If you’re a woman over 50, chances are you suffer from a lack of confidence, imposter syndrome, or low self-esteem. So, how can you build confidence as a woman?
I’m a woman over 50 and I certainly fit the above description a few years ago, and I’ve communicated with enough women to know it’s not unusual to lack confidence.
Some sources estimate that as many as 85% of people suffer from low self-confidence at some point in their lives!
So, if you’re looking for ways to become a confident person, tell your own inner critic to get lost, get rid of all those negative thoughts, and start trying more new things, you’ve come to the right place!
Let’s get to it. The first thing is to decide on a working definition of confidence so we’re on the same page.
What Is Confidence?
Google “confidence” and you’ll find many of definitions. Building confidence is something nearly every woman wants, but it often remains elusive.
In our struggles to find our place in the world and its increasingly complex pecking order, your confidence can get buried relatively quickly.
We make social media comparisons, and then negative thoughts, anxiety, or even depression can develop quickly.
Someone is always prettier, thinner, more accomplished, wealthier, smarter, more self-confident or younger than we are! We become more and more reluctant to engage in new challenges, or try any new things!
So, what does it mean to be confident? And more importantly, how can YOU become a member of the confident people brigade?
Confidence, according to the Oxford dictionary, is “the state of feeling certain about the truth of something,” or, more importantly for this discussion, “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s application of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
But that doesn’t really get to the heart of what we’re aiming for. And most importantly, how we can determine the action plan for building your confidence as a woman.
What We Usually Think Confidence Is
When we think about confidence, typically we’re feeling confident when things are going well. But what about when the going gets tough? When you’re faced with new challenges or negative thoughts?
If you only feel confident when things are going well, how is this going to help you join the ranks of confident women?
In addition, most women think if they have too much confidence, they’ll come off as conceited or full of themselves. This, too is a misunderstanding of what confidence really is.
Nothing new ever comes from staying in your comfort zone.
In reality, confidence is a mental state that you can build by doing some necessary work of changing the way you think about yourself.
If you do this mental work and you were not a conceited person to begin with, it will not turn you into one!
But like many other desirable qualities we wish upon ourselves, yes, this too takes work! But it’s work that leads to gains far beyond the amount of work involved.
What Confidence Really Is
A better understanding of confidence gives the sense of knowing something so well that you don’t have to think about how you’re doing it, while you’re doing it.
In other words, you bypass all of your cognitive thinking, second guessing, wondering how you’re doing stuff, and go straight to execution of the task.
What sorts of things are like that already for you? Tying your shoes? Brushing your teeth? Making your morning coffee? Riding a bicycle (even if it’s been years)?
Think about this for a few minutes. Do you feel co (believe, have certainty) about these things when you do them?
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If so, you’re confident about them. That’s what we’re going for!
Consider tying your shoes. All of your fingers work together in a complex way to make this weird bow in your shoe laces. Can you remember the time when you were learning this? (I cannot).
Can You Drive a Stick?
I drive a manual transmission car. I’ve been driving a stick since I was 25, and I hope I never have to drive an automatic. That’s how much I love my little 15-year-old Toyota Corolla.
When I taught each of my boys (now 37 and 32) to drive my car (the youngest learned in the car I’m still driving!), it was difficult for me to teach with words how to use the clutch and accelerator at the same time.
I had to physically do the thing while he was sitting in the passenger seat and have him watch as I tried to explain.
That’s confidence. I know deep down that I can get into any manual transmission automobile and drive it.
Sure, I may have to get familiar with how the clutch feels and how much to let out how quickly and so on, but with a minute or so of practice, I’ll nail it, even in an unfamiliar car.
This is the concept we’re exploring in this post.
Confidence Requires Practice
Did you detect in the previous paragraphs that this means your confidence level will be low if you’re trying something for the first time? Whenever you embark on learning a new skill you’ll naturally lack confidence in that particular area.
But if you’ve built up your level of confidence so that you have confidence in your ability to take on new things, this sends a powerful message to your brain, and leads to an overall confident attitude.
