What would I do if I weren’t afraid? That was the question the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg posed to a group of young women at Barnard, Columbia University when she made a keynote address. As an establishment dedicated to the advancement of women, and as one of the powerful of her sex in America her voice is an important one for the next generation. She urged her listeners to ‘think big’ to understand the inequalities that still exist along gender lines in the workplace and to ‘rise up against the naysayers’. For those about to graduate she told them not to allow fear to overwhelm their desire.
In this the seventh and final article in the series of attracting the right type of clients to your business we examine self-belief. Every business woman wants both her professional and personal life to be not only successful but also fulfilling. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Why is self-belief important?
Self-belief enhances your personal and professional power. Being able to express your uniqueness coupled with a strong sense of self-worth will set you apart from the competition. In the corporate world apparently it’s a lack of confidence not gender that is the biggest mountain for women to climb. In Sandberg’s speech she talks about men being more ambitious from the day they graduate. Sandberg continues to say that if you ask a man why they succeeded they attribute their success to themselves whereas women attribute it to external factors. For example, working harder, help from others, being in the right place at the right time, luck. Men on the other hand know it’s because they are awesome. But here’s an interesting fact, in a recent article Female entrepreneurs: how far have they come? – Women in Business it states that ‘Women have been initiating female-owned businesses at twice the rate of men’. It further goes on to suggest that ‘Compared to men, women entrepreneurs are move adaptive, more socially aware, have wider experience in different business areas, delegate more and engage in longer-term planning.’ That comes as no surprise to any woman used to ball-juggling and spinning plates!
So why are women not owning their own success? Is it something to do with the messages instilled in us from childhood? Men will be the breadwinners and women the homemakers? Or could it be that there are more male role models for men to emulate? Joy Maras, of DFJ Gotham (venture capital firm) in a recent interview with CBS stated that although she meets many smart, bright female business owners’ women lack confidence and don’t think big enough. Joanne Wilson, an US based Angel Investor urges women not to wait until everything is perfect before you jump in. So what lies beneath confidence, courage and boldness? Below we briefly touch upon five key attributes that if mastered will help you tune in to your self-belief.
- How you see yourself defines how you’re seen
Self-worth is key to empowerment and success. If you want others to see your uniqueness and the qualities you bring to the table you need to start seeing yourself through a different lens. Remember there is no one else in the world like you so make sure that you love and honour yourself first and then people will treat you the same way. Don’t allow that internal negative voice that sometimes rears its ugly head in us all to dominate your thoughts. Surround yourself with people who love and respect you, people who will give you an honest opinion when needed as well as words of encouragement and praise. As your self-worth grows watch yourself become a magnet for the right type of clients; like attracts like.
- An equal among others
Regarding yourself as equal to others is about the confidence you have in yourself, your knowledge and your abilities. This is also about self-esteem which comes through self-acceptance; this means accepting your imperfections. How often do we criticise ourselves when we make a mistake, a bad decision or aren’t quite able to get it right? When we accept our imperfections only then do we become whole and are able to live a wholehearted life. Brene Brown’s book on The Gifts of Imperfections is one of my best reads so far this year and tackles the issues of vulnerability and shame. Fear in business is something we often don’t talk about but if we face these two threats head-on it is amazing what we can achieve. In her 2012 TED presentation, Brene talked about her desire to get her work out into the world while at the same time working very hard to ensure she stayed small and underneath the radar. Brene explains that vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. Brene’s 2011 TED talk on vulnerability has been watched by over 4 million people so far – she acknowledges it’s difficult to stay under the radar when you get that type of exposure. Her 2012 TED talk has attracted over half-a-million viewers so far!
- Being heard above the noise
Ever sat in a meeting listening to one voice dominating the conversation and been too afraid to speak up and give your view, even though you know what you’d say would be right? Your opinion matters and your voice needs to be heard. So why are we sometimes too afraid to make people listen? Fear can hold you back from sharing your opinions with the world. You need to find your voice and the best way to do that is to make small and positive steps. Stay consistent, talk about what you know and emphasise your expertise.
- Taking risks
People who have a lot of self-belief are not worried about being wrong or making mistakes, they do not see the blocks in the road just a challenge and they focus on finding a solution. The great thing about taking risks, no matter how small, is that every time you stretch yourself you take a step outside your comfort zone and your confidence builds. The more your confidence builds the greater the realisation that you can take a risk and deal with the consequences – good or bad. This builds strong self-belief. It doesn’t matter if you are an extrovert or introvert successful people take smart risks, this means:
- Doing your research first.
- Finding out what the risk entails so you can make a better informed decision of whether it’s a good or bad risk.
- Taking small risks to start off and as your confidence grows taking bigger ones.
- Not over thinking when you take a risk. Do this and you allow space for the fear to creep in.
- Celebrating your successes so you can remember the feeling you had when you were brave and courageous.
- Committed… in a good way
One of the things I have noticed is that the people who are incredibly passionate about what they do like the Oprah Winfrey, Anita Roddick, Esther Ranzan, always say it’s never about the money. They are passionate about their work and the success follows. We have seen many great women stand up for what they truly believe in, like Jane Tomlinson, Aung San Suu Kyi and the sacrifices they have made, some with their lives. At the recent Women Unlimited Conference in March 2012, I was lucky enough to be in the audience and see many inspiring women stand-up and speak about their passion whether it was on cupcakes, colours, healthy snacks for children, selling or becoming a donor. All spoke with equal amounts of passion and commitment. All had put in a lot of hard work to achieve their successes and it was clear to see that they were truly passionate about their purpose.
It is an exciting time for women in business. Our voice within the corporate world is increasingly being heard and there are more female entrepreneurs now than there have ever been before. I hope that this series of articles has helped inform, educate and hopefully inspire. Whereas self-belief has been the final chapter perhaps it should have been the first. Self-belief is the first step to success. Those successes might only be small at first but they will grow and expand and as that happens your self-belief does the same. Success helps to bring great joy and the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to your own success is immeasurable. This series of articles has been a joy to write, the only hard thing being knowing where to stop.
Here are the rest of the seven steps to attracting clients