5 Things I Wish a Woman Told Me: Confidence


  • How to get the courage to speak up in meetings?
  • How to be okay with yourself when people disagree with you, sometimes vehemently?
  • How to negotiate for compensation, recognition, a role on a project team, for a mentor?
  • How to sell yourself and your accomplishments with grace?
  • How to be assertive and still avoid labels of aggression or bitchiness?
  • How to respond (if at all, but perhaps more importantly what to think) when a man says you only got the job because you’re a woman (implying they had to hire a female to be politically correct?). Shocking, and this just happened in 2015!

For 30 years, I asked myself many of these same questions, and you’ll be interested to know that each of these comes directly from the women I interviewed for this series. While I’m just getting started with my research, I am confident (no pun intended) that I will continue to hear more about this very important area of gender equality. Naturally, not every woman (or man, for that matter) has a confidence problem, but it seems to be fairly prevalent. Certainly, it is more common than I originally thought.

And, it has me wondering – from where does our general lack of confidence come? Research studies are starting to cite how western-culture working women suffer from “cultural bias”.  Is it how we have been raised? Did it start when we were newborn, as mothers tend to hold baby girls differently than baby boys? To be honest, I can’t think of anything else – why would so many women experience the same levels of low confidence when it comes to our own sense of worth and our “place” at work and home? I’m not blaming you, mom…honest! I’m saying if it’s cultural bias, then it comes from our own cultural expectations and beliefs about the roles that women and men play.

Here’s what I wish a woman would have told me – you own your own stuff. In the fight towards gender parity (and it sometimes feels like battle, doesn’t it?), it seems what ever is stacked against women is placed there by the men who are in charge. I felt that way for a long time. After all, how can we women be in our own way? But you know the truth of it? We own it. We women are responsible for our thoughts and beliefs, and for co-creating the very cultural bias that we perceive now holds us back. If we choose to believe – we earned the seat at the big table, our experience and opinions are valued, we deserve the recognition, we expect to be compensated at the same level, we are fearless to initiate the conversations that get us there – what, then, could really hold us back?

What can you do to develop your own confidence at work and in life? Your answer is unique to you, so start with this list as a brain teaser to get your ideas flowing:

  • Fake it ’til you make it. You’ve heard this before, but now there’s science to prove that it works. When you’re feeling timid to speak up for yourself, pretend that it’s natural and do it anyway. The more you practice doing this, your subconscious mind will begin to accept the behavior as your new normal, and your brain will continue to adapt and establish and deepen neural pathways that make it easier and easier over time. Start small and in safe environments, like with your coach, mentor, and trusted colleagues.
  • Ask for help and hire a coach. Everyone can benefit by working with a coach, including me (in fact, I have two coaches!). When you are ready to change, a career or leadership coach will be instrumental in helping you expand your confidence levels in ways that feel right to you.  And, your coach will offer you a perspective that your manager, colleagues, closest friends and family simply cannot –  or will not – share.
  • Choose to believe.  Decide that you are going to start believing something better about yourself and that you deserve to be in your position, recognition for that great idea, equal pay, a voice and to be heard, and so on. Those who know me personally might not believe this, but there have been countless times when I chose to keep quiet in meetings because I decided the risk of my ideas being rejected was too high. Really? That was my own self-limiting internal dialogue getting in my own way. Decide you’re better than that, and decide you’re going to develop and grow into your fabulous career with equal stature and equal pay.

Stay tuned for Part III!


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