In a shaky marketplace that severely lacks consumer confidence, today’s professional must be able to bring a refreshing and resounding sense of assurance rooted in skill and substance. That tenant holds especially true for women. Because women are traditionally and historically “viewed” as less capable when it comes to handling complex business matters, confidence is not optional for them—it is critical. No woman can succeed in a dog-eat-dog, cutthroat business world without it. The only way to climb the corporate ladder is to first have the confidence to take a step—then another one, and another one.
Now, I think of confidence like hairpins. Yes, hairpins. If you have ever used these little widgets, you know they pack a lot of potential! With just a little strategy and know-how, you can instantly obtain the look you want. But only if you position them in the right place. My hairdresser always knew exactly where to position each pin to get the right amount of support.
It was not about how many she used, it was about how she manipulated them. And she had the uncanny ability to place them so that they were virtually invisible. (Ladies, you know how important that is!) With the perfect hairstyle in place, no one else needs to know how it got that way, or how many hairpins you used, or how many times you started over to get it right. Most care about the end result.
In our professional lives, obtaining and demonstrating confidence is very similar. Like a hairpin, it need not be very big or even noticeably visible to be effective. It is really not very important that others know how you got “it,” it’s just important that you have “it.” Though it’s not visible, you must know that it is there. That it provides you with the proper amount of support and reinforcement to give you the look, a.k.a. the self-assurance, you desire. Without “it” you will be out of place—especially in the business world.
When we lack confidence, we become obsessed with what others think. We don’t want others to see the strands that are out of place, i.e. the holes in our self-esteem, so we cover it up and try to distract people in hopes that they will not notice. More plainly, as women we tend to hide behind designer suits, false eyelashes, advanced degrees, a big check and a nice car. All can become disguises for true confidence—a concealer hiding our imperfections.
These “things” may masquerade your esteem for a while, but they will never give you fulfillment or sustained self-assurance. You may even try to distract others with the way you talk or by being boastful. Confidence is not always spoken. The real deal is usually silent. You must know that you were created on purpose, with purpose for a purpose. When purpose meets preparation, proficiency and passion, you cannot be beat!
I recently launched a professional mentoring program called “The Inner Circle” designed to unique address issues that women face in the marketplace from the inside out. After all, confidence drives business. People tend to follow the person who most appears like they know what they are doing or where they are going. That’s a key lesson to keep in mind. Perception will either pull people in or push them away. To be in the driver’s seat of your career, you must believe in your ability to make things happen. Otherwise, you are just along for the ride. Know that you have the ability to shape your confidence. My hairdresser would artfully use her teeth. You must use what you have. Use your gifts, your wisdom and your talent.
How has confidence impacted your professional opportunities over the years? Do you think men and women struggle with different or similar challenges when it comes to esteem in the marketplace? Leave your comments below.