3 Strategies for Women to Cultivate Confidence

How is confidence defined? Do some women seemingly “have it” and others must work harder at it? Or, is it developed over time based on our experiences? There are tons of books on the subject so we’re certainly not at a loss for data that answers the above questions. There are female athletes who dominate their sport on the field, court, pool, ice, gym, etc., but once they get in the locker room the self-doubt emerges. Very successful businesswomen label themselves as “lucky” by being in the right place at the right time vs. earning their position based on talent, dedication and hard work. The imposter syndrome rears its ugly head and we hope that “they” never find out that we don’t belong. Why do women automatically jump to the mindset of what we can’t do vs. being proud of what we can do?

In the book, The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman say “Confidence is more important than ability to get ahead.” Richard Petty -- an Ohio State professor they interviewed while writing the book -- said, “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” However, we don’t simply turn on the switch one day and become confident. It is developed over time based on a series of experiences which may be successes but may also include challenges. It starts with what Socrates declared, “Know Thyself.”

I’ve worked with several women over the years who struggle with gaining and maintaining confidence. They avoid taking risks, continually apologize for things they don’t need to apologize for and strive for continuous perfection.

Here are three WorkLife steps to building confidence:

1. Know Thyself

The most important first step is to assess where you’re at in terms of what drives you and what you’re interested in followed by identifying your strengths. Our coaching relationships begin by introducing our clients to the Birkman Method. The Birkman provides insights into what motivates the individual by identifying needs. When we know what our needs are then we can avoid stress behavior. I’ve found in my research that confidence slips away because we are unclear about our motivators/needs and therefore get stuck in the stress zone.

2. A Personal Brand Audit

How do I show up? With the information provided in the Birkman assessment, individuals are better able to know where they stand in decision making, ability to speak up, getting along with others, handling change interruptions, and what’s needed for ongoing performance. Continually take a self-audit on your role and job performance, your knowledge of the corporate culture, your relationships with clients and co-workers, and assess ways to “market” yourself.

3. Schedule Rehearsal Time

We all know the adage – practice makes perfect. Why then don’t we build in rehearsal time for a new role or project, for the product launch, for working with a new team, for taking on a leadership role….and the list goes on. Begin with creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to help you discover how to manage the journey and explore the opportunities that are available. The IDP becomes the script to help focus on possibilities of the future to create a sense of readiness for whatever may happen, and it increases confidence by knowing the value you bring to your work and life. Ask for ongoing, informal feedback discussions.  This is where you get to rewrite, edit and practice, practice, practice.

While confidence isn’t formed overnight, it can be cultivated. Take action, make a plan and don’t apologize for doing what’s best for you and increase your confidence all around.