Despite combining multi-tasking with a lead foot, I’d backed out of my narrow garage countless times without mishap. Then came the morning of a mistake in judgment and a big car repair bill. Ugh.
Spending money on unnecessary repair bills cut into my shoe budget, so, after that, I backed out slowly and carefully, acutely aware of distance and speed. Repair bills and a ton of inconvenience were a mistake I didn’t want to repeat.
“Oh, that’s so sad,” said a gal pal to whom I recounted my morning challenge. “I hope you get your confidence back real soon.”
Get my confidence back? I hadn’t thought of my situation that way.
But now, the thought of a lack of confidence in my abilities was in my head every morning as I backed my car out. I wondered when my confidence would return. What a crummy thought to have so early in the day.
Low confidence. That was a malady I thought I’d escaped. Hair that frizzed in humidity, a weakness for chocolate that showed in a flabby belly, and a closet overflowing with shoes were issues I knew I had. Lack of confidence not so much.
My inner critic disagreed. It chirped that all women lack confidence.
Goodness, said my inner critic. Look at all the books and articles out there. Women having low confidence is an epidemic. Of course, you suffer from it. You’re not zipping out the garage like you used to, are you?
No, I wasn’t.
Confidence is a golden blend of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Were mine missing? Time to reflect and see if my inner critic was right.
As for self-esteem, I could check off all the boxes. I knew I was competent. I believed I deserved to be happy. I felt like I was useful and delivered value. All self-esteem systems were a go.
Self-efficacy is the judgment we make about our ability to master new skills, produce results, and succeed in specific situations. I’ve failed a gazillion times. Some days I even muck something up before leaving the house. But dusting myself off and trying again had never been a problem. One boss had even given me the nickname “Jane never-say-die Perdue.”
OK, self-esteem and self-efficacy were fine. So, what was going on?
While low self-confidence may be a common issue with some women, suffering from it didn’t square with my experience. (Stubbornness is another personal malady.)
Business women routinely make decisions, manage budgets, run households, and serve their communities. That stuff doesn’t happen in an absence of confidence; it only happens when someone has faith in their abilities. (Granted, they might occasionally doubt themselves a little, but humility is a good thing.)
Hmm. Is low confidence really just part of being a woman?
Could that supposed lack be a social meme, a cultural idea, that people believe because it’s plastered everywhere? Google “women and low confidence,” and there’s 274,000,000 results.
Could women’s alleged low confidence be a convenient social explanation for inequality? A cover for gender bias?
Don’t make my mistake
As I considered my situation more, I concluded low self-confidence wasn’t the problem. I’d let my pal put a thought in my head, and then I ran with it. My confidence was fine.
So, what was my deal? Cautiousness. I was being watchful and prudent. That’s all. Prior to the big repair bill, I’d operated on autopilot—car in reverse and go, with a thousand nondriving thoughts pinballing in my mind.
Fascinating how I’d allowed myself to get sucked into an unproductive line of thought by the power of suggestion from my pal and the ubiquity of the belief that women lack confidence. I won’t make the mistake of automatically buying that line of thinking any more. Being cautious is totally different than lacking confidence.
Times have changed. In these more enlightened days, professional opportunities for women are increasing. How to take the greatest advantage of those opportunities, however, is a complex question.
The more women enter the world of business leadership, the easier the next generation will find it. But how do you set yourself apart as a female business leader? In this article, I’ll share a few approaches that made it a little easier for me as the owner of a successful franchise.
Accept and Promote Your Unique Strengths
You will always have something to offer that others won’t.
Are you creative? Are you good at solving problems with logic? Are you very practical and hands-on? Working on becoming an all-rounder is a good idea, but it’s also very important to have a more specific set of signature skills to fall back on that will always impress.
I came to franchise ownership from a commercial scuba-diving background where I consulted on film and television productions. This background allowed me to bring unique element to my new-found profession as a restoration specialist —clearing underwater debris.
As a result of long-standing attitudes within the education of young women, females are often expected to facilitate the success of others rather than pursuing their own. Undo any tired conventions of this kind by positioning yourself as an expert early on!
Work, Work, Work
As a woman, it’s likely that you’ll come to the world of business from a unique angle. Typically—though this does not go for all women—the go-to attitude with which girls are raised is to nurture and support rather than to drive or innovate.
This may mean that you’ll need to push yourself to the extreme. Work to get your head around your role as a female business leader—be an “ideas woman” and the one who gets things done.
All of this is in addition to the work that any business owner needs to undertake in order to be successful. In the first few months—perhaps even years—you’ll need to be willing to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to keep your project alive and thriving.
