I have worked around, for and over and with about as many women as men. The attributes of the successful ones, and I mean they that achieved higher positions within the organisation and not on a personal level, were pretty mixed. A quiet and phlegmatic head of accounts, a ‘work-hard-play –hard’ sales manager and a ‘country girl comes good’ account manager. There was no single attribute that all three of these successful women possessed to my knowledge bar possibly one; commitment.
They saw what they wanted and believed that they could get it. They were not overtly extrovert. They were not workaholics. They were not exceptionally intelligent academically. They were not always totally confident. They believed that they could do more, did it and received the benefits. They faced and conquered the same obstacles as men. Job for job, salary for salary. These women would state that they were no more confident than the women next to them but the were committed enough to find a way to present and communicate confidently and this in turn served to make them appear more confident. It was, and never is, simply about knowledge or experience, it is as much about how you can project and communicate trust and value.
So where does confidence come into this?
Confidence is an illusive creature in my experience and made all the trickier secure permanently because it seems to me that it is very much both an internal and external experience. The way that we feel inside and the way that we appear on the outside. And I think this is the nub of the issue – it’s as much, if not more, to do with how you appear, behave and generally ‘carry’ yourself as it is an intrinsic feeling of self esteem and value. I personally have always felt somewhat reserved in unknown groups – business and social. In these situations, however, if I ever did get forced into a conversation or if another less timid soul opened up a dialogue then I invariably discovered that they were not ‘that confident’ either, that they always struggled at this type of event and most commonly of all we generally agreed on who in the room looked confident. ‘I wish I was more like that’ being a familiar joint refrain.
But isn’t that just the point. Most of us question our self at some point and most of us have similar internal chatter. Not necessarily the same words, you understand, but the same context. Thoughts of being exposed somehow. Thoughts of inferior knowledge. Thoughts of adding nothing to the general conversation. Thoughts of inadequacy and doubt.
Well, there is a simple solution to this. A simple solution so that you, me, anyone, can appear more confident in most situations. The solution? Stop listening to the internal dialogue or better still, create some positive chatter. All of these internal representations and images are created by you based on your past experiences and current assumptions and they merge together (with a heady mix of chemicals, emotions and hormones) to stir up the butterflies and to dry out our throats. We run them and run them until we are so convinced that disaster and public humiliation loom that we actually create it. We question our self, run the old program, feel the fearful responses and guess what? Our physiology changes, our posture worsens, our breathing shallows, our face flushes and ‘boom’ – our confidence is shattered. All by our self! We don’t even need feedback; we know this to be true because ‘I am just not that confident’ is writ large across our whole demeanour. So just stop doing it. Now. Today.
My personal confidence has always been something that has troubled me. I never seemed to be able to strike a balance between reserved (incommunicative, distant, shy, grumpy) and arrogance (over-confident, over-bearing, unempathetic, pain in the arse). I had an expended spell where this situation dominated for a long period and self confidence and esteem were at a pretty permanent low. The old ‘mid-life crisis’. My battered self confidence needed major surgery. I, being somewhat analytical and requiring of structure, chose to follow a path, guide and his book. I chose to follow Dr Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. I followed it diligently in an attempt to benefit from his ethos and guidelines to see if I could re-discover myself, my mojo, my purpose and maybe even some peace. The story of this 15 month journey, warts and all, is presented in my latest book. If you want to see how I wrestled with self confidence, mid-life questions and a whole lot more, then please have a look.
I will finish today with a couple of points that will enable anyone to reduce the impact of potentially debilitating ‘I am not worthy’ syndrome
- you are worthy. If you are there (wherever ‘there’ is, you have usually done enough or shown enough potential to be there;
- many other people have had or are having similar thoughts. It is how you let these thoughts and emotions influence your behaviour that matters;
- be prepared. Preparation, research, organisation and planning ensure that you are aligning all of the conscious efforts into the situation at hand;
- perception is projection. What you think, you project so don’t let past experiences or current assumptions create negative emotions;
- listen to the feedback and change what needs changing for the next time. Be committed to improve your confidence. Do not take everything personally;
- Act as if! Watch and learn form other people. Look for ways that other people manage to ‘appear’ confident.
My own crisis of confidence has left me far more aware of how I think and how this makes me feel and so how I present myself and communicate. A smart suit and shiney shoes may help but I know for sure that self confidence is an internal issue first and foremost and after all, who is in charge of you, your thoughts and your emotions anyway?
You can pre-order the book, here