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Overwhelmingly, the most common grievance I hear from women is that they don’t have enough confidence in to do the things they want to do.

The results from a recent survey in a virtual World Cafe conversation I facilitated on behalf of the Queensland State Government showed that 59% of business women in Queensland struggled with self doubt and lack of self confidence.

Similarly, I surveyed our community here at The Quiet Collective and 72% of you shared that you wrestled with self confidence issues too!

Which got me thinking….

 

Why do so many women suffer from lack of self confidence?

 

As a first step, I want to share with what I believe confidence really means. There are so many different definitions but one of these is as follows:

“Confidence is our belief in our ability to succeed at a given task.”

Therefore it stands to reason that a lack of confidence keeps people stuck and makes them less willing to pursue new challenges.

How familiar do these conversations sound?

  • I can’t ‘put myself out there.’ I’m terrified of being visible.
  • I can’t start my business. I don’t know what to do.
  • Why would anyone pay me that? I’m not skilled enough to ask for that amount of money!
  • I’m not asking for the introduction. I don’t want to bother her.
  • I can’t launch that programme. I don’t have it all figured out yet.
  • I’ll never get to that level. He/she is so much more experienced/clever/creative than me.
  • I have no idea how to use the technology. I can’t get a website set up.

These are kind of thoughts that keep us from taking action. These are the reasons (and many more) that women use to remain where they are. These are the results of our self doubt and lack of self confidence.

And ALL these thoughts were certainly true for me.
 

 

Is lack of confidence exclusive to introverted women?

 

In today’s extroverted world, people assume that the loud ones, the ones who are the heart and soul of the party, the ones who hold centre stage, are the confident ones. But this is a misconception. Just because someone is loud and boisterous doesn’t make them overly confident.

In the same vein, just because someone is softly spoken and reserved, doesn’t necessarily mean they lack confidence. Many introverted people have a quiet, unshakeable confidence that could easily match the confidence of an extrovert and vice versa.

What is true is that many women I’ve spoken with, introverts and extroverts alike, suffer from a lack of self doubt and confidence.
 

So, where does this lack of confidence come from?

 

I think that culture has played a major role in the confidence of women. It’s something that has been passed down from generation to generation. How many of us women have been taught to be ‘good girls,’ to remain silent and not speak up, to obey the rules, to not rock the boat and to take care of others at the expense of our own needs and wants?

It’s no wonder that women are on the back foot from the start of time!

Even in today’s modern society, there are still cultures and communities all over the world where women are seen as second-class citizens. Think: not being allowed to vote, drive a car, swim, or even wear what you want.

Can you imagine? And it’s happening around us too. You just have to look at the latest media coverage and see that women are still being exploited, manipulated and kept silent.

Yet, thankfully, times are changing. More and more women are recognising the value they bring to the world. From Rosa Parks to the viral explosion of the #metoo campaign, women are gaining the confidence to speak up and speak out.

But it’s a long road… the status quo has been ingrained in us over years, decades, centuries.

And then of course, we’re bombarded with the never-ending advertising messages, highlighting our inadequacies. We’re too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat, too {fill in the blank}. The list goes on and on and on.

But at the end of the day, despite the cultural shifts and challenges and negative media messages, unshakeable confidence, as an amazing friend and mentor, Tanya Geisler terms it. lies within us and it’s what allows us to DO the stuff we want to do.

 

The only thing holding us back is ourselves.

 

It’s the thoughts that we have about ourselves and each other that keep us from taking action.

And here’s what I think.

I don’t think we, as women, need MORE confidence. What we need is MORE courage.

 

What is courage?

 

Again, there are many different definitions of courage but I particularly love this one from my all-time favourite author, Brene Brown.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”

I love this definition because it means that we have to let go of the fears, the expectations, the pressure, the beliefs and simply speak from our hearts.

Of course, it is scary. But in my experience, it starts with stepping off the sidelines and showing up. It starts with getting vulnerable and speaking openly and honestly. It starts with taking action despite our fears.

Courage is the willingness to be fully seen and heard, in all our imperfect goodness.

When we let go of the need to get it right, let go of what people think of you, let go of the fear of being rejected, judged, ridiculed, and simply take the first step. That’s courage.

