Just last week, I was in a one-on-one session with a participant from our RISE Elite Program – let’s call her Sarah. Sarah had recently been in a department meeting where a crucial project was being discussed. She had valuable insights based on her background in market research, which would’ve fundamentally changed the direction of the project. But she chose to hold her tongue, apprehensive that her ideas would be laughed off or deemed unfeasible.

Now here’s the kicker: Sarah isn’t new to her job. She has seven years of solid experience and has significantly contributed to previous projects. Yet, she held back. Why?

As we delved deeper, it wasn’t just about that particular meeting. Sarah recounted several situations where she hesitated to take the lead or even share her thoughts. She’d downplay her achievements, often describing them as “team efforts” – even when it was clear that she was the driving force.

Sarah was well-aware that she had the necessary expertise; it wasn’t her competence that held her back but rather a pervasive crisis of confidence. This isn’t just Sarah’s issue; it’s an issue that affects far too many, costing not just individual growth but also inhibiting team progress by withholding valuable insights.

So why does confidence seem to slip through our fingers, even when we have the skills and experience to back us up? You might be tempted to label this a ‘women’s issue’, but let’s not jump to conclusions. Studies, including one in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, show this is a human issue, affecting both men and women. That being said, it’s worth noting that women do face some extra hurdles, backed by additional research like McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace study. But the bottom line? Self-doubt doesn’t discriminate; it’s something most of us grapple with.

If you recognise a bit of Sarah – or a lot of her – in yourself, you’re not alone. The good news? Confidence isn’t a ‘you-have-it-or-you-don’t’ trait. It can be nurtured and developed. And that’s what we aim to do in our RISE Programs. We don’t just equip women with skills; we help them harness their innate self-confidence so they can be the drivers of their career paths, not just passengers.

So now that we’ve shed some light on the confidence conundrum, let’s dive into some hands-on tips that’ll help you take control and be the superstar we both know you can be.

1. Recognise Your Unique Value and Strengths

 Alright, let’s get into it. First off, you’re not just another cog in the wheel; you’re the whole gearbox with skills and insights that no one else can offer. Not convinced? Well, there’s scientific oomph behind this notion. A review published in the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behaviour found that self-awareness is a key factor in improving emotional well-being and, by extension, self-confidence. You can’t build a skyscraper on shaky ground, can you? Similarly, you can’t build confidence without knowing your own value.

But let’s not get bogged down in what you ‘should’ improve. How about sprucing up what you’re already good at? A Gallup Poll from 2020 is on our side here. It says that people who work from their strengths are six times more likely to be buzzing about their jobs. Makes sense, right? Why spend your days trying to be a square peg in a round hole when you can excel by being unabashedly you?

Action Step: Time for some ‘you’ homework. Scribble down your top three strengths – be it your analytical wizardry or your client-whisperer skills. Now, look at your to-do list and figure out how to inject those strengths into your daily workload. 

2. Master the Art of Self-Advocacy

This is an important yet often overlooked component of building confidence. A study by McKinsey & Company showed that women are less likely to advocate for themselves at work, a behaviour that can affect career progression. Self-advocacy doesn’t mean bragging; it means understanding your value and communicating it effectively.

Action Step: Prepare a 30-second elevator pitch that summarises your achievements and contributions. Use this when networking or discussing your role and aspirations with superiors. And if you need a hand putting your pitch together, I encourage you to download our free guide: Nailing Your Elevator Pitch. 

3. Seek Feedback—And Act On It 

Let’s be honest; feedback can feel like going to the dentist – necessary, but not exactly something we look forward to. But if we dive in, it’s a goldmine for growth. A Harvard Business Review study from 2018 threw a spotlight on how women often get less actionable feedback than men. Then another piece in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour echoed it, pointing out that the feedback women receive tends to be a bit on the vague side.

So, how about we flip the script? Be proactive. Don’t just wait for your annual review to find out you’re “doing fine”. Ask for concrete, specific feedback after projects or in regular catch-ups with your team. Remember, feedback isn’t just about identifying gaps; it’s about reinforcing what you’re acing. And the more you know, the more you grow. In fact, one of the magic moments in our RISE Program is seeing women turn feedback into fuel for both competence and confidence.

Action Step: Time to be a feedback magnet. Collect perspectives from different corners – your manager, your peers, even team members who report to you. The broader the input, the clearer your performance picture. Turn those comments into actionable steps and watch your confidence level tick upwards.

4. Surround Yourself With Confidence Boosters

The impact of your environment on your self-confidence can’t be overstated. Research in the field of organisational behaviour has repeatedly found that a supportive network significantly boosts self-confidence. Whether it’s a mentor, supportive colleagues, or a community like our RISE Program, surround yourself with people who encourage you, provide constructive feedback, and celebrate your wins.

Action Step: Evaluate your current professional network and identify at least three individuals who have a positive impact on your confidence. Schedule regular catch-ups or check-ins with them to nurture these supportive relationships.

Let’s make this crystal clear: Confidence isn’t some elusive, mystical quality. It’s a muscle. The more you flex it, the stronger it gets. We’ve all got a bit of Sarah in us, second-guessing our worth and shying away from opportunities. But guess what? You don’t have to sit on the sidelines of your own career game.

Whether it’s about amplifying your strengths, singing your own praises without sounding like a braggart, gathering the good, bad and the ugly feedback, or simply surrounding yourself with cheerleaders (minus the pom-poms), you’ve got this. 

Feel like you need a little nudge or a community to back you up as you flex that confidence muscle? Well, you know where to find us. Until then, go out and own your brilliance. You’ve earned it.