For example, if you will be leading your first meeting as a newly promoted manager, would you feel confident going into that meeting without having practiced at all what you planned to say?
Probably not, unless you had been a member of Toastmasters for the past few years. This is not an effective way to increase your confidence.
If you had absolutely no experience in public speaking, leading meetings, AND you weren’t familiar with the materials, you likely would not feel confident. You need to actually put in the hard work first.
On the other hand, if you did have experience, had practiced in front of a friend or family member, and you knew the material inside and out, you would feel somewhat more confident, right?
And here’s the thing: once you have more of these experiences of doing something for the first time (after practicing and becoming familiar), you’ll begin to have confidence that you can do more great things!
You will know that you are the type of person who doesn’t need to avoid something new because she’s afraid others will laugh at her and think she’s stupid. Why? Because you’ve succeeded at trying new things many times before.
You’ve gained a different perspective on what it means to be your own best self, responsible for your own needs.
One More Crucial Ingredient
You can have all the practice and knowledge available to you, but you still need one more thing: that is a belief in yourself and a certainty that you will perform competently.
This is the one area where most people get tripped up (including me). We seem to think this ability is something we’re born with.
And though some people are genetically more prone to negative thinking, it’s only about 20% genetics.
There is a direct link between your thinking about how confident you are, and how confident you will actually be.
Practice (lots of it), is the best way to become a person who actually believes you can do things you have a) practiced at consistently, and b) know the material well.
But without this quality, you won’t have the best chance of success.
How Can You Become a Confident Woman?
Let’s now develop an action plan for building your self-confidence.
Your lack of self-confidence won’t be solved by simply “thinking good thoughts,” or giving yourself a confidence boost pep talk.
The feelings you have are real when you’re faced with an unknown situation; the sweaty palms, the rumble in your stomack, racing heart beat, and my favorite, the rapidly reddening face.
Besides all of the above (most of which plague me), my voice gets higher and I feel out of breath. Any conversation skills I’ve ever had seem to go out the window!
One of the biggest problems is that conventional advice tends to focus on the negative, i.e., “you’ll be fine,” “you won’t forget your outline,” “come on, snap out of it!”
But all that doesn’t work. Often times it just freaks you out even more. There has to be a better way, and there is.
Let’s say you were about to speak in front of a local city council meeting about a subject that’s extremely important to you. You’ve never done anything like it in your life before.
You practice what you’re going to say, and you have your notes organized. You’ve always suffered from a lack of self confidence, but you feel like you’ve prepared pretty well.
You think to yourself, “this presentation is so important! I need to do really well or our beautiful city may be ruined by this new construction!”
How do think this will affect your presentation? You’ve just put pressure on yourself by telling your inner critic you’re the only hope for your community.
What if, instead, you thought (deliberately) something like, “let’s see how well I can get my point across to these eager people!”
Problem is, that sort of deliberate thought is not usually hanging around at the ready in your brain, am I right? It’s not in mine, that’s for sure.
My default little voice is always of the first sort, mainly because that’s what I grew up hearing from literally everyone, from my well-meaning parents, to teachers in school.
A New Approach
You need a new approach, and this will require a new habit. Get a blank notebook and give it a title of “My Mental Bank Account,” or something similar.
In this notebook, you are going to begin collecting statements that will have you focusing on what you want more of in your life.
Why? Because science says that what you focus on is what you will get more of. What you focus on can literally change your brain! How cool is that?
If you suffer from confidence issues, you’ve more than likely been repeating the same negative or at least unhelpful statements and phrases to yourself all your life.
But confident behaviors come from confident thinking. And in order to excel at confident thinking, you have to…wait for it…PRACTICE!!
If you’re mostly self-critical, engage frequently in negative self-talk, and think about how life is so “hard,” these feelings and thoughts actually shape your brain.
You’ll likely worry more often, be more anxious, and more likely to see things from a negative perspective. You’ll wallow in thoughts of “what could have been.”
If, however, you focus on more positive aspects of circumstances, or thoughts that are more helpful, your brain will eventually be rewired to strengthen connections that tend more toward optimism, gratitude and higher self esteem.
