Stop Using This Word and Achieve Your Professional Goals

Do you use the f-word in your professional life? Even after writing Lean In, Sheryl Sandburg still struggles with using this word, and once wrote, “I still have days when I feel like a fraud.”

Sheryl is not alone in her struggle with feeling like a fraud. Research points to the fact that, at work, women lack confidence compared to men. One 2003 study by Cornell psychologist David Dunning and Washington State University psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger looked at the relationship between confidence and competence in men and women. On the study’s quiz on scientific ability, women rated themselves more negatively than men, yet the women’s correct responses nearly matched the men’s.

But how does someone learn confidence? Confidence may not be an intrinsic feature of everyone’s personality, but it can be gained through small, meaningful steps. Start by adjusting your view of confidence. According to Katty Kay, co-author with Claire Shipman of The Confidence Code, “Confidence in women may look and feel different.” Confidence is not the same as self-esteem, and exhibiting confidence does not require false bravado. Confidence, quite simply, is the stuff that turns our thoughts into actions.

So how can you develop inner confidence that makes you completely forget about the f-word? Here are our favorite takeaways from The Confidence Code that will help you stop feeling like a fraud:

Seek out life experiences that invite risk.
Frauds don’t take risks. After all, risk requires vulnerability, and too much vulnerability can expose a fraud for who they really are. It’s much easier to stick to the status quo when you’re trying to hide your true abilities. Small risks force you to be genuine and expose you to confidence-building life experiences. These life experiences help us get comfortable with failure, and in turn make us more resilient. When you’re fearful about failing, choose to take a small risk anyway. Don’t let doubt or uncertainty keep you from acting.

Be your own advocate.
Learning how to advocate for yourself in daily settings helps prepare you for critical moments when self advocacy really matters. Say what you mean with confidence, and bring certainty into your voice to convince others of your qualifications. If you’re anticipating an upcoming event where it will be crucial for you to be your own advocate, practice power poses to boost your confidence. And remember, you succeed as your own advocate when you believe you’re worth advocating for.

Adapt a growth mindset.
Even Claire Shipman admits “my perfectionism is a reflection of my lack of confidence.” Seeking perfectionism is not a bad thing, but allowing perfectionism to control your decision to take on a new project, promotion or challenge is. Perfectionism discourages action, and action is a necessary component of a growth mindset. Individuals who adapt a growth mindset believe that while intelligence and talent are great starting points, abilities can be continuously developed through dedication and hard work. Women with a growth mindset pursue learning and build resilience – two qualities that are key to fight feeling like a fraud.

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.