Confidence, simply put, is believing in yourself. It influences the way others treat us and believe in us.
It grants us the ability to make decisions based on what we know to be right, regardless of the opinions of others. Confident individuals are able to be more decisive, to learn from mistakes, to accept complements, and to just feel good. If we are lacking that tenacity, we take less risks, which inhibits us from learning and growing. Without confidence, we do not celebrate our victories or accept well-earned compliments. Furthermore, not having confidence will greatly impede upon one’s ability to communicated effectively.
If you do not have self-confidence, you may not know how to cultivate it. We have to learn how to believe in ourselves sometimes, and that’s okay. It is part of our journey as leaders, as professionals, as humans.
I believe that women tend to struggle with confidence in a very particular way. We often are expected to be nurturing, with a tendency to put the needs and feelings of others above our own and to fear being perceived as bossy. These characteristics, paired with the folly of chronically comparing ourselves and our lives to others, make it difficult to develop confidence and assert ourselves effectively. The steps to finding your voice may feel counter-intuitive and intimidating; but you’ve got this, girl.
CareerTrack has a very valuable collection of webinars for continuing education in business. I recently watched the recorded webinar course Speak Up and Be Heard! A Confidence-Boosting Course for Women and learned the following pointers for cultivating self-confidence:
- Begin by cultivating self-awareness. Know your strengths, weaknesses, fears and goals.
- Cherish yourself. I practice and believe in servant leadership, but it is important to remember to value yourself, practice self-care, and make sure your cup is full, so that you may pour into others.
- Redefine “winning”. I have spent a lot of time comparing my life — my body, my intelligence, my wit, my home, my job, my education, my talents — to that of others. Speaking from firsthand experience, it does take discipline to reshape this frame of mind, but it is so valuable. Stop comparing yourself to those around you and define your own success. Success doesn’t look the same on everybody. Wear your own version of success and cherish your accomplishments for what they are when they stand on their own.
- Restore your perspective. Are you having a rotten day, week, month, year? Don’t dwell on the slump that you’re in right now. Take in the failures and emotions in a way that embraces the journey, and shift your focus. It helps to have some go-to activities, photos, songs, movies, achievements, etc. at the ready to pull out of the box when you’re feeling a little in the dumps. Pause and reflect upon your strengths and all of the bad-ass things that you’ve accomplished! Get excited about your goals, and fail-forward.
- Toot your own horn. Piggy-backing upon my previous bullet-point — give yourself a pat on the back once in a while. It’s okay to say “Damn, I did a good job!” I often don’t give myself due credit because I’m afraid of coming across like a brag. It’s true that there is a fine line to walk there, but I’m confident that you and I both have the good sense to know when is too much and when we are simply practicing some well-deserved self-appreciation. After all, we freaking rock!
- Have integrity. You are always within your right to be confident when you are doing what you truly believe to be the right thing to do.
- Develop yourself. We are forever students. Find joy in continuing education to better yourself personally and professionally. Learning will grow your credibility and your confidence. Invest your time and money in seminars, podcasts, books, hobbies, and your overall mental & physical well-being. You’re worth it.
Now that you’ve worked on cultivating self-confidence, you’re ready to hone in on your ability to speak with confidence. Speaking with confidence as an identifying female is particularly challenging. As a woman in the workplace, I struggle speaking up to share my thoughts because I am held back by my fears of inadequacy, of not being perceived as credible, and of simply being talked over or ignored. The three areas that I’m working on, as also discussed in the aforementioned CareerTrack webinar, are: self-management, increasing credibility, and downright being heard.
Self-management takes time-management. This means setting limits and saying “no” more often, so that we may make ourselves a priority. Identifying your path and realizing what is important in your journey helps you manage your time and your energy efficiently. I challenge you to take command and prioritize which requests in your day-to-day are worthy of your “yes”.
Despite our desire to people-please, the answer can’t always be yes. Say “no” to the things that don’t deserve your energy, and let that free you. This makes time for things that serve you and fill your cup!
Another important self-management skill that will build your confidence and influence your success exponentially is positive self-talk. I have really been trying to develop a positive inner-voice. Several months ago I vocalized a thought putting myself down; a friend heard me and called me out for it. “Don’t talk to yourself like that! Now you have to give yourself three compliments.” I was so startled and saddened to realize that I somehow couldn’t think of a single compliment on the spot! Negative self-talk had become such a habit to me that I didn’t realize how often I spoke it or how deeply it impacted my self-esteem. I was holding myself back tremendously. That moment was a turning point in my self-awareness. I’ve grown exponentially in this and have in turn felt my confidence grow. Feeding myself positive affirmations and telling myself that I know what I’m talking about is so helpful in pushing myself to communicate my thoughts and ideas more candidly at work. It sounds like such a small thing, but don’t underestimate its power!
