One of the most common themes I hear from women who come to me for coaching is “I want to increase my confidence.” These are highly talented, well educated, ambitious women…yet they’re doubting themselves. Some have been in the workforce for years, or in a job for a while, others are new to a role and some are looking to make a move up or onward. They’re feeling down because something is holding them back.
Our lack of confidence keeps us from realizing our dreams.
I see too many women struggle with confidence in the workplace. That’s not to say that men don’t struggle with confidence, but it is a very prevalent theme for women. It takes a lot of energy to doubt and second guess ourselves. It exhausts us.
This does not have to be a permanent condition. There are things we can do to build ourselves up. Here are a few that I’ve seen in my experience as a leadership and career coach that can help us overcome those doubts and begin to feel more at ease with ourselves.
Knowledge: We feel better when we’re in familiar territory. That’s the good news and the bad news. If we know what we’re talking about, if we feel trained in an area, we’re more likely to feel confident. Building your skills will build your confidence. Caution: Don’t stay somewhere too long just because it’s familiar.
External Validation: Many of us need external validation of our competence. I’ve met the occasional woman who feels very self-assured and is adamant that she doesn’t need recognition or accolades to know she’s doing a good job. That may be true. But I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t want to feel valued and appreciated for what they are doing. Words of appreciation build us up and boost our confidence. Call it recognition or call it appreciation – it’s all external validation. We feel better when others notice and affirm us. Conversely, if you’ve ever worked in a place where all you heard was criticism, negativity or apathy, after a while it will wear you down.
We all enjoy the validation from others that affirms our value and competence.
Experience: I have a little saying I use with the kids in my life: “If you’re afraid of something, you have to try it.” Obviously within reason and safety. Trying what we’re afraid of diminishes the fear. It makes us realize how unreal our fears can be.
There are so many little things that we subconsciously fear. We’re afraid to ask for a promotion. We’re afraid to say no. We’re afraid to claim our ideas when others take them over. We’re afraid to ask to be sponsored for a development program. Why? Because we fear a negative answer. Yet if we don’t ask, we never find out and we never move past it. We have no evidence to suggest what will happen, we just make up the stories about what could happen. Which leads to my last point:
The Stories In Our Head: We tell ourselves stories about what will happen if … Those stories rarely have a happy ending. That’s the problem. We discount ourselves before we ever get past step one.
A few months ago I was speaking with a woman who had been asked to apply for a CEO job of a non-profit organization. She had worked in that organization at a lower level several years ago, was known by the Board members and had since moved on to other jobs where she had increasing roles in leadership, operations, client support, …pretty much every area that the CEO would need.
When I asked her about the job, she opened with all the things they were looking for that she didn’t have. Most of those were technicalities, but that’s what drew her attention and that’s what she focused on. I then asked her, “Tell me why you’re qualified for this job.” She lit up when she started talking about all her relevant experiences and how she would run the organization. Suddenly she stopped when the lightbulb went on. “Oh.” She sighed. “I get it. I’m busy talking myself down when I am fully qualified for this job.”
Yep. I’ve seen it too many times. The stories in our head are about what we can’t do, when our focus should be on what we CAN do.
When we’re afraid or doubting, we can move forward with courage to try and we can put effort into improving our mindset. When we do, our confidence increases and we find that we really CAN achieve our goals.
If you’d like support in boosting your confidence in your career, let’s talk.
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