The Confidence Gap

What do you say to yourself first thing in the morning? When you want to apply for a new job? When you want to ask a question or share your view in a group? When you want to talk to someone for the first time? Or when some new opportunity emerges in your life?

Are they words of encouragement; words of assurance; words that help you to act, to ‘lean in’ and take the ‘road less travelled’?

Or perhaps not….

If you are anything like me, some mornings I just want to keep sleeping! But most mornings I do start the day with one thing I am grateful for, even if it’s the comfortable bed I had the privilege of sleeping in. I also make sure I set an intention do at least one thing towards my dreams and desires, even if it’s simply taking the first small step. Despite my best intentions, however, there are many times when I think I’m not qualified or not smart enough or I don’t recognise my true value. Sometimes I even feel like I’ve missed out on some great opportunities or even given up some things because of a lack in confidence.

So where does this lack of confidence come from?

Firstly, growing up and learning to conform rather than identify what in actual fact I stood for certainly set up a habit of self-doubt. Not clearly knowing what my beliefs and opinions, passion and strengths were set up a pattern of always trying to work out what other people wanted me to be or deemed acceptable; rather than just acting on my own intuition. I end up living in a reality of comparing and contrasting and harsh self-judgement, where I tell myself I’m not as talented as others and stop myself from living my full potential.

As I dig a little deeper, I also uncover that, as a woman, it’s actually true that there’s a gendered disparity in confidence; men overestimate their abilities and skills while women underestimate them. In fact, we’ve known this for some time: “imposter syndrome”, a phenomenon in which high-achieving women believe “they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise”, was first written about in 1978.

To add to this phenomenon, we also still live in a culture that gives women little reason to feel self-assured, despite living in the ‘lucky country’.

In 2014 Australia, if you are a working female you are more likely to earn less, more likely to be discriminated against and less likely to be the boss. According to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap report, Australia ranks 24th in the world, behind Cuba, Nicaragua, Burundi and South Africa in the gender stakes.

In America, Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, shares some interesting facts about leadership equality in her book ‘Lean In’. Over half of all professional entry-level roles are filled by women, but only 21% of senior management roles are held by women globally. On corporate America’s Fortune 1000 list, just 4.5% of the CEOs are female, and the pay gap hovers at about 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. Other barriers women still face in the workplace includes “blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination and sexual harassment”. Facts that can be backed up by another source who shockingly states that the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a woman can be fired if her boss finds her attractive; that a New York court decided that unpaid interns can’t sue for sexual harassment; and the Paycheck Fairness Act was defeated by Republicans who claimed women actually prefer lower-paying jobs.

Similar patterns can be seen in the UK with only three women heading FTSE 100 firms and the overall gender pay gap stubbornly stuck at 18.6%.

And to make things even harder, confident women at work are still labelled “bossy” and “bitchy”, to their own detriment, unless they can “turn it off”. One of the most compelling studies that underline the obstacles women face, though 10 years old but still rings true is the Howard/Heidi study. Two professors wrote up a case study about a real-life entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen, describing how she became a successful venture capitalist by relying on her outgoing personality and huge personal and professional network. The professors had a group of students read Roizen’s story with her real name attached and another group read the story with the name changed to “Howard.” Then the students rated Howard and Heidi on their accomplishments and on how appealing they seemed as colleagues. While the students rated them equally in terms of success, they thought Howard was likeable while Heidi seemed selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” Sandberg’s conclusion: when a man is successful, he is well liked. When a woman does well, people like her less.

As a woman and someone who likes to be liked, no wonder I find it difficult to be confident at times!

So what’s the solution?

Never letting an obstacle or challenge stand in my way, I remind myself of these simple but powerful steps adapted from my experience:

  1. Let the current culture drive you; ‘be the change you want to see in the world’
  2. Define what you stand for; if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything
  3. Give your attention to others; look to where you can help rather than compete
  4. Carry yourself with confidence; your posture and behaviour changes your attitude
  5. Make a 5 minute start on the first step; confidence is built on accomplishment
  6. Accept that very often good enough will do; give yourself permission to be human
  7. Frame mistakes as valuable feedback; Fail your way to success

Most importantly, I surround myself with other empowering individuals and build a support network. I call upon my courage to be confident and to express that confidence in a way that creates meaningful change; a culture that values self-assured women and men equally.

I will leave you with one simple phrase I use whenever I need a confidence boost, special thanks to the twins from MKR…..

“WE’VE GOT THIS”

Together, let’s change the culture of confidence.

Courtney ‘Co-Creator’ Wilson

m: +61 (0)417 107 888e: courtney.connect@outlook.com

colours finish

Living in the Moment

It has become quite obvious to me recently that I have lived most of my life in my head, most likely due to my analytical nature and conscientious mind; preplanning, organising and calculating what I “should” do next for the “best” outcome. I dwell on the past, worry about the future and fantasise about being on holiday. I get so caught up in the expectations of life, people and situations I have the tendency to seldom just go with the flow. My ‘monkey mind’ usually equates to being preoccupied with thinking I have to do something to make things happen and then when I do act, I’m left feeling guilty and full of regret. In business, and in my personal life, this tendency to jump from tree to tree can appear forced and controlled and contributes to high levels of indecisiveness, stress and anxiety, not just for me but for everyone involved.

