Question… I have one child and a successful career but really lack confidence – not so much outwardly, but inwardly – and I think it is holding me back, how can I overcome this?

Having confidence is what enables us to turn our thoughts into action, without it we are unable thrive. It’s the difference between grabbing hold of an idea passing through your mind – that new position, throwing it all in and becoming a yoga instructor – and sitting impassively at your desk resentful of the status quo. And because of this, confidence is a big Step Up theme. We think it’s the cornerstone of meaningful careers and success that suits each of our unique outlooks and set of values.

To have confidence, you need many things, and one of them is self-awareness. With your realisation that your confidence levels are wobbling, take heart that you’re well placed on this front – as many women are. We can’t improve ourselves if we’re not even sure who we are as women, so take heed that you are able to self-analyse and ask for help too. Here’s another piece of good news: even those of us who appear outwardly confident often have wavering inside too.

Having confidence is what enables us to turn our thoughts into action, without it we are unable thrive

This is important because it tells us not to rely on our perception of other people, i.e. don’t fall into the comparison trap. When we know that others are finding things just as tough as we are, we immediately turn the heat down on that inward pressure to constantly kickass and be ready to fight the world. Because of the way most women’s minds work (active, analytical, over harsh on ourselves) we suffer more greatly from deficiencies in the confidence department. We talk ourselves down, we think, we over think and we allow weaknesses to creep in.

The good news is that confidence isn’t innate – rather, it is something that we can all learn. In our book, Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day, we have a whole chapter dedicated to confidence, and within it is our unique 10 step plan to feeling and being more confidence in work and life. But if you want to make some quick changes, here are our three top tips. 

Top Tip Number 1

Positives…We all have them in life – a note from an appreciative friend, a solid feedback session, an unexpected LinkedIn request – but as women, we tend to shelve the positives (especially the ones in relation to ourselves), preferring to save our energies and memory for shitty bits – the thankless daily tasks, your children’s tantrum stage, a boss who has no manners. The problem is, this tendency to negativity is heightened when we are low in confidence, so each hit is a double blow to our self-esteem – basically we end up in a negative spiral of doom. The trick is to take note of the positives – literally note them down. Almost like confidence mindfulness, the act of writing down – yes actually putting pen to paper – will help your brain to crystallise and hold onto the good things that happen every day. Keep a record of all your achievements, the high fives you get from your boss and thank yous from clients and, over time, the art of positive list making will help you accept and enjoy your strengths. Once you do this, you naturally start feeding your inner confidence. And if it ever starts to waver, get that list out and read about how fabulous you really are.

Top Tip Number 2

Embrace failure… Yes we said it. Failure is an unnecessarily dirty word at work; but we don’t agree, because when you can accept and draw strength from failures, you reduce your inner fear stakes, increase your tendency towards taking risks and release yourself from another downward spiral of unnecessary dread. Because, when we are so scared of failing, it stops us trying new things at work, and over time, this turns into a cycle whereby we stop trying new things at all – we exist in a state of stagnation, and guess what that does, yup, kills your confidence. The way we see it, in every failure, there is a seed of learning. If you can look at a mistake, discard the bad stuff, identify what went right and use that as the kernel of your next attempt, you’ve turned a negative, confidence sapping situation into a fist-punching positive one. And even better, each time you take a risk – and stare failure in the face – it gets the confidence cogs turning in the right direction, and your cycle of increased self-belief continues.

Top Tip Number 3

The physical… Confidence doesn’t just work from the inside out; it is equally important to build it from the outside in. Stand tall, with your feet slightly apart and balance centred. Slow your breath. Speak at a steady pace at the lower end of your register. Take the time in stressful work conversations to listen then reply rather than anxiously race to an answer. All this conveys an aura of confidence. Not only will you feel more in control, but others will react to you in a more positive way feeding your confidence. It sounds simple but it’s true: act confident and you will feel more confident too.

Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day by Phanella Mayall Fine and Alice Olins (Vermilion, £12.99)

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