Recently, I invited one of my nieces to an entrepreneur workshop series, but I wasn’t sure if my niece would accept. Most of the women in the group of eight were powerful and accomplished women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. My niece is in her early 20’s, and I wondered if she would have the self-confidence to join a group of this caliber. I was sure I wouldn’t have at her age — or would I?
This question led me to review and examine my life through the lens of self-confidence. Lack of self-confidence is now linked to women’s failure to break through the glass ceiling into the top ranks of corporations, politics, and academia in large numbers. Research shows that women’s lack of self-confidence stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.
In high school, I quit tennis tryouts because I was so afraid I would not make the team. I quit to avoid that rejection – no self-confidence there. Fast forward to my early 20’s, and I was offered the job of controller at a company that I worked at prior to my college graduation. I raised my hand and said ‘Yes, I can do that!’ I knew I could do it. It didn’t occur to me that the position was normally held by people with much more knowledge and experience.
Unfortunately, as my life progressed, experiences of failed relationships and the struggles of trying to compete in male-dominated fields took a toll on my self-confidence. When I arrived at my early 40’s, my self-confidence had gone missing. I made the decision to get it back.
Here are 8 tips to give you a double shot of self-confidence so you can take your power back and play bigger:
1. Make peace with your past.
Spend some time with your journal and revisit those experiences that chipped away at your self-confidence. It is time to process them and change their influence on you. If you get stuck, seek the help of a therapist or coach.
2. Build your self-confidence muscles.
Take on small challenges to start with. For example, if you have never cooked for your friends because your cooking skills are limited to boiling water, throw a small potluck. You can make a simple main dish like baked pasta and get your friends to bring the other dishes. Every success will add to your self-confidence and translate to all areas of your life.
3. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
I used to be so paralyzed by my fear of failure that I would choose to not to play at all. When I learned this concept and eliminated the word ‘failure’ from my vocabulary, it was so freeing.
Every situation became an opportunity to learn something as opposed to another chance to fail.
The ability to learn from your experiences can be the single most important determinant of your success over the long-term.
4. Perfectly Imperfect.
I used to be so paralyzed by perfectionism that I would avoid showing up, stepping up and playing bigger. We will never have the ‘perfect’ information to make a decision, we will never have ‘perfect’ qualifications for a particular job opportunity, and there will never be the ‘perfect’ relationship. There are positive and negative aspects to everything and everyone in life and the sooner you come to appreciate that, the sooner you can let go of perfectionist tendencies.
5. Take Bigger Leaps.
The bigger the leap you take, the more confidence you will gain. Call that potential investor, raise your hand to do that presentation at work or volunteer to lead that committee at your child’s school. When I have to summon the courage to take a big leap, I always ask myself what is the worst thing that will happen. The answer is usually is some form of rejection and I can handle that.
6. Silence the Inner Critic.
Women internalize every comment to the point that their inner critic is constantly replaying a tape filled with self-defeating thoughts. Thoughts such as ‘you can’t do that,’ or ‘who do you think you are?’ Learn to recognize the voices of your inner critic. Is it a parent, a teacher, a boss?
Take back your power from the inner critic and start reprogramming those old tapes.
7. Anchor a positive state.
Most of us have had experiences when we felt really confident. Recall as many of those experiences as possible. Feel, hear, see, taste and experience what it was like to be really confident. Bring those experiences to life – make them big, bold and in full 3-D Technicolor.
Anchor those feelings into your being to connect with whenever you feel your confidence level dipping.
8. Form a Power Circle.
Gather your female friends to form a group to support one another on this journey of becoming super confident super heroines. Encourage each other, cheer each other on and be there for one another. We are more powerful together.
As my niece and I walked to our cars after the workshop I asked her what she thought about the class. She said “all of the women were so amazing.” I agreed with her. I wish I had added, ‘And so are you.’