If, as a child, we are encouraged to learn new skills, take (calculated) risks and are pushed beyond what feels entirely comfortable, then there is an opportunity for learning and building confidence in ourselves and our ability to do something we hadn't considered.
If, as a child, we are encouraged to learn new skills, take (calculated) risks and are pushed beyond what feels entirely comfortable, then there is an opportunity for learning and building confidence in ourselves and our ability to do something we hadn't considered. iStock

How to boost confidence in women

I recently worked with a local group of female employees as part of an initiative to encourage more women to step into leadership roles to bring more balance into the leadership mix of the organisation.

One of the areas identified as a major impediment for many women was not lack of skills, education, experience or competence - it was confidence.

My session worked with them on self-awareness, building confidence and giving them some tips and techniques to help.

It did get me wondering whether confidence is innate or learned and, according to Psychology Today, research from 2009 indicates that genetics may have something to do with it.

Then again if you read Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton, his research around epigenetics indicates that we all have the ability to switch genes on or off and what makes the difference is a combination of nutrition, emotion and environment (internal and external).

It may not be clear cut, however, if we consider external environment. My view is that if, as a child, we are encouraged to learn new skills, take (calculated) risks and are pushed beyond what feels entirely comfortable, then there is an opportunity for learning and building confidence in ourselves and our ability to do something we hadn't considered. In this example, the opposite would also be true.

Leading on from that idea, perhaps a further contributing factor to low confidence in females in the workplace is the way that boys and girls have been raised traditionally.

Whereas boys are often encouraged to learn by taking part in activities that may expose them to more risk, typically girls are more protected and given safer activities.

With modern life appearing to have more risk factors than ever before, I guess it's understandable that we are often more fearful and alert to the potential dangers and therefore may restrict experiential and exploratory learning, particularly for girls.

There is no one answer, and each individual's experience is unique so it can be complex to unravel why some are more confident than others, yet we are all likely to have one thing in our life, a simple skill or talent, that we're really good at and feel confident about.

Whether it's a one-off example or we have several to refer to, they can be used as a reference point for accessing a confident state when our confidence is low or has taken a bit of a knock for some reason.

That, plus a bit of encouragement and support can make a big difference to our ability and desire to push through our resistance and give something a go and help build confidence and self-belief for future challenges.


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