Confidence is one of those words that is used in almost every leadership conference, coaching seminar, presentation skill training and, even though we hear it often and we make it our business to follow the steps to be confident, there are very few times that exuding confidence is openly validated to us. In this blog I want to share how an experience I had with an open validation of confidence, almost made me question my own confidence.
Let’s start from the basics, as defined by the online websters dictionary, confidence is “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances”. This means that the way your conscious makes you feel about your power, will result in how you behave and act upon it. This is very true for many of us. How we perceive ourselves is how we react to situations. It could be anything from the tone of our voice, to the way we sit or our posture, to the way we dress, how we make – or not- eye contact with others, among other things. There are many ways we demonstrate our confidence, or lack thereof, and for me it was a paradigm shift on how I was used to handling myself in my professional career. I was always of the people that thought “work hard” and “dress for the job you want not the job you have”, will drive success and provide you growth opportunities, little did I realize that is not the case. Even though I followed my own mantra and worked crazy amounts of hours and wore a suit every day, it wasn’t until I changed the way I portrayed my confidence that made a difference in being noticed as a leader or not. When I realized that everything from my posture, to my tone of voice, to learning how to be the bigger person in the room without being the bigger person, since I am only 5 feet, had to change, was when I started seeing different results.
I soon realized that sitting up and speaking without needing to speak loudly and taking moments to pause and compose my thoughts was acceptable (I had a huge fear of pausing in conversations – I felt like I needed to talk and talk and talk to sound intelligent). Listening to the discussion rather than starting to compose a response were all tools that I needed to develop to respond like a leader. It took some time but little by little I started to implement these small changes and with time they gave me the experiences that I needed to feel more confident in myself. I soon started walking the halls with my head up, speaking to others more confidently, responding to situations with assertiveness, making decisions like a leader and overall changing my demeanor to that of one that exudes confidence. With time it became natual and I felt like I was on top of my game until one day it all changed. I remember we had distributed an employee survey to get some feedback on the company culture. The last section of the survey allowed employees a section for commentary. As I was reviewing the responses, I came across one that had my name on it, I was excited about that and it read something like “Olga walks around the halls like she is the CEO”. That small phrase changed my demeanor immediately, I all of a sudden felt sad and mad and all kinds of crazy emotions. It completely took me by surprise and made me feel terrible about myself. See I have a tendency of wanting everyone to like me and when they don’t, I tend to get sad and let it affect me.
As you can imagine that statement did not sit well with me. My first thought was, “oh my gosh people don’t like me!”…”what do I need to do or how do I need to change so that people can like me?!”. My confidence level immediately plummeted because now I thought to myself, I was being overly confident so much so that it was upsetting people and making them not like me. It was a whirlwind of emotions until I stopped, took a couple of deep breath, reorganized my thoughts and soon realized that there is always another perspective to a situation, I just needed to find it in this situation. After an hour or so I started to think about the situation in a different perspective. As I spoke about it with a coworker, she said to me: “Olga, you should be honored, people see you as the future CEO”. In that moment I realized that all those times I was conducting myself more confidently finally paid off. Those couple of works from my co-worker gave me a new perspective on the confidence I was exuding and reiterated I was in the right path. In fact, it actually boosted my confidence because I finally realized that I had achieved my goal of not only knowing inside that I was smart and confident but I was also finally able to demonstrate it to others.
My tip with this short story is that there is no reason for you not be confident, confidence will always afford you what you need to make it to the next step, whether professionally or personally. Confidence is the one thing that can make the difference of you getting the job or not. Don’t let anyone take that away from you!