking with someone who is people oriented and likes to explore ideas with lots of discussion? Or are you speaking with someone who is very efficiency oriented and just wants the facts?

6)   Own Your Issue

If you have an issue with someone you work with, own it and stay above the line and embrace opportunities, possibilities and solutions. Rather than say… “This is all too hard”, ask yourself…. “How could I make it easier?”

Want to know more about improving work place relationships? Send me an email at to enquire about training and coaching to build strategies to enhance work place relationships.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or









How To Supercharge Your Team’s Mental Toughness.

I was recently asked to work with a team to manage significant conflict. To be quite honest, it was just plain nasty. Team members had nothing nice to say about each other, engaged in gossip and blame, they only saw each other’s weaknesses and they were engaged in “below the line” behaviour and communication. They were only interested in running their own race without considering how they could work together and build accountability, opportunity, and consider possibilities and solutions. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but hey, I love a challenge.

When I first commenced working with the team, we brainstormed all the key attributes of a high performing team and they soon recognised, these were all the attributes that they lacked.

So what does a high performing team look like? Consider some key characteristics:

  • Passion – a high level of interest and engagement in the job they do.
  • High self-confidence – confidence in both their own abilities and their ability to interact with others (confidence, not to be confused with arrogance).
  • Control the things they can – recognising what is inside your circle or control and not worrying about what is outside this circle of influence.
  • Resilience – being able to bounce back from set backs.
  • Manage challenges – seeing the challenge and not the threat. Being able to find the self-development opportuntiies with each new challenge.
  • Focus – the opportunity to have a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve.
  • Relax – the ability to be mindful of your situation and recognise the need for time out and relaxation when needed.

It needs to be every organisations focus to have a high performing team. Just consider what they do for an organisation:

  • Accomplish complex tasks and high levels of productivity and performance.
  • Enable problem solving effectively and efficiently.
  • Effectively coordinate the efforts of diverse individuals.
  • Cover weaknesses by the strengths of others.

To enable a team to work together with purpose and vision allows for a significant cultural boost to any organisation. Developing Mental Toughness can have a big impact and rocket your team toward increased performance and achievement of successful outcomes.

Mental Toughness is defined as the quality which determines in large part how people effectively deal with challenge, stressors and pressure, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances (Clough and Strycharczyk 2012).

In the 4Cs model of Mental Toughness 4 pillars are identified:

  • Challenge – seeing challenge as an opportunity and “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Confidence – having high levels of self-belief and confidence in interpersonal interactions
  • Commitment – goal setting and being able to stick to tasks
  • Control – self esteem, being comfortable in your own skin and managing emotions.

To develop “Team Toughness” consider these rocket boosters to enhance team toughness in each of the 4Cs:


  • Agree on who is doing what.
  • Accept that setbacks are normal occurrences.
  • Agree on a plan together and stick to it.
  • Give each other the space and time needed to recover from setbacks.
  • Work as a team to manage and accept the things outside of your control.


  • Review and prioritise work together.
  • Communicate with each other.
  • Identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • View challenges as opportunities.
  • Break down challenges into bit sized chunks so as not to get overwhelmed.
  • Recognise when you need time out as a team to recharge.


  • Take time to recognise contributions and give praise.
  • Review resources and energy and where these can best be directed.
  • Identify what motivates you as a team.
  • Agree on goals and deadlines.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask each other for help.
  • Listen to each other and ask questions.


  • Recognise each other’s strengths – engage in strength spotting and then acknowledge and use these strengths.
  • Don’t dwell on mistakes and over-generalise.
  • Beware of arrogance.
  • If confidence is knocked support recovery and support.
  • Always keep in mind the positive intent behind any conversation.
  • Give team members support to improve their skills.

Want to know more about developing your team’s Mental Toughness and rocket them toward success? Send me an email at to enquire about mental toughness and team building.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or


How To Bring Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges

Michelle Bakjac & Amy Cuddy

Michelle Bakjac & Amy Cuddy

Ok, so I am happy to admit that I am a little bit star struck and yes I do feel a lot like a groupie right now. But hey, I feel justified in getting a bit worked up, especially when you listen to someone speak who is obviously passionate about what they do and whose message resonates so much with you.

If you haven’t guessed already from the photo, today I met Amy Cuddy. For those of you who don’t know who she is (shame on you), Amy is a Social Psychologist at Harvard Business School who has coined the phrase “power posing”. Business Chicks bought Amy to Adelaide to speak and I was privileged to hear her pass on many thought provoking ideas and messages this morning.