 

What’s the difference between courage and confidence?

 

I think these words are generally used interchangeably but it’s important to note that there is a distinction.

As I shared earlier, most women that I speak to struggle with confidence and want more of it. They feel that confidence is the thing that’s going to help them get their new business started, find their first clients, ask for a pay rise, leave their 9-5, be featured on a major media platform, speak from stage and the list goes on.

But really when we say we want more confidence, I think we really mean to say we want more courage.

Because courage is the thing that’s going to get us started.

If confidence is “our ability to succeed at a given task” and “the stuff that turns our thoughts into action”, we need to have the confidence to actually start the task.

But beginning anything new means that there is going to be some level of doubt and unpredictability, right?

Uncertainty about the outcome, uncertainty about the consequences, uncertainty about the response of others. And that’s when our negative thoughts kick in and we start to think of all the reasons why we can’t get started.

These unchartered waters give rise to fear – of failure, rejection, loss, not looking good. If we relied on confidence at this point, it would be too late because our fears kick in and our thoughts would continue to keep us out of action.

Courage is the first step to building self confidence.

Confidence, on the other hand, is the end result of starting something.

As we find the courage to take action, as we become more experienced, skilled and knowledgeable, as we experience more wins, we become more confident and we don’t need to rely so much on courage, or ‘blind faith’ as my friend calls it.

But you can’t wait until you feel confident to take action. Because confidence comes from the very act of taking action. And courage is the thing that gets you started.

Courage breeds competence and competence breeds confidence.

So what are the next steps?

We need to focus on building our courage muscle. And like with an muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Here are six steps to help you build that courage habit daily.
 

6 steps to building your courage muscle

 

  1. Strengthen Your Purpose

The first step is getting clear on what we really want. This year, I had my Connection Circle ladies list out their best 10 experiences from 2017 and identify how they felt during those experiences and then circle the feelings that came up most often. Ask yourself the question, “How can I inject more of these feelings into my day-to-day life?” By identifying how we want to feel gives us clarity around what we really want to achieve.

  1. Face Your Fears

We all have them. But we shouldn’t avoid them because oftentimes fear is there to actually serve us and protect us from real threats to our wellbeing. Instead what we need to do is establish whether this fear is real and keeping us safe or if it is, in fact, unrealistic, holding us back and keeping us stuck.

When we identify an unrealistic fear, it’s useful to change your perspective. Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • What’s the best that can happen?
  • Will I die?

Oftentimes this can change your perspective and can have a major impact on how you feel about that specific fear.

  1. Evaluate Inaction Honestly.

It’s natural to want to run away from the things that scare us, but evasion comes at a high cost. Consider the price you’re paying for not taking action. What are the things you’re missing out on? Who else is suffering as a result? What are the consequences of your inaction? It’s important to be honest with yourself because when we become aware of the costs of our choices, we are more likely to be motivated into taking steps to change.

  1. Start Small

We don’t have to see the top of the mountain, we just need to take the first step. Major goals become less overwhelming when we split them out into more manageable parts. So, what do you want to achieve 12 months from now? Make it aligned with how you want to feel. Break that down into what do you want to achieve 90 days from now? Then what are the steps you need to take and tasks you need to do in the next seven days to move the needle forward towards your 90 day goal?

  1. Create Accountability

I always say that it takes a village to build a business so seek support. That may looking like hiring a VA, recruiting a coach or asking a peer to act as an accountability buddy. Whatever your team looks like, ensure that you surround yourself with people who will support you, motivate you, hold your hand to the fire when the going gets tough, cheer you on and are fully committed to your success.

  1. Expand your Capacity Zone Daily

As I mentioned earlier, courage is like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes. But like with any habit change, it takes effort and persistence. What you will discover is that, as you start taking action, you will gain more confidence and realise that you are capable of more than you thought. It begins with a single act of courage. Followed by another. Then another.

 

By following these six steps daily, you’ll get started building your courage muscle which will in turn, lead to more confidence and a more fulfilling, meaningful life.

Hit reply or comment below, what’s the one thing you’re going to do today to flex your courage muscle. I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.

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