Of course, you’ll need to take care of your physical and mental health, too. After all, you are your business’s greatest asset. Just because you’re a strong person doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own—that’s an unhealthy attitude.
Talk to people, surround yourself with supporters, and allow yourself downtime and a social life wherever possible. Don’t punish yourself or work will become more and more of a mental struggle.
Female Business Leaders Communicate
Don’t be afraid to delegate, make requests, and give advice where needed. These acts alone will position you in a place of authority and set you on a positive path to becoming a female business leader who will be respected, relied upon, and listened to.
Work on being concise, firm, and positive when giving instructions—while at the same time showing that you are a friendly member of the team who is willing to get her hands dirty.
Learn When Not to Compromise
Listening and understanding are important skills for any leader in the world of business, and this is one area in which a more old-fashioned upbringing may benefit females. Typically, girls are taught to emote and appreciate others’ feelings, and this can be applied to your work.
However, it’s also vital to know when to put your foot down and stand your ground. As an expert, you need to exercise your right to make an executive decision, politely reject ideas, and silence naysayers.
All of your decisions should be backed up with solid facts, and you need to be reasonable and fair. At the end of the day, though, you’ve gotten to where you are because you’re great at what you do, and that should be respected and taken into account.
I was lucky growing up in that both of my parents were involved in the world of business, which made it a significant part of my mindset and something that always felt like an option.
However, I appreciate that getting one’s head around the rejection of long-held societal beliefs to pursue a career as a leader in business may be very difficult for many women. If you’re kind to yourself and if you take to heart the above advice, things may come a little easier.
As a woman in a leadership position, I’ve found that calling upon my individual skills and abilities, putting in the hours and effort, working on my communication skills, and standing my ground have all stood me in great stead.
Today’s guest contributor is Jennie Mills, a female business leader who’s the owner of a Rainbow International franchise.
I won’t be a “brand,” someone who seizes every opportunity to self-promote. I want to be someone who has a good reputation.
An invitation to connect
What set me off? A fairly long mass email from a fellow to his LinkedIn contacts.
His opening paragraph was brief yet warm and welcoming. He said he wanted to get to know his contacts better. Mentally, I gave the guy kudos for reaching out and starting the process of building better connections. Way to role model.
His second paragraph outlined his experience. Good stuff. Strong credentials. He painted a solid picture of his background.
In his third paragraph, he provided details about several of the leadership programs he conducts. He said he thought the recipients might find the info useful in case we were looking for programs to attend or bring to our organizations.
I felt a little twitchy after reading course descriptions more commonly found in promotional material. To me, the surplus of specifics felt unnecessary. Weren’t we just getting to know one another?
The fourth paragraph listed the awards he’d received. Impressive. Good for him. Great that he’s been recognized for his quality work. Recognition is good to give, get, and hear about.
Me or we?
But, but, but.
An uncharitable thought had started to jump around in my head and kept jumping.
So far, he’d shared lots of “look-at-me” stuff’; no “we” stuff. His style of “connecting” felt like bragging. That’s when I went back and counted the lines in each paragraph. Paragraph two had 11 lines, 22 in the third, and 14 in paragraph four. 47 lines so far about him.
Next, he listed places where his articles had been published should we want to read them and learn more. The titles were hyper-linked. Paragraph five was eight lines long.
Should we want more details on his innovative views on leadership, paragraph six gave us descriptions and links to videos of his speeches. That paragraph was seven lines.
Paragraph seven was an overview of the book he’d recently written. In eleven lines, he told us how it would help us be better leaders.
After reading 73 lines, I knew a fair amount about both his background and thoughts on leadership, but I didn’t feel any connection to him or that we’d gotten to know one another better.
On an intellectual level, I understood he was using his email to build his personal brand. The world is information-rich these days, and people have to stand out. Differentiating yourself is a challenge many people trying to make a name for themselves face. I get that.
Connecting or selling?
But, but, but. I felt talked down to, oversold, and more convinced than ever that going in the opposite direction from the latest “It” trend is the rightest thing to do. Maybe it was my biases, stubbornness (inherited and cultivated), or need to feel a personal connection that made me react unfavorably.
Regardless of the reason, his message didn’t feel like connecting; it felt like a commercial. Impersonal, almost clinical. Qualified but distant, detached. I wanted to get to know a real person, not be introduced to a brand.
Do you know why people love the first day of school? The start of a New Year? The first day of fall?
Because they find the idea of a clean slate exhilarating. They want to make changes or start fresh.
Looking for the chance to have a clean slate doesn’t mean that people don’t like the life they live. It means that they suspect they’re missing something. Something that might be more fulfilling than what they currently have.
