I delivered the first talk of the opening night of Spring Forward, and wanted to share it in blog format. It's my Wonder Woman tool kit, filled with things to help you feel good about you.
First and most importantly, I really believe that having confidence is to have belief and faith in yourself and that can be really hard to do when you don't know where to start.
One of the first steps in having faith in yourself, and showing it to those around you, is to learn your own strengths and weaknesses. I learned a lot about myself from reading The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. It's about how everyone has an inner chimp who is emotional and likes to make a lot of noise when feeling distressed.
Understanding that emotional responses were caused by my inner chimp (Nora) meant that I could learn how to control them better; sometimes it meant shouting back at her, and that's why naming your chimp is important. Sometimes it meant letting her tire herself out, so taking myself to a safe place, with people I trust, and letting it all out.
By being in control of Nora, when I do have something to say, I know it isn't an emotional or triggered response, but something to have faith in, because it's me speaking and not my emotions. This alone gives me the confidence to speak up in situations I'd normally have kept quiet in.
It took time to know when to speak up or ask for help. I found myself screwing my toes up in a meeting or fixated at the computer screen fretting over a problem I couldn't fix. I actually made myself very sick when I was stuck on a big project.
Learning how your body feels in tense situations is invaluable, so check in with yourself, regularly. Not only listening to your inner chimp but your whole body. Preempting the pesky chimp's behaviour means you can position yourself well in awkward situations. I found meditation really useful here. I use the Headspace app to spend just a few minutes a day checking in with myself, listening to my body, what hurts or feels tense. They are signs you're not telling yourself how you really feel and that you may need to stop and readdress things.
Check in with others around you too. They might see you doing things you only do when you're anxious. Be sure to ask questions when you don't understand something. Be comfortable with saying "I don't know". I don't know but I can find out if you give me 30 minutes. I don't know, but please can you show me. Not knowing does not make you weak. It shows courage. It's rare and employers value someone who admits when they don't know something. Learn to be comfortable saying I don't know.
Also, "No." is a sentence.
I was always told you should communicate more than feels natural, to be heard. And from experience, I can confirm it's true. This still happens to me today, I can say something and it will go ignored, then someone - normally a man - will repeat the same thing minutes later and they get the praise. If you find this happening to you, and it's hindering your career, then you do have the power to speak up - because you're in control of your chimp. You know you aren't being emotional and it is important you get the credit for the idea.
But sometimes you do have to let it go. Letting someone take one idea from you may open your path to a better idea. Embrace that and learn from your previous mistake. Over-communicate everything. You need to be able to prove you said it first, write everything down, tell more than one person. A presentation is more powerful than you think it is.
Back things up with evidence or try what you want to do in your own time first, then ask for time to do it more in-depth. It truly sucks that we have to do that, but an hours' homework might make all the difference.
Learn to tell great stories. Share evidence you have with real stories, your feelings, be open and raw. There is great power in vulnerability. If your presentations are relatable and personable then they'll hit home.
Remember to check in with yourself so you know when to dig deep and when to take a break. If you don't feel like you're being heard after providing the evidence or digging deep and giving that hours' homework, you can get another job. YOU ARE WORTH MORE.
Even though you have your chimp under better control, you will get emotional and that's ok. Emotions show that you care.
Ask yourself: will this be important in 2 minutes? 2 days? 2 years? This will help you ground your emotions. You might need to be angry because it affects 2 years of your life, so don't hold that in, but try not to let your chimp control your anger, show your passion, your fire.
Being angry about something that's going to be uncomfortable for 2 days or 2 weeks isn't worth it and it's probably your chimp talking.
Find your tribe. People you look up to. They don't even need to know you exist. Follow their footsteps, learn about them and how they got to where you want to be. Ensure you have people you can show your chimp to.
Your tribe must have people that believe in you when you don't. People who will guide you somewhere when you can't see the road in front of you. There's also a lot of research showing women who have a tight tribe of 3 or 4 female friends to confide in and bounce ideas off will succeed more than those with more men in their tribe.
Now I come from a web development background so for a long time a lot of my tribe was male. I found two key women to confide in and they boosted my confidence for me when I couldn't.
You will feel like you don't belong and everyone else is feeling the same. The sooner you know that, the sooner you can be comfortable with it.
Always say please and thank you
If you're unsure about doing something, do it and say sorry later. It's very likely you won't have to apologise. There's no reason to say sorry when asking for help. The only time to say sorry is if you've hurt someone's feelings. Because you want some of their time to do your job better, isn't anything to apologise for.
If you feel intimidated by a situation then I recommend running into the nearest bathroom. Seriously. This is where mantras boost your confidence. Saying "I can do this" or "I am important" over and over. I used to say that walking up the three steps into the office of my last job. Each step a word. I. Am. Important. Those steps meant something to me, that literally helped me start my work day on the right foot.
For a greater boost, I love a power pose. Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy has a great Ted Talk on this. I strongly believe taking two minutes can change your mood and can help you to fake it until you make it.
There's a pose called the Wonder Woman pose. Stand with your feet just over hip-width apart. Put your hands on your hips and lift your head and chin up slightly, like there's a string pulling up from your spine. Now, if you were to stand like this for two minutes your cortisol levels would drop, reducing your stress. Testosterone levels, the power hormone, would go up and you would feel more confident. There's science behind it, it's clever stuff, believe in it.
Above all: keep doing it. Keep making little changes. Keep fighting for each 2 minutes, 2 weeks, 2 years. Keep focussing on you and you will make it. You will find that faith in yourself.
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