I have some very specific year end rituals that I use to close one year and begin the new one. It includes a lot of planning, dreaming, and setting intentions. It’s also a time of reflection. As I went through that process in December, I began to think a lot about what helps some people achieve their goals and stick to their plans and resolutions when others don’t. I was thinking about business goals in particular. Those big, hairy kind that lead to your dream business and salary. And I kept coming back to one word…Confidence.
I didn’t realized that a lack of confidence was such an epidemic in our country and the world, until I started coaching and mentoring others about a decade ago. It still blows my mind each time I encounter a talented, beautiful, brilliant, woman that has so little confidence in herself and her ability. And this happens almost every week.
I also didn’t realize until recent years how valuable it is for someone, typically a parent or another important adult in your life like a teacher, to give you the gift of believing in you. I was lucky to have two loving and supportive parents that helped me believe I could be anything that I wanted to be. They have supported me emotionally, physically, and financially. They helped me get a great education and start my own business. But I realize not everyone has this.
What I find so often when consulting with creative entrepreneurs, is that someone in their life (or someone absent from their life) didn’t give them the unconditional love and support needed to cultivate an attitude of fearlessness and the unbridled confidence that each of us needs to make it out in the big, scary world! Even worse, sometimes those that are supposed to love and support you actually planted seeds of self-doubt and insecurity in your thoughts, that you just can’t help but believe.
When I started my consulting business, my goal was to give as many women entrepreneurs as I possibly could, this kind of love and support to help them reach their dreams. I love more than anything building people up, showing them how amazing they are, and holding their hand as they reach for and achieve their dreams! And through this process, my suspicions were confirmed that most of the women I worked with were not only lacking in confidence, but were at a loss for how to boost theirs in the midst of wearing multiple hats and keeping lots of balls in the air.
What I now know is that women struggle with confidence even more than men. In the book the Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay talk about this epidemic among women and outline strategies to close the confidence gap between men and women. They say “Confidence is life’s enabler. It is the quality that turns thoughts into action. And women need more of it”. I agree, confidence is definitely a great life strategy for taking action. And action is the difference between having a dream and realizing it.
In her book Lean in, Sheryl Sandberg says that men will walk into a job interview with 25% knowledge and 100% confidence and women come to the same interview with 100% knowledge and 25% confidence. So if you are an entrepreneur, especially a female entrepreneur, confidence just might be your most important business strategy.
Isn’t it interesting that when we are pre-teen or teenaged girls we think we know everything…way more than our parents, teachers, most other adults and definitely boys. But somewhere in our adolescence or early adulthood, our confidence does a complete 180 degree turn.
Then the funny thing about confidence, or the lack of it, is that even fairly early in business, most entrepreneurs know everything they need to know at that moment to fulfill their wildest dreams. They just don’t think they do. So I am constantly reassuring those I mentor either through my consulting business, here on the blog, or even through social media that you can stop searching for the answer, and just start listening to your gut and following your heart. They will lead you right where you need to go. But I get it, trusting yourself is hard. It’s the chicken and the egg. It takes confidence to trust ourselves but if we don’t trust ourselves, we don’t ever build confidence. So how do we move forward?
Awareness that we have a confidence problem is the first step. Then getting from where we are, to where we need to be on the confidence meter requires work. Here are 7 key steps that have made the most difference for my clients and me…
1. Give up perfectionism.
So why are we so lacking in confidence? One big player in this insecurity epidemic is perfectionism. And it’s probably no surprise that women are more likely to be perfectionist than men. In a culture where women are expected give 100% at home, 100% at work and also look great and be in a good mood, we constantly struggle to measure up.
“Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.” – Brene Brown
In her book Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown gives us many options for embracing our imperfections to increase our confidence and get what we want out of life. We grab onto perfectionism because we believe it’s a survival tactic. But it’s actually zapping every ounce of confidence we had to begin with.
I believe part of my purpose is helping other women business owners have the confidence to not be perfect, to not know it all. Most women I talk to say “I am just scared because I don’t know all the steps to get me to the result I want.” It’s important to realize no one does. Even the super successful women and men you admire, learned by taking a chance and giving things a try. They often had no idea if it would work or not. And the most successful people fail many more times than they succeed.
Learning is one of the best parts of life. And helping people open their eyes and their minds to all the questions, all the possibilities, and watching as they courageously try different solutions to see what works for them, is what inspires me. There is no one size fits all approach to life and business. Creating a business and a life you love takes trial and error. It takes letting go of perfectionism because we know that we must try things and fail, to figure out what works for us and what doesn’t.
2. Just decide
So if confidence needs to be our business strategy, and perfectionism isn’t an option, what do we do next? Well start by asking yourself this question…What could you achieve in business (and life), if you decided to become totally and blissfully impervious to hostile criticism and rejection? The answer of course, is you could achieve everything. But the key part of the question is what if you DECIDED?
I think the easiest and most effective way to become confident is to just DECIDE. Yes, it’s that easy. Just decide that you don’t care what other people say or think of you. Decide it’s ok to make mistakes and to fail. Decide that any action is better than inaction. Just decide. Because it’s the deciding and the trying and ultimately, the surviving the things that don’t work, that leads to confidence.
3. What people think of you is none of your business
If you ask any of my friends and clients, they will tell you that my very favorite saying of all time is this…”What other people think of me is none of my business!” I remind my clients (and myself) of this profound quote each time a shred of doubt creeps into their self-talk or their client’s opinion, their spouse’s feedback, or their mother’s comments.
