For October 19th, National Women’s Enterprise Day, I was thinking about a theme that is emerging with many of my clients, especially women… their search for confidence.
In that old Mel Gibson movie “What Women Want”, his character magically finds himself able to read women’s minds. We don’t need to be mindreaders to see that what many women feel they lack, whether in leadership and business, or working at home, is confidence.
I work with many clients, some male but predominantly female, who at some point in our coaching sessions will say; “if only I had the confidence… more confidence… her confidence… “. What is it, this elusive thing that we tell ourselves we don’t have? Where is it? If you had it before, where did it go? Maybe you left it behind in a taxi or it vanished down the back of the sofa… On some level, many people experience that “impostor syndrome” where they are only “pretending” that they are truly competent and that one day they will be found out!
Confidence and Trust
I looked up the Latin origin of the word confidence… “confidere” .. to trust in, rely firmly upon. So confidence is all about the ability to trust in yourself, and your ability to cope with whatever life or situations may throw at you. We have all been in crisis situations in the past, in work and personal life, where we have surprised ourselves with our ability to cope. We often underestimate ourselves and tell ourselves that we couldn’t possibly do things, but ignore the evidence to the contrary.
Confidence – the chicken or the egg?
We think of confidence as something that you need to find, in order to achieve your goal. But I believe that confidence comes from getting stuff done; it’s not necessarily something you have to start out with. You build confidence, like you build fitness – you’ve got to work on it – even the most seemingly confident people will have ups and downs, but they manage to work through this. They have compassion for themselves and they know that the feelings of difficulty and doubts in their confidence will pass.
Questions to ask
Ask yourself – are there some things or areas I feel more confident in? Were there times I felt confident? Why is or was that? How can I get support with areas I feel less confident in? What actions can I take to build my confidence in the areas I want to grow? Maybe you could join a women’s business network or build your own group of like-minded peers.
Getting past caring
Most importantly, I believe that there is one significant way to help women find their confidence.
In my experience the best and most important way to build your confidence is simply – stop caring what other people think! Now I’m not saying that you should parade naked down the main street – what you do in your own time is up to you. Of course you need to be mindful of your brand and your professional reputation, and it is usually helpful to look at what you want to achieve from other people’s perspectives. However I am talking about the second-guessing, mind-reading, anticipating what people will think and say about you and things you want to try – that holds you back.
Maybe you hold back from making that follow up phone call, or submitting that proposal, or asking your boss for what you want, because you worry what they will think… Sometimes it’s what if I fail and make a fool of myself. Or worse, what if I am successful – will they think I’ve got above myself or am arrogant or overbearing or whatever. Many women find it difficult to be assertive because they don’t want to be thought of as being aggressive, or bossy or demanding – which is a very different thing.
The bottom line is … the people you worry about are far too busy worrying about themselves (and what you think of them!) to be thinking about you. You can’t control what they’re thinking – so are you going to let that stand in your way?
“What other people think of you is none of your business”
The popularity of techniques such as mindfulness and meditation indicates that many of us have enough thoughts of our own bothering us, without worrying about other people’s also. That’s an awful lot of thinking – and wasted mental energy – and we really have no idea what goes on in other people’s heads. If they want to judge, that’s their problem. Anyone you really care about and who cares about you will respect your desire to succeed and willingness to try stuff.
“Compare yourself to no-one”
We often compare ourselves unfavourably to other people – I’ll never be as successful as her, or as confident – but we are judging our own inner selves by other people’s outer “mask” or game face ! Is this serving you?
So if you’re finding that your biggest obstacle is “what other people think of me” – it’s worth maybe talking or writing about that. What is your worry or fear related to this? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
You will probably find that in fact, the person who is doing all the judging, and thinking and undermining … is you, not “them”…
So next time you find yourself searching valiantly for your confidence, remember that it’s there with you – find ways to exercise it and let it out and play, and find genuine support from people who believe in and encourage you!
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Marianne Williamson
Liz Barron, Realize Coaching is a Leadership and Team Development Coach who helps people (irrespective of gender!) to realize their full potential, in professional and personal life. She is a board member of the International Coach Federation in Ireland and a member of the Women In Business Network (WIBN Ireland) www.realize.ie