Ruby, Inc. asked a number of accomplished women what it took to boost their confidence. You’ll quickly find it wasn’t that they magically became confident when they lost a few pounds, when their breasts became even or even when they thought they were finally perfect. It was something far greater and far more achievable. You can read The Secret of Mastering Confidence here and Why Some Women Almost Always Appear Confident and Put Together here.
Several years ago in an interview for a local paper, the reporter asked me what people would be surprised to know about me.
That took no thought at all: “That I am not always as confident as I appear.”
Recently I told a group of women that people see the “public” side of us. They see our public personas which include our accomplishments or commendations; our successes. Essentially they see us in our comfort zone, talking about something we know a lot about or doing something we do really well.
What they don’t see are the failures that preceded our successes; how we feel about ourselves when we look in the mirror; what we really think about our competence to accomplish a particular goal. They don’t see us shaking in our boots or sweating bullets before a presentation (at least we hope they don’t!).
They see us acting confident, so they assume we are confident. My biggest fear when I do a presentation? That people will realize how much I really don’t know. (See? Told you – I’m not always as confident as I appear.)
Few of us are raised with an excess of confidence. Often we have so many voices telling us we can’t do something – or we’re not worth it – that we begin to believe it. We create stories about ourselves based on what those voices have told us. “I’m not good enough to do that.” “I don’t deserve to have that.” It’s quite a challenge to counteract those voices as they follow us through life.
My life was filled with those voices telling me I wasn’t smart, I wasn’t pretty, I needed a husband to take care of me, I would “never amount to anything.” When I got my first job at 16 as a telephone switchboard operator my mother told me how lucky I was because now I’d “always have something to fall back on in case [my] husband left me.”
So how did I go from the not-very-smart-never-amount-to-anything girl to an accomplished business owner, albeit one who appears to be more confident than she really is?
I worked really, really hard at something that was really, really hard for me to do. And with each little goal I accomplished on the way to the Big Goal I discovered that I really could accomplish things – and do them well. Each goal I achieved increased my self-confidence, which helped me to set new goals which increased my self-confidence and, well – you get the picture.
My recommendation to those of you who also struggle with low self-confidence is this: Set a really, really hard goal, and do it. You may not know exactly how you’ll do it, and you’ll need friends and supporters along the way. But our self-esteem and self-confidence are directly related to how hard we have to work to accomplish something.
Remember that the goal has to be your goal, not somebody else’s goal for you. And you have to be honest with yourself about whether you’re willing to do what it takes to accomplish it. Don’t set a goal you know you aren’t going to do?
While you’re thinking of what goal to set, consider the voices you have in your head. What messages have you heard? What stories have you told yourself because of those messages?
And what would you do if those stories weren’t true?