Take a moment to review these Bain & Company survey results:

Women and workplace confidence:

  • 43% of starting women want to reach top management
  • 27% say they have the confidence to do so
  • 29% of women with more than two years experience say they have the confidence to reach a senior job

Men and workplace confidence:

  • 34% of starting men want to reach top management
  • 29% say they have the confidence to do so
  • 55% of men with more than two years experience say they have the confidence to reach a senior job

The numbers tell the story. Women lag behind in workplace confidence and that has a huge impact on their careers. However, confidence doesn’t just impact careers, research has proven that confidence is an essential element of internal well-being and happiness, a necessity for a fulfilled life.

Confidence is empowering, providing a sense of freedom that allows limitless choices in every aspect of our life. When you are confident you no longer worry about what others think. You are no longer bogged down with energy depleting fear. Living with confidence frees you to focus on the things that you choose to achieve. It allows you to direct that energy toward finding opportunity and leads to greater professional and personal success.

Getting Started

The first step to a confident you requires an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Determine where your confidence may be high, and where it may be low. For many of us, we may not always be able to easily identify our strengths. Consider this, when someone compliments you, do you brush it aside? Say, “It was nothing.” Those are often our strengths because women so readily brush aside what they do well. You may want to ask trusted friends what they think. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Create Your Ideal Image

Next step, create the ideal image of your life, including both personal and professional aspects. This provides you with a target to aim for, without a target how can we achieve our goal? This ideal image often changes as we learn more about what we like and who we are.

Now determine: What areas do you need to develop to achieve those goals? In what areas do you need to build your confidence so that it takes no thought to move forward without fear or concern weighing you down?

Each of us has a unique view of the world based on our thoughts, beliefs and experiences. No other person has experienced life in this exact way, and so each person views the world through a different lens. They may be rose colored, or yellow, or star shaped, or shaped like a prism or a narrow tunnel.

Just as our views of the world are unique, so are the barriers that prevent us from living a confident life. However, there are several types of barriers that can impact us as we develop our confidence. They are briefly discussed below to help you identify some of your own barriers to confidence.


  1. “Have you ever let fear get in the way of doing something that you really wanted to do?” When I ask that question in workshops, almost every person raises their hand. We may be afraid of failure, of the unknown, of success and of loss. We may fear our power, and the ultimate fear; that people will see us for who we are and we won’t measure up. What are your fears?

    A good question to ask when we are facing fear is: What is the worst that can happen? This helps to identify any real danger. It also prepares us for anything that might happen thus removing the element of the unknown in the situation. We are now ready and prepared.

  2. Limiting Beliefs

    A good question to ask when we are facing fear is: What is the worst that can happen? This helps to identify any real danger. It also prepares us for anything that might happen thus removing the element of the unknown in the situation. We are now ready and prepared.

  3. Interpretation

    An interpretation is an opinion or judgment that you create about an event, situation, person or experience and believe to be true. Ask yourself if there is another way to look at that?

    Look at this from the view of a respected relative; from someone who may typically hold the opposite viewpoint from you; or a favorite professor. As your self, what would they think or do? You will gain a variety of new perspectives that can help you move forward to achieve your goal.

  4. Negative Self Talk

    Negative self-talk are those terrible things we say to ourselves when we aren’t at our best. Take a moment right now and write down what you say to yourself when you aren’t at your best. Now ask yourself this, would you say those to anyone else? Then why would you say them to yourself?

    Tear up that list. Throw it away along with all that negative energy. Now write a list of positive comments you can say to yourself to replace those. Often, a good place to start is saying the opposite of your negative self-talk. Your new words can be as simple as “I can do it!” Now start saying them. Feel the difference of your energy when you do. It is much more positive and uplifting providing energy to achieve what you desire.

How do I stop it?

These thoughts and behaviors have become as automatic to us as pulling back our hand from a hot stove. A neural path has been formed so that we can automatically perform that thought or action. Becoming aware is the first step in changing that automatic behavior. When you become aware of your negative self-talk and limiting behaviors, you have begun changing your pattern!

Change Your Thought, Change Your Behavior

Once you are aware of that behavior, its time to understand the core thought behind it. Then reframe that core thought into a new, more positive thought. When we change our thoughts, it changes our emotions, which leads to a different behavior. With awareness, persistence, and practice you can change your behavior.

What others say

One of the most difficult aspects of building confidence is learning how to manage the negative and unsupportive comments of others. It is very important to note that those comments rarely have anything to do with you. In coaching we learn that often what others say is about them, and what you hear is about you. In other words, the speaker and the listener are filtering everything through their unique lens/view on the world.

What we can do is objectively listen and ask ourselves is there something I can learn from what they are saying? If so, then take action. However, the most important question is: Why put the key of happiness in someone else’s pocket?

Create a Plan

Now create a plan to target one or two of the areas that you would like to conquer. Create your plan with a series of small steps leading to the achievement of your goal. By breaking any goal down into small, achievable steps, we can be successful. (SMART Goals) Begin with action you feel confident you will be able to do. As you experience success, begin stretching those goals so you are challenged. Before you know it, you will be getting closer and closer to your goal.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to conquer, because when you challenge yourself and expand your boundaries, your confidence grows and you increase your ability to take on more challenges in all areas of your life. The more challenges you take, the more confidence you build. The easier it is. Persistence pays off. When we are more confident, we can then draw on that confidence to face new and unexpected experiences with courage and ease.


Celebrate! When you have been successful, no matter what the success, celebrate. Life is meant to be enjoyed and take every opportunity to do that.

One Step at a Time

These simple steps can get you started on the journey to confidence. It happens one step at a time. It is an exciting journey that allows you to expand your comfort zone. If you approach the journey with curiosity, then there is no failure. “It is a journey to find out who we are NOT, so we can find out who we are.”™ Each one of us has special gifts and talents that allow us to live to shine our light. Wishing you a wonderful journey.

Wanda Whitson has more than 25 years of corporate communications experience working with senior level executives. Now a certified coach, speechwriter, speaker, communications trainer, and workshop facilitator, she helps executives and professionals remove the barriers that are preventing them from reaching their highest potential. Wanda is the author of http://www.redchairchronicles.com. She can be contacted at: [email protected]. www.wandawhitson.com.

Forbes.com, Women Lose Ambition Once They Get to Work, Bain & Company Report, November 04, 2014

The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, 2014

Wanda Whitson
Wanda Whitson, CPC, ELI-MP

Leadership Coach|Writer|Public Speaker|
Communications Trainer| Executive Speech Writer|
Professional Branding, From the Inside Out

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