Of course, having the love and support of those special people in your life makes having confidence easier. But having that sort of support isn’t a requirement for confidence or success. If you can’t move forward without their approval, you have some major people-pleasing going on and that’s a huge confidence killer.
It’s wonderful to have people who love you and want the best for you, to give you support. But you don’t have to take their opinions to heart if they aren’t serving you. You can kindly and sincerely thank those people for loving you enough to give great advice. And then you can only take the advice or feedback that fits with your goals and dreams. You can be grateful to them for sharing it with you, while still not taking their advice. You see, the way confidence works, is the more you love your own decisions, the less you need others to love them.
Yes, hear me out here…I am giving you permission to leave all other advice and comments behind, without saying a word, without making the giver feel bad or stupid, and without any guilt on your part attached to not taking it. In fact don’t even tell them that you didn’t. Just treat them with love and appreciation and then give that same courtesy to yourself. No beating yourself up. No tearing yourself down. No strings attached. You are the only person who needs to love your decision, period.
4. Embrace your flaws and own being 100% you
Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something that we are not. Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s also the thief of confidence. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. It is only when you accept everything that you are and all the things you are not, that you will be truly confident and successful. To have confidence as your top business strategy, you have to be ok with being yourself and live the story only you can.
One of my favorite children’s books is I like Myself by Karen Beaumont. I’ve read it to my daughter dozens of times and know the words almost by heart. It starts with “I like myself because I’m me, there’s no one else I’d rather be.” Take pride in being uniquely you and the story of your own unique life because it’s amazing. And find others to surround yourself with that appreciate your authenticity while you slowly and quietly move away from those that don’t. Be proud, be confident and most of all be happy just being you.
5. Do what you Fear the most
The fastest way to acquire confidence is to do exactly what you are most afraid of doing. Surround yourself with people who will stand behind you with a smile, ready to catch you if you fall, while you push yourself to do those things that are most frightening to you.
“Confidence never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.” –Earl Stevens
And remember that so often the things we fear aren’t really that scary. If your biggest fear is being wrong or looking stupid, then you shouldn’t be scared at all. Everyone is wrong, every single day, hundreds of times. And looking stupid–we’ve got tons of practice at it. So why should we fear these things? What would happen if we embraced them? What if this fear becomes our friend? And if each time we are wrong, or we look stupid, what if we remind ourselves that we are one step closer to getting it right? What if we think of it as a blessing because we now know one more thing that won’t work, so we can move on to the things that will?
You are confined only by the walls you build yourself. Don’t build walls based on your fears or they will be the thing that stands between you and confidence.
6. Change your mindset and redefine success
When you can say to yourself with total conviction, I can alter my life by altering my mindset (and attitude), you have started on the path to confidence. In fact, you may even be half way there.
And if we redefine what it means to be happy and successful, combined with a change in our mindset, then we can be happy and confident every day. It’s that easy. We get to write our own success standards and we can write them so we can achieve them. We don’t have to set ourselves up for failure, but instead can set ourselves up for ultimate happiness and success!
7. Love Yourself
If we learn to love ourselves through our successes and our failures, confidence will follow. If we learn that neither our successes or failures define us, but that we are worthy of love through our ups and our downs, then a bad moment, doesn’t become a bad day, doesn’t become a bad life. A bad moment is just that…a bad moment and since it only lasts a moment, then how painful can it really be?
“At the end of the day, you won’t be happy until you love yourself.” –Lady Gaga
Don’t ever be afraid to show up as who you really are, because as long as you love yourself, no one else’s opinion matters. When we are happy with the person we are, just the way we are at this moment, no matter what our weight or the size of our bank accounts, we will exude confidence.
8. Take Care of you
Take care of yourself. It matters. Most of us lack confidence because we feel like failures most days. And no wonder we do. We are up against impossible to do lists and impossible expectations and as women, we usually put our needs last on the list behind clients, family and everyone else.
Recently I was reading the book Love and logic for Teens in hopes of getting some insight in helping my almost teenaged daughter be her best. But what I read in the book surprised me. One of the main concepts was “Take care of yourself first”. When we are focused on our teens, this advice sounds selfish, doesn’t it? But it makes total sense. There is a reason why on an airplane they say “put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others.” Love and Logic for Teens suggests that if you are not taking care of your own needs, you won’t be in a physical or emotional state to be the calm and logical parent your teen needs, as they are navigating the hard years between childhood and adulthood. And I agree that if others need you they need you to be healthy and clear headed and emotionally available. I know from experience that f you don’t take care of you, you won’t be any of these.
Promise me (and yourself) that you will do at least one thing each day that will make you feel at least a little bit better than you did yesterday. Because when we take care of ourselves we are at our best. And when we are at our best, we have more confidence. And a little confidence breeds more confidence. So ultimately self care=confidence! I am giving you permission today to practice self care. And to practice confidence. Because practice makes perfect.
You are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe and smarter than you think you are.
If these 8 steps seem like more than you can tackle, don’t worry. It starts with just one tiny step. One tiny moment of knowing you are strong, brave and smart. In that moment, you will have confidence. And that one moment will lead to the next, and the next.
And yes, sometimes insecurity will still creep back in. But you will now recognize it as someone you used to know. And you can embrace it. And then you can escort it right out of your life with a smile!
Confidence takes work, so start today. Believe in yourself and know I believe in you too.
Be sure to leave me a comment on how I can help you have more confidence this year.