Every now and then, however, I remember to relax and experience life; usually when I’m looking at something breathtaking, doing something that I really enjoy or experiencing a moment that touches my heart. It’s in these moments, I let go of thought, I feel alive, connected and my life becomes effortless. I allow life to unfold and act only when inspired to do so and when I do act I’m not attached to any specific outcome. Life becomes peaceful and uncomplicated.

So I ask myself, what can I do to balance the scales so my life is constantly in the flow, effortless and peaceful?

And the answer is simple; live in the moment by being mindful and connected.

I remember to observe my thoughts that come and go, without judgement, and at the same time have the courage to connect to everyone and everything that presents itself, especially the smaller things in life. Most importantly, I let go of all expectations and have faith. I offer life, people and every situation my full attention so that when I act, I trust it. Who knows, it may not turn out the way I expected but something else just might transpire instead.

I realise practice makes perfect; that every day is a new day and I’m gentle on myself. With each day, I start again and observe my thoughts, knowing that some days may be harder than others. I cultivate a connection with something I enjoy; walking along the beach, watching the sunrise or sunset, listening to music or dancing to a tune and then expand this to all experiences in life. When it comes to building relationships, both professionally and personally, I have the courage to look people in the eye and practice being present by allowing the situation to unfold without judgement or expectation. It can lead to extraordinary things or at the very least it lends itself to an authentic and stress free and peaceful experience.

I recognise that when I am mindful and connected, I trust life and life trusts me.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live”. Goethe

So take a deep breath, relax and start humming this song ….

 

I leave you with one thought to think each day “Are you living in the moment”?

Courtney ‘Co-Creator’ Wilson

m: +61 (0)417 107 888e: courtney.connect@outlook.com

colours finish

‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’

Throughout our lives we are faced with things that we fear, that frighten us or that simply present the unknown. This can cause us stress, anxiety or, at worst, create phobias. Simply put, fears can impact the quality of how we live our lives.

Over the years I have been fearful of things like the dark, the boogie man, heights and even spiders and snakes can send a shiver down my spine. I have been afraid of many things and continue to be challenged on a daily basis yet most of the time I always find a way to turn fear into curiosity and face my fear with courage, confidence and creativity. Eventually I become eternally grateful for the lesson it brings and the daily reminder to trust in life and love.

One of my biggest fears that I have had to face recently, as strange as it might be, is my emotion. I am a very kinaesthetic and sensitive person, so I feel everything and experience a range of emotions every day, to which I can choose to react or respond. Past experience would indicate I react more often than not, creating negative outcomes and a continuous cycle of blame and regret. I have tried to suppress my emotions, run from them and fight with them at times, but all to no avail. In fact it’s only made it worse.

My epiphany came when I recently took to the water to start boogie boarding and learn Stand-Up Paddle boarding. Firstly there is just something peaceful about the beach and the sheer size of the ocean reminds me of the bigger picture. The irony of it all, of course, is that the element of water actually represents the emotion of life.

Stepping out into the ocean to catch waves with my boogie board, I remember thinking to myself, if I swim out deeper; I can catch the bigger waves and have a better ride. Only to be hit the next moment with thinking about the possibility of sharks and the strength of the tide. ‘I’m just not sure if I’m safe’, I would say to myself. What’s the worst that could happen I thought? What’s the best that could happen if I conquer this fear?

Then the following week, I was in the ocean one morning as I was learning to Stand-Up Paddle board; unsure of my balance and fearful to fall in, I would tense up and start thinking about those sharks again. I kept hearing my instructor say, “relax, be one with the board and feel the water as it ebbs and flows. The more you relax, the less likely you will fall in and the more enjoyable the ride will be”.

Seeing the synchronicity of my experience in the water to my fear about emotions, I started to realise that I needed to relax and accept my emotion. Feel it and face it with curiosity rather than judgement, and explore it and master it in order to conquer my fear. Why am I feeling this? What can I do about it? How can I use this to make my life better?

Slowly but surely, I’m starting to master my emotions. I realise it’s what drives me to connect back into myself when I’m preoccupied with the outside world or too busy to stop and take a breath; it’s what teaches me to care about others and be compassionate, it’s what motivates me to want to make a difference to the world we live in so our children and our children’s children can live an even better life than us.

So my epiphany was that my fears actually teach me how to live.

So why are we fearful?

Past experiences can teach us old habits or the unknown can make us feel out of control or out of our comfort zone.

What can we do to conquer our fear?

ACCEPT IT: Rather than supress it, run from it or fight with it, accept the fear for what it is, feel it and face it.

944222_619922654693395_966697516_n

EXPLORE IT: Discover the REALITY that lies behind it, underneath it, what drives it or what the fear is there to remind you of.

reality of fear

MASTER IT: Make it work for you to push you past your comfort zone, to learn something new or to even master your dreams and aspirations. What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen if you conquer it or let it go?

everything-you-want-is-on-the-other-side-of-fear

So what fear do you have that, once conquered, could change your life for the better?

Courtney ‘Co-Creator’ Wilson

m: +61 (0)417 107 888e: courtney.connect@outlook.com

colours finish