It is confidence in our body, mind and spirits that allow us to keep looking for new adventures. Oprah Winfrey
I speak to audiences of women as part of my day job at Highest Path Global (a boutique firm specializing in building future female leaders), and the one thing I hear all the time are women at all levels in their career dealing with a lack of self-confidence. I am always shocked to see so many hands go up when I ask the question: “how many of you in this room deal with the Imposter Syndrome,” no matter how accomplished, successful or experienced they may be. Luckily, this is one of the main topics of my book, Leading Gracefully: A Woman’s Guide to Confident, Authentic, & Effective Leadership, where I explore this topic in more depth and offer practical exercises and tools to combat the Imposter Syndrome.
For those of you who haven’t read my book, I want to break down why I think self-confidence is critical if you’re aiming to move forward in your career, start a new business, or interested in leveling up in some way in your life or career.
Let’s first start with defining what is self-confidence because you can’t have more of something if you aren’t sure what it really is in the first place.
What is Self-Confidence?
Confidence is what turns thoughts into action. Without it we hold ourselves back. We need it to get into action. And I describe self-confidence in two ways: a belief and a feeling.
Confidence is a belief we can create a successful outcome through our actions. In other words, when we are confident we believe we are good enough, we believe we have value to offer and those beliefs are what leads us to take action, for example to apply for a job, to ask for that promotion or move to another country (like yours truly!).
And confidence is also something we feel in our body – it can be hard to pinpoint, but it’s a feeling we have inside. For some, it could be a feeling of excitement or passion or a feeling of being calm or collected. Confidence is a feeling we experience within ourselves.
So to understand confidence we have to look at both the mind and body for answers.
Why is Confidence So Important?
For a long time there has been a commonly held belief among professional women that if you work hard that it would be enough to get ahead. I want to shatter this myth. The truth is, it is actually NOT enough to just be competent and perform well at your job.
You need to be competent and confident to be successful. You need both!
But many women make the mistake of only focusing on proving themselves through their performance. They forget to take other actions necessary to increase their personal brand and exposure in an organization.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E.E. Cummings
In order to increase your image and to gain exposure, you need to be able to go out of your comfort zone and build relationships with key decision makers. You need to be able to voice your opinions and speak up at meetings, give presentations and find ways to showcase your achievements. You need to be authentic and gain the trust of others. And here’s the thing: all of these things require you to be confident in yourself.
I know this first hand because I’ve dealt with a very strong Inner Bully myself and have had to overcome a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem to be able to step into my full potential. I used to be so afraid of saying the wrong thing and embarrassing myself, that I would literally just stay quiet during team meetings. My Inner Bully was so loud it would say things like, “You are too young to be in this job,” or “If you speak up, people will realize you’re a fraud.” So I would just sit there, not contributing my ideas and opinions.
And of course this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I stayed quiet, the more people probably thought I had nothing to contribute of value. So my biggest fear actually came through! But it wasn’t because I said the wrong thing, it was because my Inner Bully convinced me that I wasn’t good enough.
Not feeling good enough is the biggest barrier to us following our dreams, making changes in our lives, and contributing our ideas to the world. With this lack of self-confidence, we hold ourselves back and stay stuck in our comfort zone, which eventually leads to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and lack of drive and motivation.
How To Get into Action
In the next post, I share four practical ways you can begin to get a handle on your Inner Bully and start building self-confidence. These are tools I’ve used on myself to overcome my own fears and insecurities as well as with my clients who have all seen huge transformation in their lives and careers. I hope they will be helpful in helping you to improve your self-confidence to have more freedom, pursue your dreams, or take actions in your job that will make you shine in the eyes of others.