“Confidence helps us to stand tall, take risks, think outside the box and helps us not to settle for less than we deserve.” – Carol Sanker, “Confidence Factor for Women in Leadership”.
Most women lack confidence, especially more than men. Many factors contribute to this, including fear of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, childhood trauma and lack of self-worth. A lack of confidence can hold us back from discovering our gifts, speaking up against injustice, and challenging the status quo. Women often hesitate to say “no.” However, this very issue keeps us quiet and complacent, and the potential lost opportunities are endless.
In my early childhood years, I used to struggle with this problem. I wouldn’t speak up. I didn’t want to raise my voice to argue my case, and I said yes to things I hated.
It was in September 2009; I celebrated the second anniversary of my restaurant back home in Nigeria. There were at least ten journalists, three or four TV crews, 4 radio crews, and 7 national and state newspaper crews. My business was very successful within two years so I could afford to hire a PR agency, run by Charles Otudor, to organise the event. During my opening speech, I was eloquent and outspoken in front of the crowd because I had received some coaching before the event. However, when it was time for the more intimate press interview, my heart was beating very fast and surrounded by all these media crews (mostly because 5 government officials had come to my event), I froze. I forgot half of what I had planned to say and later refused to watch the replay. I didn’t want to put myself out there for fear of being judged.
When I arrived in the Netherlands, I was more confident than before. I was new in the country, but yet again I found I couldn’t speak up in front of strangers. My tipping point came from a conversation with Poonam Barua of Forum For Women In Leadership, and co-founder of Rise and Lead Women Forum. I saw how bold and powerful she was and I asked her to mentor me.
“It’s okay if people don’t like it but ensure you make your voice heard in any setting,” she told me. The knowledge that I didn’t have to please everyone was a big comfort. However, I still had to work on my mindset to believe it was okay to speak up even if people didn’t approve of me.
Since my mentorship with Poonam, I have given at least 10 interviews, spoken at more than 15 events in front of a large crowd and was the valedictorian of the 2018 graduating class at Webster University. I have conducted over 50 workshops for my company, delivered three seminars, conducted four webinars and recently launched a Women In Leadership summit called the “Rise and Lead Summit”.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you are afraid to speak up, here are six 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.
I even turned down a fantastic speaking engagement due to my fears. As soon as I decided to learn how to overcome my fear of public speaking I knew I had to learn to become more confident. I read books on personal development and leadership. Jack Canfield’s “Success Principles,” was particularly helpful. I attended training and hired a speaking coach to help me work on my confidence issues during public appearances.
I believe that everything we do starts with self-awareness. It puts our mind to work, draws us to opportunities and drives our passions. Do you look at people in authority and feel that can never be you? Do you allow envy and jealousy to overpower your thoughts? Instead of entertaining these negative and limiting beliefs, know that at the right time, you can achieve the same status or even go beyond it. If you create this vision, you will take the steps needed to turn it into reality. If you desire to improve yourself in any way, start by articulating a vision of what is possible, then create a goal to achieve your dreams one step at a time.
2. Commit to showing up
Growth requires commitment. If you desire to speak up and drive changes around you, then make it your goal and commit to achieving that goal. It may be as little as speaking up during a networking meeting or setting up a small business, or as massive as appearing on TV. No matter how many leadership development trainings you attend, nothing will happen if you don’t implement what you have learned. To do so, think of something you want to have or achieve. Take the time to settle on what you want to accomplish within the next few months. Now, commit yourself to your ambition and goals.
3. Take quick actions
When I was finally ready to take actions and show up, I said yes to any opportunity to speak, be interviewed and to offer workshops. I implore you today to begin to take steps to achieve your dreams. Reach out to someone who is in charge of what you need and keep your mind open. Say yes to the opportunities that matter to you. Along the way, you may find things are not working perfectly. Remember that every step, no matter how small, is better than no action at all.
4. Reward yourself for your efforts
Celebrate your success – no matter how small they appear. It could be the fact that you spoke up at a networking meeting, or on stage. Alternatively, maybe, for the very first time, you sent out sales letters without feeling like a fraud. Treat it all as a cause for celebration. I reward myself by going out with a friend once in a while and just allowing myself to be happy. Celebrating your successes will increase your confidence which will drive you to achieve more.
5. Stay in the circle of people who will encourage you to reach your goals
As women, we love and cherish community, friendships, and connection. However, it would be best if you learned when to seek such approval and when to walk alone. Some people have watched you on your path to growth and may want to bring you down for no good reason. Once you recognise that, 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 realise. Stop staying stuck in your comfort zone, decide to rise and take the lead instead.
6. Find your tribe of mentors
Connecting and receiving mentorship from Poonam Barua and a few other bold women leaders changing the game pushed me to grow out of my comfort zone.
It would help if you had mentors in any area your considerably to desire to grow. Many organisations provide mentorship for their members. An example of such an organisation is the Rise and Lead Forum. The Rise and Lead Mentoring Circle offers support to ambitious women and change-makers who are ready to step out of obscurity and step into the highest potential in their career and business. The meetings are held in a mastermind setting with a dedicated facilitator who creates safe spaces for the participants to connect, learn and grow both offline and online.
Several books have addressed the issue of lack of confidence. My favourite is Carol Sankar’s “Confidence Factor For Women in Business: Strategies For Limitless Success” and Dale Carnegie’s “How To Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People”. You can also read other books on the topic of self-confidence, self-worth, public speaking or seek out mentors to support you in your growth trajectory.
At Rise and Lead Women Leadership Program, the focus is on helping women transform into who they desire to become – a rising star!
I encourage you to set goals to become more confident, commit to speaking up in every meeting you attend or join a mentoring circle.