As women, we do not always feel confident in our work and careers. What is self-doubt? It means not truly believing in yourself, not believing in your abilities and your readiness to get the job done. Self-doubt is not having the confidence to be sure that you can do something, that you have what it takes, whether it is knowledge or the experience necessary to excel. Statistics say that self-doubt can be largely a gender issue for women, that given a new advancement opportunity women believe they must be 100 percent prepared and ready to take on a new responsibility while men do not believe they have to be fully prepared or experienced to take on new challenges. The statistics confirm this, to be successful in your field, you not only have to be knowledgeable, experienced, and competent….but you must be confident. If you are not seen as confident, it will impair your career success.
During my long career I have often experienced self-doubt, and so have many of my podcast guests. Here are some tips on what we’ve learned:
How Does Our Self-doubt Come About?
These internal things we say to ourselves about doubting our abilities or readiness can be traced back to how we were socialized in our early lives. Whether it’s family of origin, society, or early messages in school, girls are often given messages that they are not as smart as men or as competent. We receive mixed signals around the choices we make around having a career and having a family as well as the emphasis by our society that women be attractive.
We must “talk back” to these beliefs about ourselves by knowing we deserve opportunities and excellent compensation. It is helpful to have a very strong core belief in ourselves and do what we can to reinforce this. What do we need to say to ourselves to reinforce our belief that we belong, that we fit in, we are worthy of advancement, and being well-compensated?
Being knowledgeable in your industry is a big advantage in helping alleviate self-doubt and build confidence. Be a student of your industry, master your craft. Understand and learn as much as you can about everything which affects your industry. Read as much as you can, listen….and….let people know you know your stuff by offering your opinions on these subjects! Become an expert. Write for publications, speak at events. I did this for years to build credibility in my industry.
The workplace is a minefield of messages to us that perhaps we do not belong, we are not deserving of opportunities, not as smart or competent as our male colleagues. These messages can negatively affect our confidence. We often find we must prove we know what we are doing and are competent when often men do not have to prove their competence, it is often automatically taken for granted. There are still systems of gender discrimination, conscious and unconscious biases, male power structures. There can be microaggressions which are indirect expressions of sexism. They are those subtle things people say which serve to minimize us such as:
“You’re just being too emotional”
“Who takes care of your kids when you travel?”
“What does your husband think about all of your success”?
An important piece of advice: Stop caring so much about what people think of you….or what you think they think of you. Some people will like you, some people will not. The workplace is not a place where the goal is to make friends. Your goal is to do a great job, get paid, have opportunities and have job satisfaction.
Perhaps you walk into a meeting of mostly men and they do not make eye contact with you, only make eye contact with other men. You speak up about a topic but no one seems to hear you or gives you credit for a great idea. When you speak you are interrupted by the louder male in the room. These things have all happened many times during my career. What did I do? I set boundaries around being interrupted. I spoke up in a strong, authoritative voice and looked them in the eyes. And if someone took credit for my idea? I let him and the others there know….”I just said that”….or, “great idea, I’m glad I had it”…..maybe with a little humor thrown in to make my point without offending. Did they think I was “aggressive”? Maybe. Yet it is what I needed to do to take my seat at the table and endeavor to be treated with respect.
Make sure your boss and your husband/partner are clear that you need support from them. Your boss should be your ambassador on behalf of your career aspirations and support you. Your husband/partner should be doing half of what needs to be done around home and children's responsibilities. Build a team of people you trust, who are looking out for you and the success of your career who will tell you the truth. Use these people to help you.
Know you belong despite internal and external messages. Own your power. Be bold, speak up, know your value. There is really no reason to doubt yourself. It is not a level playing field for women in the workplace, but success is possible!
A Note From the Author, Susan Branscome
A podcast in which executive women who are leaders in their industries, companies, and most importantly...their lives, share inspiring stories about the obstacles they've overcome to succeed in a male-dominated world. Host & Creator: Susan Branscome
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