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How can women boost their confidence?

smiling woman in white coat

"So many women struggle with demonstrating confidence. How can we boost our confidence at work?"

Confidence is positive trait women think they lack — but really don’t.

Webster’s Dictionary defines "confidence" as  "trusting or reliance in one’s own or another’s ability." Think about that for a moment. How do you develop the ability to trust yourself?

First, it requires that you understand who you are. I’m not talking so much about your strengths, but more about your character, your resolve and your personal convictions.

Most of us are more courageous and confident than we think we are. The opportunity lies in understanding the source of our confidence and then intentionally tapping into that internal vault.

Courage brings confidence to action. While confidence is the mindset, courage is the motivation to face whatever stands before you and believe that you can successfully manage it.

In her book Confidence, Rosabeth Moss Kanter states, "Confidence consists of positive expectations for favorable outcomes. Every step we take, every investment we make, is based on whether we feel we can count on ourselves and others to accomplish what has been promised. Confidence determines whether our steps — individually or collectively — are tiny and tentative or big and bold.”

In 2003, Susan Losh and Christopher Tavini at Florida State University studied 4,000 students to measure intellectual and social confidence, expectations for success, motivation to succeed, past academic accomplishments, parental education and more. Many of the variables, of course, were interlocking. But the study concluded that having a high expectation that you’d succeed was the strongest predictor of actual high performance. Having the confidence to expect your success builds the courage to actually walk it out. No matter the circumstances.

A crisis of confidence

In the work environment, women are often judged as "needing to develop confidence." While that may be true, I look at it another way: Women need to find their innate confidence and courage, locate their voice and embrace their own brilliance.

Have you ever been around a woman who receives a compliment, but refutes that compliment? Or perhaps you’ve sat in a room wanting share an idea, but sit silently until eventually someone else serves up your idea.

If you have witnessed or experienced these types of situations, you have seen a lack of confidence and courage. It’s not that we are unable to engage as strong leaders, we simply don’t believe in our own greatness as women. We don’t trust ourselves. And when we don’t tap into the courage to trust ourselves, then we compromise, rather than unleash, our potential.

So how do you tap into your courage storehouse? You take action every day. The more you practice these actions, the more courage and confidence you will build, and the more success you will experience:

1. Look back on your life’s history. Reflect on the challenges you’ve faced. Focus on and recognize where your inner strength came from to cope and make it through those times.

2. Strengthen your mind. Practice affirmations. Make the decision that no matter what comes to you in life, you can and will handle it. It’s your choice.

3. Make a list of your convictions (i.e. beliefs, values and principles). Decide now what is non-negotiable. This will help you when you get into tough situations.

4. Practice makes perfect. Test your growing courage and confidence abilities in situations that aren’t make-it-or-break-it. This will give you a true internal sense of what you feel like when confidence and courage kick in.

5. Keep a journal of your development. Reflect on and nurture your newfound capabilities. Celebrate your progress.

Dale Carnegie once said, "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Ask yourself a simple but important question, "What I am going to do today to increase my confidence?” Remember, your future is connected to the answer you choose. Choose action. Choose courage. Choose success.

Trudy Bourgeois is founder and CEO of The Center for Workforce Excellence and the author of four books, including the most recent, Equality: Courageous Conversations about Women, Men and Race To Spark A Diversity and Inclusion Breakthrough. She previously held senior leadership roles in the consumer goods industry. 

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.