Have you ever felt that way?
The truth, however, is that those clean slate possibilities are always within our reach. We don’t have to wait for the first day of something to have that fresh start.
Having the life we want, though, means we have to change course. We have to be willing to pivot, that is, make a turn in what we’re doing.
8 ways to get a fresh start in life
Here are eight pivots to turn your life into what you want it to be.
Understand your fear, then put it in its place and move on.
Fear has no power unless you give it power. Fear doesn’t change the end result, and often it causes more damage than whatever it was you were so worried about. Think about the biggest fear you’ve ever had. What was the outcome? Did you recover? Chances are you came out the other end just fine.
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. ~Judy Blume
Courage is like exercising a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it becomes, and the more you benefit. We’re taught to avoid pain and danger. We lose out when we do that too much. We have to choose to face life with courage, knowing that in the end, it’s how you handle fear and how you respond to that fear that can change the course of your life. We go for the fresh start no matter our fears.
Be thoughtful about what you compromise on.
Compromising too much can steal your life and dreams. To work for or spend time with someone who doesn’t share your values is a compromise. That kind of compromise can rob you of your energy. It also affects your momentum.
Thinking about what you want to do only in the context of what you know you can do is more of a nightmare than a dream. Pursue your goals with all you have. Don’t be concerned with failing. The journey and the struggle can be extremely satisfying. It rivals the attainment of a goal.
Be honest with yourself.
Many people lie to themselves about whom or what is most important to them. Lying sets off a chain reaction that stalls momentum and makes your life a little less than what it should be. Even small lies chip away at the person you want to be.
Be impatiently focused.
We have a limited a number of breaths to build the world around us. Focus on a goal and don’t wait for the right moment or perfect conditions to go for it. Time matters. Go for it.
Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something. ~Ralph Marston
Control what you can control and forget about the rest.
Every moment you spend lamenting a situation you can’t control is a moment you’re stealing from yourself. Direct your energy and momentum to something you can manage instead.
Before you change course and start over, spend some time revisiting what matters most to you. Ask yourself a few questions. What are your values? What are your likes and dislikes? What do you want to do with your life?
Make a list of your answers.
Then, dream boldly and act to make your fresh start a reality.
Today’s guest contributor is John C. Neyland, president and Investment Advisor Representative at JCN Financial & Tax Planning Group. John is the author of How to Live the Life You’ve Yet to Dream, a blueprint for getting more out of life and leaving a positive mark on the world.
She unmade my side of the bed because I didn’t do it right.
My house guest was having problems with her shoulder. She said doing simple things like making up a bed aggravated her discomfort. I volunteered to help, and she agreed. Her ground rule for accepting help was that she would make up one side of the queen-sized bed and I’d do the other. Worked for me. We agreed she’d give me a shout-out the next morning when she was ready to make up her bed.
Puzzled, and feeling a little miffed, I walked over to the side she’d made up. Perhaps she had a different way of tucking in the top sheet. Nope, we’d both done hospital corners. Granted, her angle on the fold was a little crisper than mine. That was the only difference I could see.
What she saw was different.
My side wasn’t perfect like hers was, and she wasn’t going to settle for less than perfect even if it made her wince to first pull out and then redo my work.
Pain is too big a price to pay for perfection.
In the past, I’ve done my dances with perfection, and I refuse to dance with it anymore. Perfection is an unworthy goal. It’s over-rated, not worth the added time, stress, and frustration.
Perfection is overrated, boring. It’s the imperfections—the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements—that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful…necessary. ~Guy Harrison
Before you dance another dance with perfection, give the following items a good think and ask yourself if perfection is truly worth it.
9 ways perfection is overrated
Most people don’t recognize perfection when they see it.
Why? Because people describe perfection differently. Perfection is an absence of flaws or defects. Perfection, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t see any flaws or defects in my side of the made-up bed. My friend did.
Lost opportunity cost.
Rendering anything without flaw or defect requires a big investment of time. There’s the time to do and redo until perfection is achieved. Some perfectionists are chronic procrastinators. They put off starting something because they’re concerned about not being able to complete the task perfectly. Sometimes their work never gets started and who knows what opportunities are lost.
Miss out on simple joys.
It’s hard to look perfect eating an ice cream cone outside on a hot, summer day. There’s a good chance ice cream will drip down the cone and your chin. It might drip on your shirt and your fingers. But, isn’t all that part of the glorious fun?
Present as needy and narrow-minded.
Perfectionism is a prime breeding ground for my way or the highway thinking, which is a death knell for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.
Perfectionism feeds sex and gender stereotypes.
