The Problem with Confidence? Why everyone wants it but no one has a clue what it is.

I was reading an article in Forbes online that talked about job applications and the reasons why women and men do and do not apply for roles. The results were not surprising:

Women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.

This reflects consistent conversations I have with many young women on a daily basis. I hear comments like;

• “I have been told I have the capability but need to work on building my confidence” to be considered for a promotion.

• “How do I build/grow confidence?”

• “My confidence has taken a beating and I don’t know what to do.”

In a recent webinar where I was talking with a group of young women about confidence I posed the question: “How do you define confidence?” Needless to say it was the obvious – yet for many unanswerable – question.

So I referenced Wikipedia to provide a background for the concept of confidence to encourage a robust conversation about the definition;

• Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective.

• Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself.

• Arrogance in this comparison, is having unmerited confidence—believing something or someone is capable or correct when they are not.

• Overconfidence or presumptuousness is excessive belief in someone (or something) succeeding, without any regard for failure.

Confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as those without it may fail or not try because they lack it and those with it may succeed because they have it rather than because of an innate ability.

When most young women talk about confidence it spans many categories of life however the impacts play out most significantly in the workplace.

The first step towards achieving the desired confidence levels is to get clear about the goal. To do this try work-shopping the following questions;

• What does the confidence I aspire to achieve look like (what do I see in myself or others)?

• What does the confidence I aspire to achieve sound like?

• What does the confidence I aspire to achieve feel like? (in my body, emotionally and mentally)

If you struggle with this process think about what confidence does not look like and then flip it i.e. confidence is not walking into a room and hanging back not engaging in conversation – it is walking into a room and walking straight up to someone introducing myself and engaging in conversation.

Now you have a picture of what confidence looks like to you (and uniquely you) reflect on your current position. Perhaps self-assess your checklist based on the above questions and identify priorities areas for development.

Next week we will be looking at getting a little more specific about how to work with your leader to build more confidence.

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