We've all heard it and have heard it for years - women struggle in the workplace.
They tend to pull the ropes between being kind and sweet and empathetic, and strong, domineering and persuasive. Communicating with confidence is a careful balance for women in the workplace.
Yes, we are women. Some days you get to hear us roar. But there are plenty of days we spend beating ourselves up, talking ourselves down and apologizing for our opinions and questioning the value we bring to decision-making tables.
Women work hard to keep all the plates spinning and scale the high bars we often set for ourselves. Yet for many women, it’s still not enough. No matter how much we squeeze into any 24 hour block, we still feel like we’re falling short on some measure; that we’re just not “enough” in some way. If only we were more organized, more disciplined, more assertive, more strategic, more certain of ourselves… maybe then we’d reach the top and make the mark we know, in our heart of hearts, we were born to make.
That little voice in our heads just doesn’t let up, continually critiquing what we didn’t do, what we haven’t yet done and what haven’t done “well enough.” Conduct your own survey and you’ll hear so many women share their struggle with imposter syndrome, feeling unworthy or their success and unsure of their ability. It’s why I spend so much time writing and speaking about designing the best you. Because in the end the only way to build the confidence we want is to step through our doubts and act as though we already have it.
We can’t wait until we feel brave to put our hand up for a bigger role, to ask for a promotion or voice an opinion others may disagree with. We have to take action, even amid our fears and that in doing so may result in disapproval, rejection or outright failure.
Of course not only women struggle with doubt - men do as well. However, it’s my experience and research that women tend to doubt themselves more and back themselves less than the men we live and work with. It’s why we must consciously decide to do step into our own power and dare to do more than we think we’re capable of doing. After all, men or woman, true leadership begins on the inside; changing the world around us starts with changing the world within us.
So I want you to think: What would I do today if I were being really brave and confident?
Here are some ways to start gaining more confidence as a woman in the workplace:
1. Straight up, ask for what you want
This is one thing men do well. They know what they want. They know their worth and they ask for what they want. The worst response you can get is NO. But the best is you get at least part of what you want, right?
Is it scary to ask for what you want? Absolutely! But no dreams came true by asking for little things. Too often we dilute what we ask for or we don’t ask at all for fear of appearing needy or being rejected. So ASK BIG.
2. Say no
Too many times, as women, we want to be noticed, so we say yes to everything in hopes that people will recognize us. STOP NOW! If you’re ever going to make your biggest mark on the world, you’ve got to learn to say no to the “good” so you can create space for “great.”
3. Own your worth and stop apologizing
Too often our fear of appearing boastful keeps us from talking about what we know well. Next time you’re talking about what you do, talk about it in a powerful way that lets people know you see the value in what you do (even if they have yet to realize it).
And PLEASE stop apologizing. No need to be bossy, but own your right to see things differently than others. I do believe we all were created differently.
4. Change your story
I'm not telling you to lie. What I am saying is, every day you live with a little voice in your head continually telling you who you are, what you can do, and just as importantly, what you can’t. We all do. Yet while those stories you tell yourself are often a long way from the truth, they have the power to shape your life IF you buy into them.
So if you’ve been telling yourself a story that you’re too old, too young, too timid, too inexperienced, too pretty (yes, I’ve heard that one too!) or not enough of something to take your seat at the table and be a powerful force for change, try telling yourself another story and see what possibilities open up for you.
5. Risk more and more rejection
What do the best sales people do? They literally BEG for rejection. Think about it. It’s not rejection you’re afraid of; it’s how you will feel because of what you make rejection mean… a personal inadequacy on your part; evidence that you are “less than worthy” in some way. But it doesn’t mean that at all.
The truth is that you need to risk a lot of rejections if you want to get ahead in your business, career and any area of your life, right?
Each one of us, man or woman, deserves a seat at the table, but you need to step up and start taking action. Because confidence is a byproduct of action. Think about a time when you had the courage to step out and try something new. You were afraid and probably shaking a bit, but when you took that first step, made the first call, stood up for your own opinion in a meeting, you gained a bit of success and you continue to build on it.
Keep doing that. In and out of the workplace. The world needs both men and women to run effectively.