An introduction to confidence

By Ingrid Boucher

· Blog

Written by Ingrid Boucher

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
– Helen Keller

Confidence is a trait that most people thrive to conquer; but while some seem born with a sense of “confidence”, reality is, most of us have to constantly challenge any which given situation, and practice to a level where it becomes a natural part of our daily lives. A lot of how we behave falls under having confidence. It is true for every situation but even truer in the workplace.

Oftentimes women tend to question their ability to be confident (and all issues befalling to it); it comes up when we think of the direction of our career(s), pay, decisions and even when questioning our peers. An interesting read posted through the Harvard Business Review (October 2022) titled “ How Confidence Is Weaponized Against Women” show that, while a “gender neutral concept” the term is too often associated to one side and not the other.

But, if we rise above those considerations, what can we do to overcome and assert ourselves in all aspects of our careers? Confidence is an umbrella term and a lot of what we do is linked to channeling it: from knowing how to speak up to having presence, from being able to navigate networking and leadership.

Let's start with “Speaking up”. Not only because most communication is done orally but also because it can be challenging to take centre stage. To speak up is to ask, question, express an opinion... All of that loud enough to be heard and understood. There is not one set place where using your voice is more important than ther other. In a meeting, with coworkers and management, with clients, speaking up may feel daunting but honing your voice can only bring much rewards and solve any issues before they grow too big.

Having listened to many women in the industry, three main areas appears to stand out on why we may limit ourselves on that front: the way(s) we can be perceived, the way(s) we express ideas/questions, the aftermath. It all comes down to building confidence. In one's self first. The biggest work is very often just about an internal review of your thoughts and actions:

  • Think of why you find difficult to speak up. This starts with your own experiences, the thought process and self-limits imposed. You may well be your biggest enemy and reflecting on past decisions can help turn your doubts around.
  • Think positive. As evident as this may seem, putting our doubts on the side and replacing them for positive thoughts may sometimes feel like a process. Positive affirmations are powerful and when repeated, become the norm.
  • Be kind to yourself. When we try to speak up and what we had in mind does not translate as well as we'd liked or hoped for. We are all guilty of gaslighting our own brain but...
  • Take it slow if you have to, stop and think, have your ideas/questions and opinions in shorter formats if this feels more comfortable.
  • Practice. We all know the adage “practice makes perfect”. Repeat and learn. From your successes in having yourself heard as well as when it you felt your voice being drowned in bigger matters. Speaking up much like learning a new language is all about putting yourself out there.
  • Support from peers and mentors. Do not fear to ask for advice and help from others. By sharing experiences, you may find you are not alone, you may receive tips and encouragements as well as a boost in the right direction.
  • Don't let second guessing or regret get in the way once you have spoken up. Speaking up isn't about just speaking. Your ideas are as important as anyone else's, your opinions matter and raising an issue when issue there is, paramount to a good work environment

Working on all layers of confidence is identifying what skills you possess and what others are buried under the worries of making a “mistake” . Do not fear to speak up. Not only will you realise it isn't so much a hazardous task but hardly a task at all.