ONE of the first things I learnt as a new gender student at Oslo University was how most women struggle to affirm their thoughts and actions in a world where patriarchy is most celebrated and atoned by societies still struggling to embrace the concept of equality. What was most telling during my short experience is the fact that even the Western world is still grappling to come to terms with issues of gender equality.
Apparently, I was the only male student in a class of 25 and often there were things that naturally betrayed certain inherent characteristics of “inequalities” that exist between men and women. That aside, lest I transgress from the subject of the day.
The issue of confidence is one which does not affect women only, but for purposes of my discussion I shall dwell on this very crucial human attribute as it pertains to women. For anyone, confidence sends the message that you are in a position of authority and control of your situation.
Normally, confidence is often exuded in the manner one walks into the room with shoulders back, head up, and making eye contact. This usually reflects also on one’s state of preparedness and/ or competence on a subject or issue of concern.
Confidence should never be confused with arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you are better than somebody else. Confidence is knowing you are competent and expecting to be treated as such.
Lack of confidence can strike both men and women, but females struggle with confidence issues more often for several reasons. One of the primary culprits contributing to this phenomenon is the fact that women are picked apart in many more areas of their life than their male counterparts.
For instance, the media and slick advertising often promote the image of thin, beautiful women dressed in designer clothes and wearing stiletto heels. Women are assaulted with images of the perfect mum and family on Mother’s Day. There are few areas of a woman’s life that are not targeted for improvement — and with that, the implication that she is far from perfect.
Some areas of low confidence include: not worthy of a promotion, too fat, wrong skin colour, not educated enough, not worthy of love, not athletic enough … the list goes on.
No wonder women lack confidence. In truth, confidence has nothing to do with beauty, height, weight, skin, clothes, relationships, or intelligence.
Confidence is a gift that only you can give to yourself. If you have it, no one can take it from you. On the other hand, don’t look to others to give it to you.
Here are five things confident women never do:
l Take their day for granted: Confident women never forget to start their day with gratitude. Gratitude puts your life into perspective. Start and end each day with at least five positive affirmations about what you are thankful for about yourself.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion for mental toughness because it reminds you to be confident in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is about progress, not perfection. Positive things happen to positive people.
l Avoid making eye contact with everyone they meet: Confident women never avoid any opportunity to flex their confidence muscle during their day in the world. They make eye contact with everyone they meet because they have the confidence to initiate conversations and spread their influence. They know their thoughts have the ability to make a valuable and impactful contribution to other people.
Women with confidence can look a man in the eye and control the situation, and not trivialise the encounter by allowing it to turn into flirting.
l Stay inside their comfort zone: Confident women never shrink inside their comfort zone. Instead, they are curious about the world around them and look for ways to explore it.
Women with confidence believe in their ability to gain knowledge and solve problems. Self-esteem is believing in your competence — learn from your failures and mistakes so you do not repeat them going forward.
Past failure does not predict future failure — develop the mental toughness to stick with it because when you do succeed, that experience will give you more confidence.
l Speak in quiet tones: Confident women never fade into the background by speaking in low tones. They know how to crank up the volume so their opinions and views are heard.
This does not mean they are loud and boisterous; Most have a soft voice, but it can also be very strong. When you have something to say, say it loud enough and enunciate clearly so people both hear and understand.
Tip: If you don’t have anything of value to say, keep your mouth shut. Don’t lose credibility by blabbing just so you can stay in the conversation.
l Offer limp handshakes: Confident women never offer a limp wrist or dead fish handshake. They clamp down and shake hands with authority. Women, in particular, can be bad about this and it sets a weak and feeble message from the very beginning. Practice your handshake if need be, but get it right.
Confidence is believing that we are a person of value. We are ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in our lives. People who are confident keep building on their self-worth, and when they do, they convey the competence and authority they need to be successful in business and life.
Mandeya is a senior executive training consultant and communication in management advisor, a personal coach in leadership and professional development with the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.