Do you remember when you were a young kid and how we all love to pretend we are superheroes? Come on, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. My brother and I wore tea towels as superhero capes as it was the best we could do at the time.
I now smile as I watch my own daughter tear about the house with a cape proudly draped around her shoulders. For that moment, she is officially a superhero and she feels awesome. She is beaming with confidence which makes her feel invisible. A watch and admire how free she feels and it takes me back to a place when perhaps I felt like that with my tea towel. So my question is, how can something like a cape make us feel so confident? And how great would it feel if you could remove the cape but still feel like that?
Confidence can be a real high-wire act, and we’re not always sure how well we are walking it. That’s because a lot of it depends on how we’re perceived. Are we too confident, or not confident enough? Do you sometimes look around and feel like many of your friends or colleagues just seem to be super confident all the time? How do they do it? Confidence can be perceived in so many ways. When I was recently talking to a friend of mine, who has performed as a professional sportsperson at a very high level. She referred herself at the start as wearing a ‘confidence cape’. A strong exterior, she would put on this invisible jacket to lead her team from the front. She saw it as a cape as she couldn’t quite believe the great leader that she was. However, over a period of time, she came to realise the cape wasn’t needed. The confidence was inside her and it had been there all the time. The cape was gone.
Many men and women have suffered from imposter syndrome at some stage in their life or their career. Impostor syndrome has been studied by researchers now for over three decades.
One key characteristic of the syndrome is that, although impostors crave acknowledgement and praise for their accomplishments, they do not feel comfortable when they receive it. Instead, praise makes them feel anxious because, underneath, they secretly feel they do not deserve it. Sometimes we feel like if we succeed or do well that we will be caught out, that we have been exposed. Many of us don’t want to shout about our successes and actually say ‘yes’, this is who I am and look at what I have achieved, without feeling the need to somehow apologise for it, or justify it by saying, it was just luck. Some very influential, successful women have been talking about ‘imposer syndrome’ including Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. She said: ‘‘There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.’’
This research is incredibly timely as not only do we need to increase female confidence in the workplace, we need to ensure our next generation of female leaders don’t feel like they don’t belong in the boardroom either. According to reports published on www.bbc.co.uk, Girls are achieving more than ever before – they regularly outperform boys in the classroom and at university. Yet they still feel they don’t belong. A lot of these feelings and lack of self-belief all points to one thing – confidence.
So how do we start by becoming more confident?
We have to start by ignoring the little voice inside that tells you that you are not good enough. Imposter syndrome thrives on your self-criticism, so the more you talk yourself out of your skills or accomplishments, the more you become trapped in an “imposer cycle” - so close the door on it. Thank those who helped you get to where you are, but ensure you take your credit as well. You did it and you deserve the praise and acknowledgement.
Building self-confidence is actually an act of effort. By feeling more confident in yourself, you will naturally reflect a positive impact on others and make them feel good. Quite simply, if you are focusing on trying to be a happier person, others will feel good around you and so on. I was always a confident kid but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had plenty of doubts in myself and my own abilities over the years.
My parents encouraged me to be confident, to stand tall, to be kind and to work to my strengths. I am now trying hard to instill these messages in my own children. For my seven-year-old daughter who often doubts herself, I wish for her to grow up to be confident, to want to lead and not be afraid of putting her hand up and trying something new. Fundamentally, I want her to be a girl who believes in herself. A girl who will grow into her strengths and know what makes her the person she is. A girl who doesn't try to be someone else but learns to love herself and her flaws. To recognize that it’s impossible to be good at everything but to focus on things you are good at. Always wanting to nurture herself, to learn new things and have the confidence to learn something positive when we fail - because it's all part of our confidence journey.
So if you are thinking of investing in something anything soon - start with yourself. It’s the best investment you will ever make. So now is the time to imagine that cape around your shoulders, helping you to walk tall and it won’t be long until you’ll realise that you don’t need that cape anymore, because it was there underneath, all the time. If you are a parent, share your own messages of why confidence is important with your children and you never know, it could be a confidence journey you end up taking together.
Guilty Mother is supporting Raising Women in a mission to help us build confidence in young girls. Over the next few days, I'll be sharing my thoughts on what a confident girl means to me. To support this mission and to help raise awareness please click here: http://raising-women.com/the-shop/ to purchase a charitee for your confident girl. #raisingaconfidentgirl