CEO Elyse Stoltz Dickerson on Building Confidence at Work
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson (Forbes)
As a woman in business, I often found myself the only female in boardroom meetings full of suits and ties. During my time in big pharma, I had few to no female role models in management and executive positions above me. Feeling alone, I struggled at first to confidently share ideas, voice my opinion and take a seat near the front of the conference room table, both figuratively and literally. The last 20 years in business taught me a few ways to build confidence when you’re the only woman in the room. I now own a biotech company, and the women in my office share my same sentiments and weighed in on how they grew their confidence in the workplace. It’s all about quieting that inner critic, low stakes practicing and knowing that work doesn’t equal your worth.
1. Quiet that Inner Critic – Stop the Imposter Syndrome
That critical voice in your head that keeps putting you down? Yeah, she’s got to go. Most likely, the main thing holding you back is yourself. Imposter syndrome is a common experience in which one doubts their accomplishments and is fearful of being “exposed” as a fraud. Feeling like you deceived everyone into thinking you’re an expert and know everything about your job is common. That all too familiar sentiment of not knowing what you’re doing contributes greatly to feeling like a phony; but remember, no one can know everything. Most of the time, bosses and colleagues don’t expect you to know everything. Learning as you go is a valuable tool along with reminding yourself that you belong where you are.
Those hurtful, critical voices bouncing around in your head telling you that you can’t do it or you’re not good enough can be damaging to your confidence and self-esteem. Kick those voices to the curb by practicing some self-love and kindness. Replace every negative thought with three positive ones. Even when you’re feeling like a charlatan, tell yourself things like I am resourceful. I am capable. I am qualified. Rational positivity will eliminate that imposter syndrome that plagues almost everyone. Reprogramming your brain to think more positively will impact your life in many ways aside from business. Changing your mindset to positive thoughts about yourself will take time, but soon your perspective will start to shift, and you’ll have a clearer view of who you are and what you can do. Additionally, it’s important to remember that no one knows how to do something until they’ve done it. Jobs are filled with new challenges every day; part of your job is figuring out how to tackle them.
2. Low Stakes Practicing
You know what they say—practice makes perfect. Practicing low-risk confidence will help you feel ready for the real thing. For instance, practice voicing ideas and helpful opinions with your family and friends. Be more daring about speaking up in conversations you would usually just listen to. If you have a big interview or presentation coming up, practicing in front of family and friends is like a kind of rehearsal. Ask for feedback to improve and don’t be put off by constructive criticism; it’ll only help in the long run. By practicing confidence and rehearsing self-assurance, you’ll be more prepared when the time comes for that big presentation, participating in that important meeting and nailing that one-on-one promotional interview with your boss. In low stakes practicing, explore what taking calculated risks feels like. Being bold can be empowering, and it’ll let people know you’re serious about contributing and you’re committed to the job.
While you’re practicing confidence and being your bold, bad self, remember that listening to others is still important. Extend the same courtesy to others that you’d like offered to you; meaning, don’t talk over someone, interrupt, or not hear someone out. Listening and confidence aren’t mutually exclusive. You can do both well, as long as you remain aware and conscious of your words and other’s needs.
3. Your work does not equal your worth
Say it again for the people in the back. Take Brené Brown’s advice, hustling for your worthiness will leave you exhausted and weary. Hustle culture tries to tell us that the more you do and the more you earn the better you are. It’s just not true. You’re worthy exactly as you are right now. Knowing that your worth does not rest on what you contribute to the bottom line is liberating. It gives you permission to close out of those spreadsheets at the end of the day and take the time you need to recharge. Knowing your worth allows you to learn from inevitable slip-ups while moving on to the next challenge. Even if you do something well and save the company, your worth stays the same. Tasks—even jobs—come and go, but you’re always worthy.
The next time you find yourself the only woman in another board room meeting, remember to quiet that inner critic and hush that imposter syndrome, engage in low stakes practicing with family and friends and know your worth does not rest on your achievements in or out of the office. Confidence and comfortableness with yourself will follow.
Photo Source: Elyse Dickerson