Here’s a Secret: You Can Learn to Be the Most Confident Woman in the Room

Confidence is a complicated skill to learn. It requires mental, emotional and even physical fortitude. But it’s something anyone can master.

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I was recently asked to share my secrets as a leader. The secrets that lie deep within and drive my confidence. What an honor to be considered a “confident woman” and be asked to share my advice with others. But I had to ask myself, “Am I confident? And what secrets can I share with other women?”

As the Chief People Officer at Happy Money, I often have the opportunity to coach people on their own leadership and career journeys, and we talk a lot about confidence. But I had not stopped to think about my own confidence or how I came to possess such a powerful trait.

Thinking about what I talk through in coaching and development sessions, I quickly realized confidence is a skill I’ve learned over time – and it’s something you can learn as well. These are the skills I have honed to conjure up confidence when I need it most, to get me to walk through the doors of Amazon for the first time, to show up well for my team during challenging times even when I don’t have all the answers, or have difficult conversations with senior leaders whom I respect and admire.

I am passionate about empowering other women (and men!) and encouraging them to create their own style when building confidence and leadership skills. So lean in as I share my secrets to confidence and consider how you can integrate them into your life and work.

Lead with vulnerability. When I’m open with my mistakes and what I’ve learned from them, then others will do the same. It cultivates a safe environment for people to try and learn. This builds confidence for yourself and others by setting expectations for those who work with me, helps me stay true to who I am, and stops me from trying to be someone I’m not. 

Confidence is a daily practice. I was always told “fake it ’til you make it” but in reality it’s more of a face it ‘til you make it. I remind myself every day as I walk into new situations, high-stakes meetings, etc. that I bring something to the table no one else does. There is power in being yourself. No one else in the world is exactly like you or can do a certain task like you. There is peace in knowing you’re being yourself and that it’s not an act. It also helps build trust more quickly with others.

Lead with future generations in mind. I project confidence to set an example for girls and women who will become leaders some day. As a mom of two girls, I remind myself of the example I want to be for them, to show them how they can lean into their dreams and talents, even when it’s scary and uncomfortable. I want them to know that they can do hard things showing up as their full selves.

Confidence is a complicated skill to learn, it requires mental, emotional and even physical fortitude. So I tapped an esteemed colleague and one of the most confident women I know to share a few of her secrets. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn is our Chief Science Officer at Happy Money and approaches confidence through her own unique lens. In addition to her work at Happy Money, she is also a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, has given a talk on the main stage at TED and is often interviewed by media. So she knows a thing or two about projecting confidence! Here are her secrets for invoking confidence. 

Confident women don’t feel confident all of the time, we create it. Feeling lack of confidence is totally normal. If we were all confident all of the time, we wouldn’t be human. The secret is to identify what’s undermining your confidence and mentally or emotionally overcome it, so you can create the confidence you deserve.

Reframe or reinterpret your fear and anxiety as excitement and energy. This is a strategy based in fundamental psychology. Our physiological response to fear and anxiety is much the same as it is to excitement – sweaty palms, butterflies in our stomach, etc. It’s our mind that decides how we interpret that physical response. When anxiety hits before a big meeting, important presentation or, yes, a TED talk, confident women can mentally reinterpret that feeling as excitement and use it to feed their energy and project confidence.

Don’t deny something could go wrong. Instead of pretending like nothing could go wrong, confident women identify what is causing fear or anxiety and make a plan to deal with it. We ask ourselves: ‘What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?’ What if I throw up in front of everyone? Well, you will go to the bathroom, wash your face and mouth and move on. Identify your worst fear and voice it or write it down and decide how you will deal with it. Don’t let it lurk and undermine your confidence.

Analyze the odds. Building on that last secret, confident women force themselves to think through the negative outcomes that cause fear and anxiety, and analyze the likelihood they will actually happen. Ask yourself: Is this absolutely true that this will happen? Probably not! Applying this kind of thinking helps you realize just how unlikely most negative outcomes are and allows you to move past your fear and embrace your confidence.Remember, there is no one else on this planet exactly like you – so do the hard things but also remember to be your authentic self to truly unlock your maximum impact and potential. Lastly, you will fail (confident women are not immune to failure), so don’t try to be perfect. As Chester I. Barnard once said “To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.”

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