The perfect woman is beautiful, thin, and flawlessly groomed all the time. The perfect man is strong, a protector and provider. Both thoughts are poppycock, full of stereotypical thinking that harms young girls and boys.
Being perfect doesn’t automatically provide approval and affirmation.
Self-esteem doesn’t come from looking outside ourselves for approval and affirmation. It comes from within. Everyone benefits when we give ourselves permission to understand that a thoughtful and well-done good enough is good enough.
Perfectionism will make you sick.
Perfectionists have greater stress. They’re at greater risk for depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mental health problems. Those acquired health conditions are unacceptable downsides, especially when chasing a rare, subjective condition.
Fuel negative emotions.
Striving unsuccessfully for that elusive state where there are no flaws or defects makes people feel inferior, resentful, unappreciated, and unfulfilled. Perfection purists are often full of self-doubt. Maybe anger, too. Perfectionism reduces people’s level of playfulness, curiosity, and willingness to take risks.
Consumed and paralyzed by fear.
Perfectionism is a cesspool of fear. Perfectionists fear failure, not measuring up, making a mistake, not looking perfect, getting hurt, being exposed as a fraud, and being alone.
Perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. A perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even with those with whom they are closest. ~Shauna H Springer Ph.D.
Wanting to be a good person who does things well is a worthy goal. Looking to do those things perfectly isn’t. Being perfect is an overrated experience that serves no one well.
Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s…a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ ~Brene Brown
Ready to give yourself permission to let go of overrated perfection and instead do your best and accept good enough?
“Let me take a look at your Twitter profile,” offered my table companion. We were attending a Chamber-sponsored event on how to make the most of social media. “That’s my area of expertise, and I’m happy to offer up a style suggestion or two. Maybe you’ll decide to become a client.”
Curious, I took him up on his offer.
A few days later, I received an email from him that read in part:
The biggest problem with your Twitter account is that you follow too many people. Your following count makes you look less authoritative and diminishes the value of your message. Be selective and exclusive in who you follow. Think of it as a hierarchy of prestige. I suggest you curate who you’re following and drop those who aren’t influencers or a recognized name. You want to look superior, distinguished, and special, not ordinary.
His advice disturbed me. For lots of reasons.
My dad taught me to be confident yet humble. One of his favorite put-downs for someone acting “high and mighty” was to say, “he forgets we all put our pants on the same way.”
There’s no “hierarchy of prestige” in that mindset. Just common sense and goodness.
In one study, two-thirds of the participants agreed with the statement, deep down, you enjoy feeling superior to others. Lots of other studies contain similar findings. There’s even a name for the mental state of thinking you’re superior to others—the self-enhancement effect.
Research shows the self-enhancement effect is most pronounced with moral characteristics. What does that mean? It means we not only see our abilities as above average, but we also see ourselves as more moral, just, trustworthy, loyal, etc., than our peers. That’s too big for your britches territory.
Self-enhancement thinking can lead to self-righteousness. That’s problematic.
My interpretation of the consultant’s recommendation? He wanted me to position myself as being better than other people. Special. Elite. Exclusive.
Creating such a narrative about myself smacked of arrogance and narrow-mindedness, not messages I wanted to convey or even let myself believe. Other social media experts advocate the same approach to those you follow back. For me, curating those I follow back to create an image of exclusivity and superiority felt inauthentic and dishonest.
“What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs.” ~Perry Tam, CEO Storm8
A very thin line exists between confidence and arrogance. Not crossing that line requires vigilance, commitment, and self-awareness. Curiosity, a desire for humility, a sense of humor, and being kind to ourselves and others are involved, too.
Authenticity over style
Maintaining intellectual honesty and avoiding the trap of self-righteousness requires a few do’s and a couple of don’ts if we’re going to lead ourselves and others with grace and goodness.
Respect others as equals.
Be willing to listen to opposing points of view.
Check our ego at the door.
Be confident without being arrogant.
Judge or label people.
Accept our presumed superiority.
Attack people who hold different beliefs.
Be something we’re not.
I thanked the consultant for taking the time to look over my Twitter account and for sharing his thoughts. He asked if I wanted to become a client so I could capitalize on more of his experience and increase my influencer status.
“No, thank you,” I replied.
“I think you’re making a mistake, so may I ask why you’re not interested?”
“Of course. I walk to a different drummer. I want to be seen as knowledgeable, not superior. Accessible, not exclusive. Kind, not elite. If that means people judge me as not being distinguished, then so be it. They wouldn’t be my target audience, anyway. I’ll take substance over style any day.”
“Have it your way,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Convinced, I’m guessing, of my lack of superiority. I’m good with that.