Pop quiz: what are three things you love about yourself? Go!
My low self-esteem damaged my sense of personal credibility. Once I got over that hurtle and learned to stop down-playng my own knowledge and experiences, I realized that I really do have a lot to offer. I’m a strong, intelligent, experienced woman of business with an education in human resource management and a boatload of experience.
Step 1 is believing in myself. Step 2 is getting others to believe in me. Credibility is achieved through being seen as competent and being self composed.
There are a few big things that hurt your credibility and will take away from your voice. Steer clear of the following:
- Making promises you can’t keep. Be realistic and follow-through!
- Practicing one-upmanship (ew, nobody likes that person). It’s great to be proud of your achievements, but also make an effort to celebrate the achievements of others as if they were your own! You can appreciate your own strengths without putting others down.
- Behavioral manipulation. Have integrity.
- Threats, personal attacks, lies, gossiping, etc. Put simply, stay away from all of the petty bullshit. Not only does it damage your credibility, but it isn’t worth your energy.
Cool, I don’t do any of those things. Now how do I build my credibility?
- Be personally accountable. Do not place blame or point your finger. A good leader can admit their faults and learn from them; be that person. If it truly wasn’t your fault, there is no need to say so. Work to fix the problem without placing blame, because it just doesn’t matter.
- Respect yourself as a valuable individual.
- Respect others as valuable individuals.
- Resist the bait others will cast your way. Be able to spot petty bait. Not all battles, gossips, criticisms, etc. are worth fighting. Know when to let things go without engaging. This takes emotional control and awareness. It doesn’t make you weak to walk away. Standing up for yourself doesn’t always mean taking action.
- Use discretion. Remember that the loudest person in the room isn’t always the smartest person in the room. Sometimes less is so much more.
I have been practicing good self-management skills and have built my credibility. How do I get heard?
To me this feels like the hardest part, because it feels as though we have the least control here. We each have a voice, but somehow it seems that some are more likely to be listened to than others. What gives? I feel talked over, looked over, and downright invisible sometimes. Somebody please tell me how on earth I can be HEARD! …Helloooo? Anybody?
I’m clearly still working on it.
This is where communication styles really make or break your message. Three people can say the same sentence three different ways and achieve three different outcomes. Communication styles establish our ability (or inability) to be heard. As I learned in the Speak Up and Be Heard! webinar, there are three types of communication that we are born with: agressive, passive-aggressive, and passive. The key is in learning to use a fourth communication style: assertive.
Aggressive communication types are abrasive. A person that practices this will bulldoze over their peers so that they are the loudest and most likely to be heard. Aggressive communication serves the communicator short term, but is a disservice to everybody else. This is probably the person talking over me at meetings.
Passive communication types internalize and withdraw. This person is quiet when they are upset and will likely avoid confrontation. This means that the needs of everybody else will probably be met, but this person will quietly go without. This is my most natural communication style.
Passive-aggressive communication types are essentially exactly what you’re imagining. By their words, you may not know that this person is facing conflict. They may seem friendly face to face, but are sly and sarcastic in their problem solving communication. This ultimately does not serve either party.
The goal is to be assertive (without being aggressive). This communication technique seeks to solve problems and meet the needs of all parties involved to the best of our ability. You may have learned about the great benefits of communicating with “I” statements. An “I” statement in it’s simplest form reads:
I feel _________ when __________ because _________. What I need is _____________.
This is intended to communicate clearly and effectively in a way that explains why a person is upset about the behavior of their peer, without placing blame.
This can be very beneficial in the face of conflict, but my personal struggle is not so much in one-on-one communication, but rather in having my voice heard in meetings and groups. In the CareerTrack webinar course I learned tips such as: reassert my ideas during a natural lull in discussion and follow-up in writing, but the most valuable tip from this lesson was simply to shut down my unconscious fears. If I feel like others are not listening, I should not assume that it is personal or intentional. I should not let myself believe that my ideas are not as important or credible as those of others. I get so caught up in my head that my voice gets drowned out by my own lack of confidence. I need to believe in myself and be patient in my peers, so my voice will be heard. My biggest hurtle is throwing my fears aside and staying engaged, even in the face of criticism or intimidation. This will take willpower, discipline, and boatloads of self-awareness!
But I know what I am capable of. I am qualified. I am strong. I am unapologetic. I’ve got this.
Please share your experiences and wisdom. Are you struggling with confidence? Do you have a hard time being heard? Let’s start the conversation and help one another grow!
CareerTrack. (n.d.). Speak up and be heard! A confidence-boosting course for women[Webinar]. Retrieved from https://lms.pryor.com/Training/OnDemand/52557