Confidence, everyone wants it. But, feeling self-assured isn’t as easy as showing up and speaking up. “Having talent isn’t merely about being competent; confidence is actually a part of that talent,” says Katty Kay, journalist and author of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know.
This idea is echoed by four women leaders at the top of their industries. From the basketball court to the speaking stage, these individuals believe that confidence is earned. Technology journalist Amber MacArthur, National Speakers Bureau CEO Theresa Beenken, Writer Amy Molloy, and Ryerson Athletics Coach Carly Clarke recently sat down with YouInc to share their definitions of confidence, how they’ve overcome moments of self-doubt in the past year, and how their perspective of confidence is evolving as they get deeper into their lives and careers:
Amber MacArthur, President, AmberMac Media, Inc.
Confidence means I have the strength to handle a difficult or uncomfortable situation. Whether it’s criticism or failure, I’m capable of moving on and moving on quickly. That doesn’t mean I don’t learn from these moments, but instead I make incremental adaptations to grow from these situations. If I didn’t have confidence, I’d stand still.
If 25-year-old me had to do the work I do now, I’m not sure I’d be able to succeed at the same level. Although I’ve been speaking at events and interviewing people professionally for more than a decade, these were times that I had to move a bit out of my comfort zone and find the confidence to step up to the challenge. While I’d like to believe that I have innate confidence, the truth is I’ve had to earn that confidence through experience. I’ve had a few wonderful professional moments in 2018. I interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau twice, once at Shopify Unite and on our podcast series The AI Effect. I also delivered a commencement speech at Canadore College.
If I didn’t have confidence, I’d stand still.
As someone from rural Prince Edward Island, with no built-in business connections, and as a woman in tech, I would say that the odds were stacked against me. I’ve worked hard to grow my business and I recognized early in my career that there were obstacles holding me back.
Over the years, I’ve squashed those little voices telling me I’m not good enough or smart enough. Today, I’m proud to say I’m kind and patient, but focused and firm. While I've worried my whole life that being from a long line of islanders was something that made me more vulnerable, I've grown to appreciate that our East Coast grit has been an incredible asset in business and in life.
Amy Molloy, writer and author
Confidence is about feeling at peace and being so sure of your choices. I've realized that, when I trust my gut, know myself and don't fall into the trap of comparison, I never have to ask anyone else's opinion when it comes to the biggest decisions in my life.
'Only you need to trust your instincts.'
I walked away from a marriage, I chose to fall in love with my third husband, and I've made career choices that would shock some people, without asking anybody, if they think it's the right or wrong thing to do. I have a quote written above my desk that says, 'Only you need to trust your instincts.'
This year I made the decision to turn down a book deal to the follow up to my Hay House book, The World Is a Nice Place. That was a big decision, as it would have been far easier to say yes, because another 'real' book on a shelf would boost my ego. But, at the time, I had just started running my storytelling for healing online workshops and one of the exercises I do with my students is to ask, of every word you write, 'Is this 100 per cent true, and is it 100 per cent necessary to share?' When I asked this of the follow up book I'd written, I realized that the lessons I wanted to share with the world didn't need to be in a traditional book form. So, I pivoted in a different direction. In January, I released my next book - on Instagram. From the moment I made the decision, I didn't doubt it, and it's been the most fulfilling creative project for me.
We don't always have to act like a superstar; a quiet confidence can be the best kind.
I used to think confidence meant being the loudest person in the room with the biggest public profile. But that has shifted now that I'm into the second decade of my career. When I first went freelance, I remember talking to my friend about a travel journalist who was very successful but stayed completely under the radar - never went to events, wasn't seen in an office and worked hard, but quietly and modestly. I thought, 'That sounds incredible!' From that moment, I took the pressure off myself to be the loudest, boldest person in the media industry. I rarely go to events and I say yes to few TV appearances. I like to think my work speaks for itself instead.
I think it's natural for confidence to ebb and flow in your life. As a new mom with a toddler and a seven-month-old, my confidence isn't always at its highest due to sleep deprivation and my career being at a crossroads, as I try to figure out how to juggle parenthood and my profession. On the days my confidence is lower I try to be gentler with my myself; l let myself be still and quiet and know that it will pass. The next day, I can be on stage in front of 100 people without any nerves. We don't always have to act like a superstar; a quiet confidence can be the best kind.
Carly Clarke, head coach, women’s basketball, Ryerson University Athletics
Confidence is trust in yourself and your abilities and a willingness to demonstrate and share that knowledge and ability. A big part of that is positive body language, assertiveness and communication, engagement and interaction with team members and being aware of things going on out there [the court]. It shows in body language and assertiveness, being decisive and demonstrated action.
Mistakes are okay and not achieving right away is okay.
I encourage self-belief through positive reinforcement like, “you got this,” but reminding players that they’ve done things before and to try to get some specific feedback of how they could narrow their focus. One thing we try to create is that mistakes are okay and not achieving right away is okay; we work to instill those mindsets, so that if something doesn’t work out right away, try again.
In basketball you build confidence by successfully doing things. We practice multiple times a week before we play in games. We built confidence in ability to execute skills by masking them. From a mental perspective, you still have to have the focus and willingness to try it and do it in order to fully gain confidence.
Theresa Beenken, CEO, National Speakers Bureau
Confidence is finding the spirit within you to show up every day and contribute and to build resilience from the things that challenge you. I’m most confident when I’m prepared; I need to do the work to be ready for a meeting, a tough conversation, or a new challenge. Some of my preparation I do on my own like research, positive self-talk and via a community like this to see how others have dealt with similar situations.
One technique I use is to listen to my gut and my breathing. If either is shaky I stop and ask myself why that might be. Then I take four deep breaths, listen to the answer I know is there, and address the challenge head on.
Earlier this year, we learned we had a gunman in our office building. One of my strengths in a situation like this is remaining calm. Without knowing the cause, we realized it could be as big as a terrorist attack or as minor as a false alarm. I checked in with our team to see how everyone was feeling and offered assurance that based on the odds, the scenario was on the latter end of the scale.
My personality is one that defaults to expecting everything will work out, especially if I’ve mentally weighed the odds to manage risk. However, that strength is also a weakness. It doesn’t ensure that I’m taking situations seriously enough. And this was a serious situation. Our building was surrounded by police cars and SWAT team members were at every doorway leading outside. Some of our team was inside and outside. No one knew where the gunman was. We all had family and friends who were worried about us.
I realized I had to show more leadership and give more weight to the situation we were in. I had to take myself out of my confidence bubble and stop to ask myself and the team, “what else do we need to be doing to ensure we all feel safe?”
One thing was to be confident the doors to the hallway stairwells were locked on our floor, as they often were left open. I ran out and down the hallway to lock the doors. Another was to allow everyone to deal with the situation in their own way. Some needed to sit quietly with a closed door and talk with family. Others needed to continue working like nothing is wrong.
Even the most successful people are regular people like you and me; they look for feedback and ways to continually improve. I’ve had the honour for more than 20 years to represent some of the bravest and smartest people in the country, from astronauts and rocket scientists to former prime ministers and gold medal Olympians. I’ve learned that no matter your situation in life, we all have self-doubt, fear of change or failure, and worry. Those who practice self-assurance still put themselves out there, as consistently as possible, every day. It’s that consistency that builds self-confidence and lessons learned along the way to hone your skills.
Even though public speaking is rated one of the top human fears, my clients are out there on stages, being vulnerable and contributing, in order to help others. If they can do that, I can both learn from their lessons and do my small part to help them be prepared.