Figure Stuff Out
Marie Forleo wrote a fantastic book a few years back called, Everything is Figureoutable. A must read! Marie is a self-made millionaire entrepreneur who grew up with a mom who figured stuff out. This is an amazing lesson to grow up with!
If you didn’t (like I didn’t) it’s easy to wallow in thinking negatively about that! “Oh, man! Why did my mom always emphasize how hard stuff was?
If only she had given me the lesson that Marie’s mom gave her, my life would have turned out so differently!!”
Say what? That’s exactly what you don’t want to think! Of course it would have been great if I’d grown up with that reinforcement, but I didn’t and there’s no changing it.
But I can adopt that thinking going forward! Can you see how this works?? Wallowing in the negative “how it could have been,” is NOT HELPFUL thinking.
Acknowledge that it would have been nice, but get right back to reality. “It would have been great if I’d grown up with a mom like Marie’s who emphasized that we could figure anything out, but I’m so grateful I learned this when I was 62 and can put it to use for the rest of my life!”
Do you see how this is SO MUCH more helpful? Instead of freaking out, FIGURE out. Stop and think about ways that you can still get to the airport even though you just got a flat tire.
Maybe you have to get on a later flight, but you can figure it out! Tell yourself over and over again that EVERYTHING IS FIGUREOUTABLE.
Everything Is Figureoutable can be the first entry in your Mental Bank Account notebook. Don’t forget to get the book, too. It’s pretty much required reading.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Mistakes happen. They always will. Everything will not always turn out the way you want it to, or the way you envisioned. Since this is a given, really the only thing you can control when mistakes happen is how you react to them.
Do you freak out and tell yourself what an idiot you are? That you never should have tried in the first place? Or do you resort to, “what’s the use of even trying” sort of talk?
Instead, since mistakes are GOING TO HAPPEN, decide that you will learn from them! It’s part of the process of doing literally anything. I’ve made the same spaghetti sauce recipe countless dozens of times over the years, and every once in a while I forget a key ingredient!
Do I throw the whole batch out? Of course not. (Unless I accidentally, say, poured a CUP of salt in or something weird like that…actually, hmmm…maybe I could figure out a way to salvage it. I’ll get back to you).
It sucks, of course, but if you let your failures teach you something new, they can become part of the whole process of getting you to where you want to go.
How many times have you heard the one about babies learning to walk? They don’t decide to forget about it just because they fall a few (zillion) times!
Learning To Ride A Bike
Or, remember when you were learning to ride a two-wheeler? It was a long-ass time ago for me, but I don’t recall telling my dad that I just wasn’t going to keep trying because I fell a few times. I was determined to master it!
So what happened to me along the way of life? Somewhere along the early teen years I (we) develop this abhorrence for anyone seeing us make mistakes.
Let’s face it, teens can be very cruel, and who wants to be on the receiving end of that?
So I think I just stopped trying big, hairy, scary things. I just plain didn’t reach for the stars, literally, until I was in my 50s!!!
When you’re preparing for something new or important, think of a few things that could go wrong. Maybe you’re recording a podcast, or doing a Zoom meeting.
What could happen? Your internet could go down. What sort of plan could you make for that? Don’t DWELL on things that could go wrong, just PREPARE for some of the most obvious.
The more you do this, the more you will be able to do it.
What else? You could forget what you were going to say. Be sure to have notes of your key points. And PRACTICE them, and also practice what you’ll say if you get off track.
And if all else fails? Own up to it and laugh it off. “Sorry, lost my train of thought there…” And then move on to your next point. People will get it. Trust me, the same thing happens to them!
Be sure to add any of these learning times to your Mental Bank Account. You’re going to read these every single day so you can see what an awesome, confident badass you are.
Be Scared And Do It Anyway
Don’t wait until you’re confident to do new or scary things. Confidence comes from action. Confidence comes from competence. Remember I said up above that if you’ve never done something before, you have to practice at it.
