“There is a quality that sets some people apart. It is hard to define but easy to recognize. With it, you can take on the world; without it, you live stuck at the starting block of your potential” (Katty Kay & Claire Shipman)
We can all probably conjure up images of people that we think exude confidence – whether it be public speakers, a colleague that walks into a room, and immediately takes control of the meeting or the person who is always first to ask a question at a conference.
For the rest of us, we are perhaps more familiar with those uneasy sensations that come from the fear of speaking up, the sense that we are not worthy of our achievements, and stepping outside of our comfort zones to take a risk. Despite our success, intellect, and conscientiousness, these moments of hesitation frustratingly appear to be more commonplace in the professional lives of women than our male colleagues.
Here are some helpful ways to combat this:
- Get comfortable with getting it wrong: Much of our confidence gap comes from a drive for perfectionism believing that in order to succeed, an absolute demonstration of competence is the priority. Actually, much of the learning that helps us to grow is from making mistakes. We are not talking about big mistakes that undermine your reputation but finding opportunities to wing it, to take a calculated risk that enables you to test what works and what doesn’t. Confidence comes from taking action, not from over analysing all the what-ifs.
- Stop overthinking it: Research has shown that the female brain is physiologically hardwired to think, a lot. We are the masters of overthinking particularly when it comes to what we think we can’t do. It blocks our instincts as we become captive to those distracting, destructive thoughts that lead to stress and anxiety. If you feel caught in a spiral of negative thinking, imagine a really positive outcome instead and notice the feelings it evokes – break that cycle.
- Toot your own horn: We often struggle to take credit or enjoy our accomplishments. We focus on the bits we didn’t get right (thank you overthinking brain!). We cannot expect others to value our efforts if we do not develop our own sense of value and learn to talk about them. When we downplay our achievements, we are telling ourselves that we don’t deserve them which will ultimately prevent us from attempting to tackle future obstacles.
- Become masterful: There is a myth that confidence comes from ‘faking it until you make it’. The very act of faking it will send you over an anxiety cliff which is not confidence building. Instead, taking action to learn, practice, and master a skill will give you the confidence that you can execute it. Remember to keep in check those perfectionist tendencies – you need to find a level of skill that enables you to take that step outside your comfort zone and give it a go.
- Think about yourself less: When faced with an emergency, it is surprising how without all the thinking and self-judgment, we become a bolder more assertive version of ourselves. Imagine if we stopped trying to prove ourselves and became more purpose-driven, how liberating it would be to move the spotlight away from ourselves and focus on how we are benefitting others.
This blog was inspired by the book The Confidence Code by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman – an Ascension must read!