Confidence

3 Myths About Confidence That Stop Women From Being Heard

Get rid of the limiting idea that you either have it or you don't.
3 Myths About Confidence That Stop Women From Being Heard
Image credit: Sjale | Getty Images
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5 min read
This story originally appeared on Ellevate

The idea of cultivating confidence sometimes gets a bad rap, because it often implies that we need to “fake it ’til we make it” (and for most of us that doesn’t ring true) or that being confident equals never being nervous again (which is also not true or remotely human).

Related: How Coaching Can Help Women Get Ahead in the Tech Industry

Those are two of the myths we can be tempted to buy into. After working with many accomplished women, I’d say these are the other top three that I would also like to bust.

Myth 1: You can think your way into it.

You need more than an inspirational Instagram quote. They’re great and I’m a fan but confidence is a feeling, right? You feel in your brain and body. So, to really feel and project a confident presence, you need both your mind and body working together. If your shoulders are clenched from stress, low self-esteem or from hunching over a computer, your mind will feel clenched and you’ll have small and low energy, making it tough to hang on to a motivational quote.

However, if your body is aligned in a way that you can breathe easier and you unstick long-held stress, you’ll release “feel-good hormones” like dopamine and oxytocin to your brain letting it know that all is good. Instead of restricted and small, your brain will be opened up to creative possibilities and you can feel the motivation, inspiration and strategy in both the body and mind which doubles the power.

Related: 3 Ways Women Can Turn Fear of Failure Into Fearless Action

Myth 2: Confidence equals being loud and pushy.

I was working with a client the other day and she said, “I want to promote myself but I don’t want to be like one of those bragging loudmouths.” True, none of us wants to be that. But, for a lot of us that’s how our brains have subconsciously categorized confidence over the years.

But, we know it really isn’t one or the other. We know that there’s a whole, big, wide, area between being loud, abrasive and non-collaborative and being a quiet wallflower. And while we, as smart women, know this logically we’ve had years of subtle and not-so-subtle conditioning telling us otherwise that we need to consciously drop (e.g. be quiet, don’t step on toes, who do you think you are).

It’s not about extremes. You can be an introvert and confident. You can be quiet and powerful. When I teach yoga, I can have a student make one tiny, almost imperceptible, shift in their body and the whole pose (and the whole feeling) becomes instantly stronger. Subtle doesn’t mean not powerful.

Related: One Thing You Can Do to Be a Great Supporter of Women at Work

Myth 3: You either have it or you don’t.

This is where I see the perfectionist side of ambitious women get the best of them. They say things like “I know. I really should be better at this. I don’t know why I’m not.” And then they proceed to give themselves a really, really hard time.

Sure, some people seem naturally confident when they lead their team, pitch their ideas or make a speech. But they learned that skill. Maybe they learned at a younger age and it’s natural now but the thing is they learned it. And you can to.

You wouldn’t expect to step on a tennis court and play like a pro. You would have to practice. Just like other skills, public speaking, communicating with clarity and knowing how to tap into your power are all practice. The more you practice, the better you get at it. There are a multitude of ways you can do it.

You can learn to:

  • breathe better so you speak from your center and project your voice calmly
  • hold your body with presence (and, no, it doesn’t have to be a power stance)
  • meditate (in a way that clicks for you) that gets you focused and calm
  • support yourself physically and energetically
  • practice and refine your pitch (with someone who is not your friend, family or colleague) until it’s second nature to you

Get rid of the limiting idea that you either have it or you don’t. And also, please stop beating yourself up if it’s not at the level you want yet. You completely, 100 percent have the ability to change it.

(By Pam Reece. Reece is a coach and expert on physical and vocal presence for women leaders.)

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