Confidence. Some women just seem to have it. Breezily walking into any situation, comfortable and unafraid no matter what happens because they know that they can handle it. They believe in themselves and their abilities and powers. However, as countless statistics demonstrate, many women lack confidence, no matter how successful they may be.
“43% of starting women want to reach top management, only 27% say they have the confidence to do so. That drops to 13% by the time women have been working for two years.”
Source: Forbes.com, Women Lose Ambition Once They Get to Work, Bain & Company Report November 04, 2014
In The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman highlight recent research on the topic of women’s confidence. These findings range from the discovery of a genetic link that impacts the ability to build confidence, to a disheartening exploration of gender bias. It is no wonder that many women struggle with this issue!
The good news is, in spite of the challenges and potential genetic predispositions that women may or may not have, confidence can be something learned and developed over time. Research has also proven that confidence is an essential element of internal well-being and happiness – a necessity for a fulfilled life. That reward makes building confidence worth every bit of the work and effort.
Remember how it felt when learning to ride a bike for the first time? You were likely terrified – afraid of the unknown, afraid of falling. Despite the falls, every time you got back on the bike, it got easier. It wasn’t perfect, but you did it until one day it finally clicked. Confidence is built in the same manner – by taking one step at a time, expanding boundaries and stepping outside of comfort zones.
The first step to achieving confidence requires an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, which of course, is easier said than done. Reflecting internally and answering simple questions may provide a framework from which to move forward:
- What areas do you need to develop to achieve your personal and professional goals?
- In what areas do you need to build your confidence so that it takes no thought to move forward without fear or concern weighing you down?
In additional to that internal reflection, it may also be useful to listen to what others say. When someone compliments you, do you brush it aside? It was nothing. That was so easy. Those compliments reflect your strengths and should be graciously accepted, not quickly dismissed. The simple act of taking pride in yourself and your achievements can help further increase your confidence level.
Now create a plan to target one or two of the areas that you would like to conquer. Perhaps your goal is to be more comfortable speaking up in meetings and leading presentations at work. Maybe its public speaking or networking where you’d like to better develop your skills.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to conquer, because when you challenge yourself, you learn to embrace the unknown and push forward. The more challenges you take, the more confidence you build. Celebrate your successes. Learn from your failures. The most important thing is to simply try.
Create your plan with a series of small steps leading to your end goal. By breaking any plan down into small, achievable steps, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel. The goal is to begin with an action you feel confident you will be able to do and then begin stretching those goals so you are continuously challenged.
As you explore your boundaries and try new things, it is important to approach everything with curiosity. You may discover that you’re not so talented at some experiences and may be surprised that you’re talented at others. If you approach these challenges with curiosity instead of fear, then you won’t fail.
Confidence frees you to be the powerful, magnificent woman that you are. Each one of us has special gifts and talents that when we fully employ them make us shine bright in every way, and enable us to live to our fullest potential. What one step will you take today to build your confidence and let your light shine?