I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” — Oprah Winfrey
Humility is a woman’s enemy. It is an impediment to building self-confidence.
The evolution of my self confidence is complicated by the humility instilled in me during my childhood “Be, modest, never brag about yourself, be humble” was the message from my parents. I was taught that my accomplishments, hard work, good deeds would be recognized and rewarded. Self-promotion was a sin worthy of a Catholic confession!
I was an excellent student. My mother and father were quietly proud, but I felt that my success made others feel bad about their lack of accomplishments and achievements.
In my career, I relied on my resume, tenacity, hard work, accomplishments and other people to promote and advocate for me. I could not “brag factually and boldly,” as Linda Famaus recommends.
The lack of self-confidence stopped me from taking risks and taking advantage of career opportunities.
When interviewing for a position, I told the law firm partner that I was not familiar with the pharmaceutical industry. “You can read can’t you?” he asked.
“So you will read and learn.” I took that risk and accepted the position. Faking it was a survival mechanism I used to project self-confidence.
Through my 20s, 30s and 40s, I purposely crafted an image of being formidable. Power colors for suits, making eye contact, a firm hand shake, a tall sounding voice (I am a bit over 5 ft.) and owning the room. This image coupled with hard work and honed skills propelled my successful career.
A consequence of projecting this image and using this “fake it until you make it” approach, was that I also conveyed I was inaccessible and officious in my manner. I always felt I was not liked! This lack of likeability resulted in promotions denied, unwanted reassignments and a position eliminated! Being liked is important for relationships in the workplace and especially in executive management.
I started to feel real self-confidence when I turned 50. When I lacked self-confidence and was just faking it, I was a competent, respected executive.
When I began to develop real self-confidence, I became aware of my skills, knew my values, accepted by limitations and acknowledged my accomplishments, I became a leader. My self-confidence made me want to accomplish more than goals and tasks but to lead and make real societal changes. I cannot point to one a-ha moment for this change, but felt it more an evolution. I began to myself rather than others for answers. I stopped searching for the Holy Grail.
With real self-confidence, I found my voice and my soul!
As a female athlete, you need to have some form of confidence in order to be considered good at what you do. Most people when they think sports, they think men. Women who play sports and want to play them well have to go in with thick skin and a tough attitude because the intended insult behind “you play ball like a girl” hasn’t gone away yet.
When I was 5 years old my mother enrolled me into dance class. There I was, a naïve young girl, with a bow in her hair matching the bows on her shoes, in a beautiful light blue leotard and a lacy white tutu, hysterically crying throughout the entire dance recital. My mom realized maybe dance wasn’t for me, so my father enrolled me in soccer. Soccer, along with a number of other sports I participated in, contributed to my evolution and my strengths and weaknesses.
Sports taught me success and how to grow from the humiliation of crying during a recital to being a successful, respected athlete. I learned to appreciate me for me – a female athlete filled with passion and desire to be great. The perfect triangle of mind, body, and spirit grew within and I learned how to embrace the lessons from the playing field and apply them to everyday life.
For example, when I was 14 years old I had tried out for a 16-under softball team. I had been with the organization for years and instead of going in confidently, I went in like a know-it-all. I did not make the team. I was devastated. My mom said to me “in sport and in life nothing is ever handed to you, you have to earn everything.” I took that lesson and it has stuck with me forever.
I tried out for a new team and made it, which eventually led to me being recruited to play college softball. This experience taught me the difference between confidence and cockiness. Acting like a hot-shot gets you nowhere, whether it is in sport or real life. Being a know-it-all prevents others from contributing and affects ones’ ability to learn. Confidence; however, allows for me to be the respected leader and person I have always aspired to be.
In today’s society, it is difficult to not let what others think of you effect your self-worth. Women are constantly being judged on their looks, what they wear, and what their profession is.
Having confidence in yourself allows for you to ignore judgments, be the most authentic version of yourself, and you’re able to find true happiness. For me, my confidence is what makes me happy and helps other discover their true worth. I find that characteristic to be most valuable and allows for me to reap the desired rewards of success!
When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai
For each of these leadership topics we’ve shared our own individual experiences as a baby boomer and a millennial, shared some of the questions we are often asked and seek to answer in our work, and some related resources for women who want to explore further on their own.
Magazine Articles/Books/Digital Publications/Newspapers
Washingtonian (Magazine) Brittany Shepherd Title: Keeping Up Appearances
Costco Connection (Magazine) Andrea Downing Peck Title: Perseverance Self-Control Passion Grit Purpose Deliberate Practice Character Power
Marie Claire (Magazine) First-Point of View Title: The Making of Michelle: In her new memoir, Becoming, the former first lady tells her story
Time (Magazine) 10 Questions Interview with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and the author of “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” – Why do you think women are so afraid of making mistakes?
InStyle (Magazine) Do Clothes Make the Woman? In Stephanie Trong’s Case, More Than She Wants to Admit
The Wall Street Journal (Newspaper) The Work Issue Section Hayley Phelan Title: Farewell, Flannel
The Washington Post (Newspaper) Opinions Alexandra Petri Title: I’m fine with women in power, just not this one specific woman currently in power
The New York Times (Newspaper) Alina Tugend New Rules Summit Title: Overcoming Self-Doubt: How Samantha Bee and Cecile Richards deal with it
The Wall Street Journal (Newspaper) Jennifer Breheny Wallace Title: The Perils of The Child Perfectionist USA Today (Newspaper) Jessica Durando Voices Title: When will bosses stop calling women abrasive?
The Wall Street Journal (Newspaper) Sue Shellenbarger Work & Family Title: Women Try New Strategies To Boost Career Confidence
Prime Women (Digital Publication) Darla Ferrara Title: 10 Ways Women Become Powerful and Confident
Prime Women (Digital Publication) Linda Fanaras, President and Founder of Millennium Integrated Marketing Title: Bragging Your Way to the Top: 5 Rules to Master Self-Promotion
Prime Women (Digital Publication) Ann Franks, Editor in Chief of Prime Women Title: 20 Outstanding Things About Women in Their Prime
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change (Book) Author: Ellen K. Pao In the review of this book by the New York Times (9/24/17) by Jennifer Szalai, the author is quoted as saying “Is it possible that I am really too ambitious while being too quiet while being too aggressive while being unlikeable? Are my elbows too sharp? … If you talk, you talk too much. If you don’t talk, you’re too quiet. You don’t own the room.”
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know (Book) Authors: Katty Kay & Claire Shipman Page 42: “Perfectionism was very much on our growing list of confidence killers …” Page 8: “the confidence gap is a chasm, stretching across professions, income levels and generations, showing up in many guises, and in places where you least expect it.”
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself.” – Beyoncé