On many occasions in the past 18 months, I have passed on Amy Cuddy’s wisdom to teams I have trained in Mental Toughness. When we access our personal power, we achieve ‘presence’, the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we have on others and adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves. When we do this, we actively build our self-confidence (the Confidence C within the Mental Toughness framework).

So here goes. I wanted to share with you some of the top highlights/messages I took away from Amy Cuddy’s wonderful session today.

1)   Do you understand and recognise what your biggest challenges are?

Too often we approach our biggest challenges with dread, have anxiety and often leave the situation with a feeling of regret lamenting on all the things we could have said or done better. “Why did I say that, I must have sounded like an idiot”, “Why didn’t I remember my speech”. “I don’t think they liked me”……………………. Can’t you just hear the internal chatter?

The problem is that when we are so busy worrying about the moment, we are not actually present in the moment. But when we access our personal power, we can achieve “presence”.

Presence is being attuned to and able to access and express your authentic best self. When presence reveals itself we convey confidence (without arrogance) and we “believe our own story”.

2)   Confidence is not arrogance

Amy made a very clear distinction between confidence and arrogance, explaining that confidence does not require arrogance and that often arrogance is just a wall put up in front of other insecurities. Confidence is sturdy in its own right and allows you to be open even to criticism.

3)   “We convince by our presence” Walt Whitman

Presence begets presence. When you are present with the people who you are with, you invite them to be present as well. When someone you are with is not present or is distracted, you are unlikely to be your most authentic self. So invite them to be present with you. Be there, in the moment with them.

4)   Action

What often prevents us from being present is our own sense of powerlessness. We need to be able to make peace with our own sense of power. Power is one of the biggest forces in driving forward our confidence and achieving the outcomes and goals we want to achieve. When we feel powerlessness, we feel ineffective and are much less likely to strive toward our goal, already believing we are incapable of achieving it. Power drives us toward ACTION. We can start seeing situations as opportunities rather than threats.

5)   The influence of Power.

When we have a sense of power, the impact is significant on our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviour and our physiology.

When people have a sense of power, their ability to engage in abstract thinking actually increases. They are literally freeing up cognitive band width and freeing up resources. When you feel powerless, you eat up band width cognitively speaking due to all the worry and anxiety you have.

6)   Power cultivates presence

Check your posture right now. Is your back straight, shoulders back. Is your head up and are you open to new possibilities.

Powerlessness blocks Presence

Power cultivates Presence.

We are communicating to others and to ourselves so much even in our own body posture. Your body and mind are constantly communicating. We often feel it’s just our mind telling our body what to do, but our body also communicates to the mind. What is your body posture telling you right now?

7)   Postures might be hardwired.

We have some universal expressions. When we are happy we smile. And when we experience a winning moment, we thrust our hands up in the air and throw our heads back.

Our desire to expand ourselves in victory is overwhelming. When we have power, we show we have power, we can’t help it. This is not a learned behaviour. Even blind athletes engage in this same behaviour.

So if we take this stance/pose in victory, how could we use this same opportunity in preparation to visualise being victorious in an upcoming situation we are dreading.

8)   Act the way you’d like to be.

When we feel powerful we expand. When we feel powerless, we shrink.

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act” Leonard Cohen.

Think of the All Blacks doing their Haka.

When you engage in a more expansive posture, we rate pain lower, we feel stronger and we perform better.

9)   Relationship between posture and depression

Many people with depression tend to slouch and have poor posture, often making themselves as small as possible, communicating in some ways how they feel. There is evidence that “talk therapy” can be supplemented with changes in body posture to assist manage symptoms and recovery. Basically, everyone feels better when they are sitting up straight.

10)      Boy or girl?

Research has identified that when girls and boys aged 6 are shown a unisex doll posed in a powerful position they will identify this as a male doll. And boys and girls shown a unisex doll in a submissive pose will identify it as a girl. Wow, this was pretty shocking to me.

We need to teach our girls to stand strong and tall. We need to teach them that you don’t have to be small and submissive to fit in. We need to teach our girls to stand more like superheros. We need to teach them that when you stand tall and with confidence, you actually draw people toward you naturally.

11)      Become it.

Amy said, don’t just “fake it till you make it”, “fake it till you become it”.

“Stand up straight and realise who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. Stand up straight”    Maya Angelou.

12)      YOU

And finally, the biggest words of wisdom Amy gave to me today.

“Stop focusing on the impression you are having on others.

Start focusing on the impression you are having on yourself”

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or