You can be confident that you can master this thing, like you’ve mastered many other things, but you can’t be confident you’re a great computer programmer until you’ve got some good programming under your belt.
Your mental bank account will help you become confident that you can do new (scary) things, but until you have done it enough times and become competent, you won’t be confident that you can do it competently. Make sense?
This means you need to do scary, new things while you’re still scared to do them.
If your goal in life is to never feel scared about trying something new, or putting yourself in a vulnerable position, well, I think you need new goals!
Just remember this: If you believe you absolutely cannot do something, then you won’t. But if you believe you can, even if you don’t totally know how yet, or you’re scared, you’ll be able to figure it out, learn from your mistakes (if there are any) and get better at it!
Confidence comes from action. Confidence comes from competence, which cannot be achieved if you never do the thing!
Focus On What You Want (Not What You’re Avoiding)
This is sort of like the old question, “are you a glass have empty or a glass half full type of person?” Do you have a growth mindset?
A growth mindset assumes that you can grow and change; that you’re not “set in your ways,” you don’t have a certain amount of intelligence, creativity, balance, or ability to twist yourself into yoga poses!
Here’s what this looks like. Let’s say you’ve decided you need to clean up your diet a little (or a lot). You’ve been eating way too many donuts, cinnamon rolls, and triple-whatever-Starbucks-thingies (I don’t do Starbucks so have no idea what they’re called). Besides this, you’re drinking 2 or 3 glasses of wine every single night of the week!
So, you make new plans. I’m going to STOP eating donuts, cinnamon rolls, and drinking so much wine every night.
Okay, why is this bad? For one thing, remember that what you focus on you get more of. AND, your brain interprets this stuff without the word, “stop.”
Ole braniac thinks you’re saying I’m going to…eating donuts cinnamon rolls wine every night. You end up thinking about the stuff you’re not getting, instead of what you want to do.
So, here’s where another plan comes into focus. First you need to choose one of these areas at a time. Maybe you’ve decided to start with the wine.
Instead of saying, “I’m going to stop drinking so much wine in the evening,” you could plan to limit it to one glass. “I believe I’ll have one glass of wine tonight!”
Whittle Your Wine
Once you’ve whittled your wine drinking down to one glass, two to three nights a week you can say to yourself (or out loud), “I’m going to have a cup of that awesome sweet, cinnamonny (not sure that’s a word!) Good Earth tea tonight!”
And you get yourself all excited about that dang tea! Don’t tell me this is nonsense, BECAUSE I DID THIS VERY THING. And I did it in my 60s, after months and months of drinking at least 2 glasses of wine every night.
Focus On What You Want. Think about it lovingly during the day. “I can’t wait to march in place during commercials while we’re watching Grey’s Anatomy tonight!” Visualize yourself doing it, and think about the calories you’re burning.
Little by little, you take small steps to get you where you want to go, and before you know it, you begin to be confident that, dang it! you really CAN do this stuff! You really CAN be a confident badass woman.
No matter how old you are, no matter how entrenched your self-doubt thoughts are right now, you can do this!
Becoming A Confident Woman Is A Learned Skill
Confidence is a learned skill. Once you’re past the little kid stage, the amount of confidence you do, or don’t, have is likely based on the sort of people you grew up around and how they practiced, or lacked confidence.
You’re a product of all the experiences and people you’ve been around for an extended period. And some of it’s genetics, too. It’s absolutely true that some people are more inclined to think negatively, but it’s something you can deal with as long as you know it’s there.
Remember that confidence doesn’t come from all the good times that are rolling along, when you feel all is right with the world.
Confidence comes from knowing that you can give something your all, do your best, keep practicing and improving, learn from your mistakes, and pick yourself up after you fall. You need to always be thinking deliberately.
Make sure you keep your Mental Bank Account current, and literally open it every day and read, re-read, repeat, and repeat again the mantras you’ve written down to keep yourself focused on where you’re going.
Confidence means you’re running toward something you want; not running away from challenge because you’re scared. It means putting in the work to be the best you can be, and then trusting that work to be enough. Because it is.
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