Confidence is attractive.
We like people who are confident. We trust confident people. Confident people are leaders. They are an example of authority. They assert positive energy. They encourage and inspire others.
We want to be around confident people. We want to be confident people.
But, sadly, mothers are often times the least confident people. And, for no good reason really.
A Norwegian study of almost 85,000 mothers found that women’s confidence decreased during pregnancy. It increased marginally in the first months as a new mom, but continued to decline from the baby’s six month birthday until the age of three.
Don’t get your hopes up. Confidence didn’t go up after age three, the researchers just stopped surveying moms once their child turned three. So, confidence may well continue to plummet.
So, what’s causing this droop in confidence?
Maybe the uncertainty of what is happening to our body. It could be hormones, too. Or perhaps it’s our unsuredness of what will happen to our life as we knew it? Maybe there’s new family dynamics we’re trying to get a handle on. It could be the fact that the hospital handed us a baby without a user manual and we’re floundering trying to keep said baby alive until our next doctor’s appointment. Then there’s all the things we should feel or think or want certain things when in actual fact you feel, think or want none of them?
Or maybe it’s all of them and more happening at the same time.
This rollercoaster ride of emotions, thoughts and uncertainties has been classified matrescence, an understudied transition period that is similar to adolescence. And, just as our adolescence rocked our confidence to its core, so too, does matrescence.
Here’s the good news. You can do something about it.
For too long we’ve been told that confidence is something you’re born with. To some degree that’s true. But the latest research indicates that confidence is a skill that you can acquire and develop.
The not so good news is that motivational quotes aren’t going to get you there. Neither is thinking about it. Instead, the only way to breed confidence is to take action. Here’s a list of actions you can take that will help you build your confidence:
Recognize your accomplishments
If there’s a trait most women posses it’s that we undermine our own qualifications and accomplishments. We have this uncanny ability to think if we are doing it, it can’t be that hard. Oh, but, it is! Start by reclaiming your worth and recognizing the amazing work you’ve done in the past. Then, acknowledge the great things you’re doing today. Keep a journal or spend time on your commute thinking about the one thing you did well that day. How did you help someone? What went well? What value did you bring? Start off with little things and work your way up.
Look good to feel good
Spending days in elastic waistbands and top knots sure has its allure. But, it can take a toll on confidence. To give yourself a much needed confidence boost, consider what you can do to your outer appearance to make you feel good. Maybe it’s a haircut. Apply a swipe of red lipstick or a layer of mascara. Maybe it’s a flattering top or a pair of shoes that lifts you up. Start small and see how it changes your mood and opens you up to take confident actions.
What happens outside of our body has a significant impact on how we feel on the inside. That’s why there’s been much talk about power posing. Science has shown that when we stand up tall and allow ourselves to take up more of the physical space around us, we feel more confident ourselves and we let others perceive us as more confident. So before entering your office or the meeting room, stand like Wonder Woman for a few minutes and feel yourself strut into the room like you own it.
Confidence and risk taking are intricately linked. This is one of the founding principles in the Confidence Code by Claire Shipman and Katy Kay – by taking a risk, stepping outside of your comfort zone, or struggling at a task and then mastering it, we flex our confidence muscles. First off it takes confidence and courage to take the action, then by going through with it, we give our brains a jolt of confidence-building stuff that we can take risky actions and not perish completely. No matter if we succeed or fail, taking the action and surviving tells our brain that we can do it again next time. And, likely with less coaxing and convincing.
Get perspective on screw ups
We all will fail at something. Not everything will come out exactly as we had hoped. That’s hard to believe especially in our perfectly filtered world. Doubly so if you’ve been raised as many women have to color in the lines, write neatly, please others and appear beautiful all the time.
Instead, we need to think more like the bros in the tech world where failure is a badge of honor. Where we can learn from our mess ups and mistakes and consider how we can do it better next time. By taking the action, failure and learning how to master it, we build confidence that can be applied next time.
Boost your confidence by building someone else up
It’s not easy to build something if you can’t see it. By recognizing confidence in others, you’ll not only have a model to follow, you’ll also be able to see it in yourself. Both of which will spur you to act confidently. There is a catch, it seems. You can’t just recognize confidence and keep it to yourself. Like most things with building confidence, you have to verbalize what you see. Complement the individual privately or do it more publicly.
Taken together, confidence is a result of taking actions. Some of these will be things you can do on your own. Others will require a more public stage that will push you out of your comfort zone. Work your way through the list and watch your confidence grow. Then tell us how you did.