Recently, I read an article in Fast Company that interviewed eight female leaders on what was holding them back in their careers. The top career blockers they identified were gender bias, societal pressures, and insecurity.
According to authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their book Th e Confidence Code, women tend to struggle with a lack of confidence more so than men and are more likely to be perfectionists and hold themselves back from asking for a raise and advancement.
As an ambitious professional woman myself, I have experienced the feeling of playing small and not always speaking my mind. When we play small, we feel small. I saw how it held me back from showing up fully in my power in situations where I was the expert.
So, while we may not be able to control a gender bias and all societal pressures, we can address the Confidence Factor! I look at confidence like it is a muscle that must be exercised daily for it to grow and remain strong.
Here are four muscle-building exercises to gain the Confidence Factor.
Own Your Value. Identify what you are really good at, and own it! Be proud of it, promote it, and remind yourself frequently what your assets are! As women, we receive a lot of negative messages from society and from our own inner critic. You can shut down those messages by routinely acknowledging the evidence which comes in the purest form: your accomplishments. Owning your gifts and talents and expressing them often builds your confidence muscle.
Stop over-doing. When you spread yourself so thin by taking on too many tasks or projects, you end up feeling less than satisfied with the quality of your work. And that tends to undermine your confidence because it’s sending the “I’m not good enough” message. Instead, try this confidence-boosting approach: focus on 2–3 projects that excite you and fall into your area of expertise. Th is way, you can position yourself to have the highest level of impact on the outcome, while showcasing your value!
Take a Leap. Once you’ve gained more confidence—take a risk by taking a leap toward something that is more challenging than you’ve ever done before! As women, we need to leave our comfort zones. You don’t have to be perfect or have every attribute for a new role. Part of the purpose of taking a leap is to learn and rise to the challenge. And if you should fail at something, it’s ok. It’s just feedback, and it shows you’ve got guts and are a player in the game. Confidence comes from taking risks! Part of the purpose of taking a leap is to learn and rise to the challenge.
Speak Up. Own your voice and your message. Remember, your overall message is your brand, so communicating your expertise with confidence in your speaking, writing, and body language is essential to get in and stay in the game. Here are a couple tips you can implement right away to communicate with confidence:
• Eliminate “just” and “but” from your speaking and writing. It weakens your position and makes it seem like you are either whining or apologizing. Trust me. This is off-putting to those you work with!
• Sit up straight with your shoulders back! Nothing screams insecurity or weakness like hunched over posture.
• When standing in front of an audience— whether this is in the conference room or speaking at an event—use a wide stance. You will not only come off strong and in command; you will feel powerful like Wonder Woman, and that’s the point. Take up space, and own your super powers!
Remember, like any muscle-building exercise, building your confidence requires practice. So practice at least one confidence-building exercise every day, and own your capabilities, your knowledge, and your strengths. Have fun, and take leaps often.
You deserve to be at the table in a position of strength and personal power, and that will happen when you show up with confidence! Share your success stories and your thoughts with me at Melanie@liveinyourtruth.life.