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How Women Can Stop Self-Sabotaging and Be Their Own Advocates

If Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” taught us anything, it’s that there’s an epidemic of women facing ever-mounting threats to their confidence in the business world.

Many women today really aren’t sure how they’re supposed to act in a business setting. Instead of speaking up and tooting their own horn, they put their heads down and try to get by letting their work “speak for itself.”
The truth is that unless we do speak up about our talents and accomplishments, there’s no reason for people to assume we are capable and talented. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, no one is going to do it for us. Here’s how to stop the cycle of self-sabotage, speak up, and find new confidence in yourself.
How You May Be Sabotaging Yourself (Without Even Knowing It)
Throughout childhood, girls are raised to be nurturing, humble, and respectful. While these characteristics may be good traits in an employee, this conditioning sets us up to be timid entrepreneurs and business owners.
This is a shame because appearing confident and having confidence in yourself are keys to success in this arena. By not sharing your talents, people can mistake shyness for inability, disinterest, or lack of direction.
Confidence isn’t bragging—it’s selling. As a leader, people aren’t investing in your business; they’re investing in you. If you can’t pitch your ideas and sell your own special skill set to investors, they’ll pass you up. If you can’t speak with confidence to your team, they will lose confidence in you.
Confidence Doesn’t Mean Having All the Answers
One reason some women feel uncomfortable acting with confidence is because they assume that to be confident, they must have all the answers. However, there’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know something. Confidence isn’t about knowing the right answer—it’s about knowing that with the right resources and team, you can find the answer.
Here’s an exercise in confident uncertainty: Make a list of big decisions you’ve made in the past, from deciding whether or not to take a promotion to deciding which school to send your kids to. Then, make a list of all the decisions you made after doing additional research and seeking advice from others. Whether we realize it or not, we are quite often uncertain at first, yet highly capable of making the right decision when we use our resources.
How to Appear More Confident
Women are naturally intuitive and empathic, believing in the potential in others. But in business, your potential clients and partners will need to see confidence to believe it. Here are four ways to show more confidence instantly:
Adjust Your Body Language
Poor posture implies that you are timid and not proud of yourself or your accomplishments. Make a conscious effort to sit and stand with rigid posture that indicates that you have nothing to hide and are prepared for anything. Not only will this inspire others to have confidence in you, but you will immediately feel more confident yourself.
Realign Your Verbal Language and Tone
The way you speak makes a huge difference in how people perceive you. Use positive language, speak with clarity, and avoid self-deprecating talk. This will give your voice and your ideas a sense of presence.
Dress for Confidence
Are you hiding in loose-fitting, unflattering clothing? While you don’t need to embrace every new fashion trend or pull out the power suit, you should invest in flattering clothing that makes you feel good. When you feel confident, you will appear confident.
Redefine Excellence
Excellence is a very subjective term. Remember that there is no single “right” path to reach success, regardless of what you may have internalized from someone else’s definition of success.
We may show it in different ways, but we all have moments of doubt. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to have confidence in your own talents and your ability to find the right answer. Don’t be afraid to be your own advocate. If you won’t vouch for yourself, then who will?
What have you done to feel more confident vouching for yourself in business? What have the results been?
Published: June 24, 2014

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Shradha Agarwal

Shradha Agarwal is the Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of ContextMedia, a leading media technology company that educates and informs consumers as they make critical decisions about their health. Shradha was named to Crain’s Chicago Business “40 Under 40” list, and she was the Stevies’ 2012 Female Entrepreneur of the Year. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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