I recently read an article on the confidence gap many women professionals are burdened by. Yep—I get it—and I witness it often. First I read the article published in The Atlantic a few weeks ago and then I followed up with an article published on the same topic (counterpoint) in The New Yorker. Interestingly enough, neither article had a remedy—only a multitude of reasons why (or not) women are a group of under-confident participants in today’s business society.
No matter which side of the discussion you fall on, the problem is not exclusive to women. In my time as CEO at Oneupweb, I’ve seen men and women deal with this challenge. And for as much “confidence” as I—or any leader for that matter—seem to have, there’s always a chink in the armor that can be exploited. We all question ourselves in certain circumstances.
Mind you, confidence is not the same as ego. We all struggle at one time or another with the line between the two, so here is a quote from Todd Henry that I believe sums it up well: “Ego says, ‘I can do no wrong’ whereas confidence says, ‘I can get this right.’ Confidence says, ‘I’m valuable’ while ego says, ‘I’m invaluable.’ This is a critical difference in mindset.”
So what can you do to build confidence?
Here are four tips I’ll share from my own perspective:
1) Take a psychology class.
No joke. A large part of confidence is reading the people you’re dealing with. Learning a bit about what makes the human species tick and why we say and do what we do will help you feel more certain. You’ll learn to read behaviors of those around you, which in turn will help build your confidence.
2) Be in the thick of it whenever you can.
Participate in as many “in the trench” internal meetings, presentations, etc. as you can. Listen to the information being discussed, but also study the folks around the table who have experience. Inflection, gestures, body language and timing all aid in portraying confidence. And if you happen to be participating in a project, know your part inside and out. It’ll help you build confidence and get you invited back to the table again.
3) Trust your gut.
Everyone has an intuitive sense, which can sometimes do battle with logic. Whenever your gut tells you one thing and your mind questions it, ask yourself my favorite question (if I trust my gut): “What’s the worst that can happen?” If the answer isn’t catastrophic, go with the gut.
4) Try something even if you risk failing.
It’s not only irritating to watch someone be a wallflower, it’s safe and chickenshit. Failing teaches life lessons, and when you experience small wins, it does amazing things to boost your confidence. You will fail at times whether you measure everything or not, so be out in front of it. Be the person who’s willing to take calculated risks and dare to succeed. It’ll also get you noticed and respected.
Do I need to remind you that no one is perfect? Confidence comes with experience and the chances you take. Over time, you will hopefully become more comfortable with who you are and the contributions you can make to a bigger picture.
The tips above are just a few ways I recommend to boost self-confidence. If you have a story related to confidence that you’d like to share—pass it along in the comments below.