Would you describe yourself as a confident person?
More women lack confidence than men. Often called “the confidence gap,” this feeling can stem from fears of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, childhood trauma or an overall lack of self-worth. Not feeling confident can hold us back from discovering our gifts, speaking up against injustice and challenging the status quo. This issue keeps us quiet and complacent and prevents us from fulfilling our potential.
In my early childhood years, I struggled with confidence issues. I didn’t want to raise my voice to argue my case, so I said yes to things I hated. This reluctance to speak up continued into my early business career.
In September 2009, I celebrated the second anniversary of my restaurant back home in Nigeria. Since my business had taken off in its first two years, I was able to hire a PR agency run by Charles Otudor to organize the event. As a result, five government officials, multiple TV and radio crews and seven state and national newspaper crews were there for the celebration. I prepared well for my opening speech, and I was eloquent in front of the crowd. However, when it came time for press interviews, I faltered and froze. My heart was pounding, and I forgot half of what I had planned to say. I was filled with the fear of being judged. Later, I even refused to watch the replay.
By the time my family and I moved to the Netherlands in 2013, I had gained more confidence. However, as a newcomer to the country, I found that, once again, I had trouble speaking up in front of strangers. My tipping point came during a conversation with one of my mentors.
I learned that it’s okay to speak up even if people don’t approve of me. The knowledge that I didn’t have to please everyone was comforting, but I realized I had to work on my mindset.
Since then, I have given more than 10 interviews and spoken before at least 15 large audiences, including my valedictorian address at Webster University’s 2018 graduation ceremony. I also have conducted over 50 workshops for my company, delivered three seminars, conducted four webinars, and launched Women In Leadership’s “Rise and Lead Summit.”
I have come a long way in closing the confidence gap for myself. I want to share with you five steps you can take to build your confidence.
1. Cultivate a desire to grow.
Although my lack of confidence didn’t affect my business growth, it did limit my opportunities. After I turned down a fantastic speaking engagement due to my fear of public speaking, I realized I had to learn to become more confident.
I began reading books on personal development and leadership. I found Jack Canfield’s book The Success Principles to be particularly helpful. “You only have control over three things in your life—the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take,” Canfield writes in his book.
I also attended public speaking workshops and worked with a speaking coach to help me work on my confidence issues during public appearances.
Everything we do starts with self-awareness. It draws us to opportunities and drives our passions. Do you look at people in authority and feel you never can achieve that position? Do you allow envy and jealousy to overpower your thoughts? Instead of entertaining these negative thoughts, recognize that, at the right time, you can achieve that same status and even go beyond.
Once you create a clear goal, you will take the steps needed to turn it into reality one step at a time.
2. Commit to your goals.
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans,” writes Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-born American management consultant and author.
Growth requires commitment. If you desire to drive change in your business, in your community and your world, then you must commit to achieving that goal. Speak up during a networking meeting, launch that small business or say yes to that TV interview.
No matter how many leadership development trainings you attend or how many books you read, nothing will happen if you don’t implement what you have learned. What do you want to accomplish within the next few months? Within the next year? Now, what do you need to do to commit yourself to achieve these goals?
3. Say yes to opportunities.
When I was finally ready to take action, I said yes to any speaking engagement and interview opportunity that came my way. I also embraced the idea of offering workshops to share my knowledge with others. Not only did these events serve to boost my confidence, but they were also good for my business.
Reach out to organizations in your industry or your community for ways you can get more involved. Keep your mind open. Remember that every step, no matter how small, is better than no action at all. British business magnate Richard Branson puts it this way, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
4. Reward yourself for your efforts.
Did you speak up at that meeting today? Did you send out a promotional email for the first time without feeling like a fraud? Did you land that job interview?
Celebrate your successes – no matter how small they may appear. I reward myself by going out with a friend once in a while and by just allowing myself to be happy. Celebrating your successes will increase your confidence, which, in turn, will drive you to achieve more of your goals.
According to an article in Success Magazine, real achievement requires risk and, yes, some amounts of failure. So, make sure to reward yourself for the steps you are taking, such as the number of proposals you just sent out or the fact that you just spoke with that dream client you were too timid to approach before.
5. Find your tribe.
As women, we cherish community, friendships and connection. However, we need to learn when to seek approval and when to walk alone.
Some people may have watched you on your path to growth and may want to bring you down. Please stay away from them. Instead, seek out individuals who are higher up the ladder and ask for their support. Successful people are more willing to help you than you may realize.
Connecting and receiving guidance from other bold women leaders changed the game for me by pushing me out of my comfort zone and enabling me to grow. Many organizations provide mentorship for their members. For example, Rise and Lead Forum offers a Mentoring Circle to support ambitious women who are ready to step into the highest potential in their careers. Our meetings are led by dedicated facilitators who create safe spaces for participants to connect, learn and grow both offline and online. The focus of our mentoring program is on helping women transform into who they desire to become – a rising star!
My favorite books on the subject of women and confidence are Carol Sankar’s Confidence Factor For Women in Business: Strategies For Limitless Success and the Dale Carnegie classic, How To Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People. You can also read other books and articles on the topic of self-confidence, self-worth, public speaking and seek out mentors to support you in your growth trajectory.
Sanker writes, “Confidence helps us to stand tall, take risks, think outside the box and helps us not to settle for less than we deserve.” I encourage you to set goals to become more confident, commit to speaking up at every opportunity and join a mentoring circle.