As women striving to accomplish our career goals, it's disheartening to notice the tendency among leaders to attribute setbacks to a perceived lack of self-confidence. In this article, we will explore some of the complexities of self-confidence to make the journey of growth less confusing and help shine a light that can guide us in the right direction
1. Confidence is not a constant state
Our state of confidence fluctuates depending on various factors such as experiences, challenges, and self-perception. It is essential to recognize that confidence levels may vary throughout different stages of life and different situations. Generally, when we’re new to a situation, job, or task, we might feel less confident because we're confronted with many uncertainties.
Consider the case of Anna, a mid-level executive. Anna could hold her own in internal team meetings but felt her confidence waver in board meetings filled with senior leadership. Many of us have ‘Anna’ moments—situations where we might feel less confident due to a variety of external factors.
Action Item: Keep a 'confidence journal' where you note down situations or people that make you feel either confident or insecure. Use this as a tool for reflection and strategizing.
2. Confidence is (partially) genetic but can be developed
Men, from a genetic standpoint, tend to have a greater tendency towards risk-taking; this inherent trait plays a role in distinguishing those who simply imagine from those who take action. Women's brains, on the other hand, are more sensitive to their environment and have a natural tendency to focus on problems rather than seeking immediate solutions. According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of ‘The Confidence Code,’ "this creates the basis for an unhelpful habit of overthinking and undermining ourselves with tortured cycles of useless self-recrimination.”
Action Item: Pair up with a friend to share your self-confidence goals. Schedule regular check-ins to discuss progress, setbacks, and new strategies.
3. Understanding that Failure Builds Confidence
Embracing failure as a catalyst for growth is a powerful way to boost our confidence, freeing us from the paralyzing fear of making mistakes. It's about being at ease with imperfections and valuing setbacks as crucial learning experiences that build resilience. While it's natural to find comfort in familiar routines, real confidence blooms when we step out of our comfort zones—whether that means taking on a new job or leading a work presentation. Each time we challenge ourselves, we not only gain new skills but also discover that we're far more capable and resilient than we ever imagined.
Action Item: Plan and commit to taking small risks each week and reflect on what you learned, regardless of the outcome.
4. Growing Confidence Happens in Small Steps
Navigating societal pressures and expectations often erodes women's confidence, but the truth is, we have the power to dismantle these barriers and build unshakable self-assurance. For example, you can overcome your fear of public speaking by practicing in low-stakes environments on a regular basis and gradually working your way up to bigger stages.
In addition to large wins, smaller practices like meditation, gratitude, and breaking overwhelming thoughts into manageable steps can significantly impact your self-confidence. You may not solve every challenge at once, but each small accomplishment reinforces your inner strength, setting a foundation for authentic self-assurance.
Action Item: Identify a skill that you want to develop and start practicing it in a safe environment. Gradually expose yourself to more challenging situations as you become more comfortable.
5. Confidence Can Be Passed On
When we see women confidently pursuing their goals, it genuinely inspires us. It's a powerful reminder that we are capable of achieving great things. This kind of self-assurance creates a positive ripple effect, fostering a cycle of support and encouragement among women.
I remember watching a colleague handle a high-stakes negotiation with remarkable ease. The impact was instant; I found myself inspired, and others in our circle started to show more assertiveness in their roles. Also, providing constructive feedback and encouragement becomes essential for a female brain that tends to focus on the negative. These external validations, be they through verbal praise or awards, help others truly recognize their unique strengths and areas for growth, ultimately bolstering their self-assurance.
Action Item: Make it a daily habit to compliment someone genuinely. This creates a positive cycle that boosts not just their confidence but also yours.
Self-confidence isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition, nor is it a fixed state. We all have our unique battles with self-doubt, but it's how we deal with these challenges that defines us. Every time you bounce back from a failure or take a small step out of your comfort zone, you're building your own unique version of confidence. And remember, your journey of building self-confidence isn't just about you; it has the ripple effect of inspiring and lifting others too.
Most Importantly: Get into Action! Choose just one of the actionable steps outlined above that resonates with you. Dedicate the next 30 days to implementing it in your life and track your progress. It will be worth it!