It’s easy to blame the environment around you for being unjust, but it serves you (and your fellow female entrepreneurs) more to fight it.
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg notes that she has seen many female entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and around the world with the talent, knowledge, skill sets and even experiences that drive success, yet completely doubt their abilities.
Confidence is one of the weakest links for women. I know I’ve felt it as a female entrepreneur, as have many of my peers. It’s easy to blame the environment around us and say that business has been a man’s world for so long. But we should instead be working on methods designed to boost our confidence so we can stop blaming and start doing.
Here are six ways you can become more confident as a female entrepreneur:
1. Work with a mentor.
Like a coach who works with an athlete, a mentor is there to be a cheerleader, advocate, voice of reason and one-person confidence booster.
My mentor has helped me visualize what I want to achieve and provided direction that has led to my achievement of different goals. She saw things I couldn’t see and provided the pathway and steps. Once I accomplished those objectives, I felt confident that I could take on the next set that we developed. While some things have not worked out, my mentor has always been there as my Monday morning quarterback to assess what went wrong. She has helped me understand what I could have done differently rather than just blame myself as I had in the past.
Find a mentor who is focused on your industry so that their knowledge, connections and experience can provide benefits that propel you forward.
2. Surround yourself with smart, positive women and men.
Beyond my mentor, it’s been an invaluable confidence booster to spend time with positive people. From my entrepreneur-filled family to colleagues I’ve met over the last couple of years, I have people who support me so that I’m not afraid to fail or try something new.
Participate in industry events, volunteer programs and other social events where you can interact with positive people. Steer clear of negative people who only end up making you doubt yourself or give you reasons to not pursue things. Having a positive atmosphere around you will make you believe that you can do anything. And, once you have succeeded, your support team is there to celebrate those wins with you, which further boosts your confidence.
3. Beef up your skills by taking courses and seminars.
There’s a reason they say knowledge is power. Learning more and adding skills related to your industry increases your value to others, and empowers you to make decisions and take action. Other skills that are important include public speaking, negotiation and conflict resolution, all of which build confidence as you improve on them. Essentially, the more you know, the more you can do, the more you feel good about your self-worth, and the more confident you become.
Since I am so busy with work, I take online courses and seminars. I also participate in workshops and conference discussions related to my industry that are recommended by my mentor and networking circle.
4. Step outside your comfort zone.
It can be scary to go out and do something completely different than what you are used to, but once you do it, there’s no question as to how confident you’ll feel. It was this feeling of being on top of the world that came over me after my first presentation at a conference.
As women, we shouldn’t stick to assigned roles because we feel like it’s what we are good at. In reality, we could be doing so much more that no one ever encouraged us to do. Sign up for something you would never do and get through it. You’ll experience a heightened sense of confidence.
5. Find a social cause and actively participate in it.
Getting involved in organizations and groups that involve all types of people can also be a confidence booster. For me, participating in social causes has allowed me to practice public speaking. This confidence has spilled over into other aspects of my life where I’m faced with similar situations.
Social causes like public awareness campaigns and nonprofit work are often more amenable to having female leadership too, as many women exhibit qualities like sensitivity, nurture and empathy. Stepping into a leadership role with a social cause is easier because the passion takes over any lack of confidence that may have existed.
6. Use affirmations and mindful thinking.
Confidence is purely mental, so it helps to convince yourself that you are confident. You can do this through positive affirmations: telling yourself that you deserve that job or that you will deliver a great speech.
Mindful thinking is another tool that works well for me. I visualize what it looks like to achieve something that is important but that is causing me worry. I see myself winning at it and exuding confidence while doing so. Doing this a few times before facing what makes you apprehensive can turn around your mental perspective. If I think I am confident, then I act confident. It takes practice, but it works.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.