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Confidence – Under Our Control

By Galia Barhava-Monteith

My view on most things is that it takes two to tango.  No one party is ever wholly responsible for a situation and, in order to resolve it, both parties need to take responsibility. In my view, the answer to why there aren’t enough women at senior levels lies in both the organisation and the individual, and that is why we at Professionelle work with both organisations and individual women to advance women’s careers.

After many years of working with women, I have come to the realisation that the one thing women can do for themselves to progress their career is to concentrate on building their confidence – as opposed to getting more qualifications which is what many tend to do.

Why Confidence Above All Else?

The common thread underlying why women hold themselves back is lack of confidence. It is so common that I see it as a chronic state that characterises many women and it becomes so ingrained that it goes unnoticed. Below are some examples that I think will resonate with many of you.

  1. When applying for jobs, most women opt not to send their CV in if they think there is 20% of the role they aren’t qualified for. Men, however, will apply if they think they qualify for 60% of a role.
  2. Many women find pay negotiations painful to say the least. They tell us that they don’t even try to negotiate. They often think the role is so good that it would be rude to negotiate and that, frankly, they feel lucky to be given the opportunity.
  3. In one of our Power Coaching events, a panellist told the group that women often mistake sharing their weaknesses as being authentic.  She pointed out how many of us feel the need to tell everyone what we can’t do and where we need to develop. Men don’t seem to share that burden.

Why Is It so Difficult for Us?

I don’t believe women need fixing and you won’t be seeing a Professionelle course on confidence. I do think, however, that by becoming more aware and educated about such things as unconscious bias, we can become more deliberate and strategic about our actions and how we can operate in our professional environments to our full potential. 

Let’s face it; all around us the messages about how women should come across in a socially respectable way are not exactly conducive to encouraging us to be confident and assertive. 

How to Overcome?

Keep reminding yourself of your achievements.  There is nothing better for one’s confidence than taking regular time to reflect on the things that you have achieved through your hard work, your tenacity, and your capability. Also be very careful to catch yourself when you undermine yourself in speech or in writing. Try hard not to over-apologise, another thing so many of us do. Most importantly, surround yourself with people who help ‘boost’ your confidence, not undermine it.  And if you feel you are being undermined, recognise the situation and take control of it, either by removing yourself from it, or the people who undermine you. 

Learn to ‘own’ your confidence.  Frankly, I’d rather be respected than be liked.  That compromise is one that, unfortunately, as women, we have to make to some extent in order for us to be and act confidently.  

To this day I hear people comment about other women’s ‘aggressive’ or ‘scary’ style and I think that in many ways it is almost easier to stay under confident, to do the ‘self-minimising’ talk, to point out all that we do wrong, lest we be seen as threatening to the men and some of the women around us.  And of course, if we project ourselves as insecure, people are more likely to look after us.

My Call to Action!

Be honest with yourself: if you look back and see that you have achieved some amazing things, own them. Be confident; catch your own ‘self minimising’ talk; stop apologising and second-guessing yourself. Take on appropriate stretch challenges that will build your confidence when you do them successfully, as you will.  

Because you see, as more of us become more confident, confident women will become the norm, at the very least in professional settings. If being a confident woman is the norm, then we will have cleared the path for our daughters to be all that they can be and confident with it!

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