Wisdom//

Meaningful Lessons from RBG, Oprah, and Kamala Harris about the Power of Owning Your Accomplishments

How to grow your confidence when it doesn't come naturally to you.

Fanfare five silver trumpets and red flags 3D render illustration isolated on white background
Fanfare five silver trumpets and red flags 3D render illustration isolated on white background

No matter how accomplished you are, talking about yourself can always stir up insecurities — that’s even the case for California senator and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris. The politician recently revealed as much when discussing her new book, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.

“I was raised in a way that one does not talk about themselves or their feelings,” she told The Cut. “One is expected to do good work, but it’s not about you, it’s not about your feelings. It’s about the thing that needs to get done.”

Harris isn’t alone; even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — now a mascot for strength and determination — had a journey towards being assertive about her assets, as the 2018 film RBG shows. Her professional trajectory is due in part to her husband, who helped her believe in herself enough to go after a post at the Supreme Court. But not everyone has a partner who can be their constant cheerleader, and even if you do, confidence must ultimately come from within.

As Oprah Winfrey says, “If you want to accomplish the goals of your life, you have to begin with the spirit.” That can be even harder for women, when society typically expects them to toe an impossible line between being confident but not so confident that it might come off as “bossy,” “shrill,” or “feisty.”

That gender-based bias isn’t just speculative; there’s an actual scientific basis behind it. Known as the “Confidence Gap,” women often have trouble finding the same sense of accomplishment in the work that they’ve done and talking about it widely. For example, a man will go after a job when he meets just 60 percent of the qualifications, while a woman will typically only put herself forward for it when she meets 100 percent of the qualifications, as Forbes notes.

But bridging that confidence gap isn’t impossible. For both women and men, confidence doesn’t always come naturally. So here are some tips on how to grow into it from Amy Morin, author of the new book 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do.

Make it a point to say thank you when you receive a compliment

It’s tempting to minimize your achievement or to give credit to other people when you’re complimented, out of modesty, Morin says. But owning your success isn’t about arrogance. It’s about allowing other people to appreciate you, and accepting compliments proudly and gracefully.

Create a list of your accomplishments

Keep an ongoing list of the things you’ve accomplished and read over that list often. It doesn’t have to include giant milestones — it can include small personal and professional challenges you’ve overcome as well. The list can serve as a reminder that you’re more capable and competent than you might sometimes feel.

Mentor someone

Mentoring someone with less experience and fewer skills will remind you of how far you’ve come. That can give you an instant boost in your confidence while also reigniting your passion for what you do, Morin points out.

Challenge yourself

Don’t let self-doubt stop you from trying to reach new heights. The best way to gain confidence is through experience, Morin notes. Challenge yourself to continue to try new things and face your fears. Mastering new skills will help you feel more confident.

Act the part

Change your behavior first and the thoughts and feelings will follow. Ask yourself, “What would a confident person do in a meeting like this?” or “How would a confident person approach the boss about a raise?” Then, do those things, Morin suggests. No one will notice that you aren’t feeling as confident as you look.

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