“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”- Brené Brown
A few years ago on a girls’ weekend with my high-school pals, we were talking about our teenage selves.
One of the women commented to me how she was always amazed at how confident I was in high school. I literally choked on my White Claw (or whatever it was I was drinking). On a scale of 1-10, I would give my high school confidence level a solid 2—and that would be on a good day!
Isn’t it incredible how others see us?
It’s taken a long time and many mistakes to get comfortable in my own skin. By the time I turned 50, I started to care a lot less about what people say about me. When I screw up, I know that I have an opportunity to correct, and I spend more time thinking about how to make things better rather than dwelling on where I may have gone wrong.
Along with gaining confidence, authenticity became clearer and easier. Being imperfect became the perfect way to celebrate who I am. Imperfect. Messy. Unorganized. Driven. Blunt. It is foolish to believe anyone is perfect, or that any woman’s success has been easily achieved without sacrifice and criticism. We all have our struggles.
We know that some of the most successful women in business have suffered from a lack of confidence. Women like Brené Brown and Sheryl Sandberg have helped foster open communication on this topic.
We gulp it up because it’s so relatable. The Atlantic quoted Sandberg as saying, “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.” We all feel that from time to time.
I have the great fortune to talk with many admirable women who have worked their way into senior leadership positions in male-dominated industries and still feel insecure. Our insecurities hold us back. We are our own worst enemy.
Success and confidence go hand in hand. No matter how competent you are, if you don’t have the confidence to forge ahead, you’ll end up stagnant. My advice: Fake it until you make it. Or, better yet, support and encourage other women to nurture authentic confidence.
Lifting each other up
The good news is we have the power to change this. We need to learn to build and sustain confidence in ourselves while we look for ways to lift other women and strengthen their confidence. That should be our goal: Judge ourselves on how we lift others up. I like that idea. What a wonderful world we could create!
I am also quite fond of this idea: “Celebrate and evaluate (rather than compare and compete) with other women.” We talk about sisterhood. We talk about our tribes. Unleash that power. Champion and mentor each other in new ways that allow us bigger and better opportunities. We don’t have to do it like the patriarchy. We shouldn’t do it like the patriarchy. We can pave a new way.
Another good concept is to lower your bar to “good enough.” I’ve written about this before, but we don’t seem to make much progress. Think about this: “A Hewlett Packard survey found that men will apply for job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women will only do it if they meet 100%.” Ladies, I have witnessed this over and over and over. Here’s where we can make real change.
How to build confidence in each other during 2021:
- Talk it out. Bring up ways that we damage confidence and commit to repairing it.
- Embrace who you are, and who you are not. Be honest with yourself and open to understanding where you can make changes, but also spend some time defining who you are and what your limitations may be.
- Build confidence, but not in an “endless praise and good tidings” kind of way. Building confidence and crucial conversations go together. To improve, we need to be able to have difficult exchanges with the intentions of better outcomes.
- Make “thank yous” and public acknowledgements part of your culture. We started down this path at Flint Group in 2020 but got derailed by COVID-19. We will reinvigorate this effort. One of the greatest advantages of working in a creative agency is the resources we have to explore this. We’re happy to share what works.
- Encourage difficult conversations. Learn to have direct discussions with other women in the spirit of progress. This means you must listen and understand your role in conflict or a mistake.
- Less defense, more offense. It is human nature to become defensive when someone brings a criticism forward. Take a deep breath, think about what you’re hearing, and determine if it’s improvable. If it is, go on the offensive and work to make the changes.
Remember, confidence is not about “everyone likes me.” Confidence is being fine when they don’t.
Ladyboss Midwest is committed to finding more ways to empower and connect women. The Ladyboss community is dedicated to making real and lasting change. Be part of the change by following them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, checking out the blog, or joining the Ladyboss Fargo-Moorhead Group or Ladyboss Duluth Group.
Here’s to a new year of owning our imperfections, leading with confidence, and celebrating women.