Friday, 6 March 2015

Confidence...all about the numbers?

This morning a BBC report (BBC News - Clever girls lack confidence in science and maths said that  girls are not confident in their mathematical and scientific skills (even when school results prove otherwise!) thus do not attempt tech-based or scientific careers in which numerical skills are critical. This reminded me of my younger self and led me to reflect on what confidence really is and how it impacts us today.

Confidence is a major issue overall, and not just for women. I run many confidence focussed masterclasses and while more women than men attend, those that do regularly tell me that men often hide behind a mask, a false pretence of confidence, which is precisely why they do not turn up at a workshop on confidence although they could benefit from it. Lack of self- confidence is a well known reason why women do not go for more senior jobs, do not ask for pay rise, do not put themselves forward for highly visible projects etc.and why men do (even if inside they are trembling at the prospect !). But when you look at  people who are known to be confident and begin to understand their traits, one of the things that regularly comes across is that they really seem to know what they are talking about, they have often knowledge or expertise that they master and that over time owns them the respect of others. This may well be around numbers or applied numerical skills, be it for their business, start up or growing company. As travel entrepreneur Mandy Nickerson told me recently,  'It is important to be conversant in finance.’ if only to be able to have meaningful conversations with the likes of accountants, suppliers and possible investors.

But, however important in today's technological, finance-led, entrepreneurial society, confidence is not just about the numbers or indeed other knowledge based skills (although it helps). So which other attributes are absolutely key? In my view self esteem is critically important and it often stops women from feeling self confident. The issue is that self esteem starts with us but can be totally ruined by others...'friends', teachers, parents, partners...and it may take a long time to rebuild it and only if we make a conscious decision about it. For that to happen, we need to examine our past (often a painful thing to do), identify so called 'limiting beliefs' and stop them from happening unless we can prove they are fully grounded in reality (which in my experience is not often the case).

Self image and self projection are the next big components of your confident self. Needless to say, we are all - men and women - bombarded with images of what we should look like, dress like, sound like, act like... and it can be very hard to remain grounded and balanced over and above all these noises. Yet focusing on being your self at your best is a lot more rewarding and motivating than trying to be somebody else all the time!

What else matters? Self awareness for sure, as it helps us identify who we are, our strengths and weaknesses. and in a way, 'pick our battles', by which I means the things that we can do best, that we will enjoy more and are worth our efforts.

So if we can be self-aware, accept ourselves for what we are and project a positive image we will then have the basis for our self confidence and subsequently the motivation, self-discipline and self-direction to know where we are going and how we may get there.

Not a simple or steady journey, but one most certainly worth undertaking for our own personal and professional fulfilment. Perhaps we can start by understanding numbers?

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