It's hard to say for sure, but I doubt people meet me and think, "Wow, this woman really lacks confidence." I teach confidence. I speak in front of hundreds of people regularly about confidence. I try to exude strength and confidence in everything I do
But even I need to work on confidence regularly. And in particular, I've learned there is one significant, but often neglected, part of being a confident person: talking about oneself.
In other words, I need to tell my story.
Because for a long time, I wasn't
It all started when I was a professional athlete.
It felt uncomfortable to talk about myself, so I started downplaying my career. I'd say I was in 'athletics' and try to quickly change the subject.
The habit of downplaying continued even after I was no longer playing professional basketball. I found myself being really vague and sort of shrinking behind the words, "I own my own business."
I see this a ton with the women I work with. Which got me thinking:
Why do women apologize for being good at something?
And how does this keep us from telling 'our story'?
About a year ago, during an interview with a young female sales person, I asked, "What do you like about sales?"
She responded, "Sorry if this sounds bad, but I like it because I'm pretty good at it."
Always the coach, I asked, "Why are you apologizing? You're either good at sales or you aren't. Which is it?"
Reluctantly, she responded that she was good at sales. Talk about pulling teeth.
I see this with the athletes I work with. I'll ask an entire room of super successful female athletes, "Who in here is an amazing athlete?" Usually the women raise their hand and point at someone else. (Either that, or it's one of the male coaches raising his hand!) The women just don't want to admit that they are actually good at something.
The moment it changed for me
I saw people in my field (men mostly if you want to know the truth) boldly telling their stories. Even ones who hadn't accomplished as much as I had were telling their stories; some even made it sound like they'd been curing cancer.
And, to be honest, it sort of pissed me off.
But then I thought, "Yeah, but at least they're telling their STORY!" Good for them for having the balls to do it (excuse the pun).
Besides, it wasn't really them that I was pissed off at.
I was angry at myself. It was then and there that I gave myself a little pep talk that went something like this:
Don't keep your awesomeness a secret
Because if you do, I can guarantee someone else will be shouting theirs from the rooftop while you're whispering in the corner. And when you aren't being heard by the world, that means your message, your vision, your calling, also isn't getting heard by the world.
And that doesn't do anyone any good.
How to get started telling your story
Remember, there is a difference between choking people with your accomplishments and simply being honest about what you do, who you are and why you do it.
Here's a list of five things to get you started telling your authentic story:
1. Ladies, get your sales pitch down...
Like many things, it's easier if you have a plan ahead of time of what you're going to say. Whether it's the response to 'What do you do?', 'What are you good at?', 'What makes you, you?' Have a response ready.
2. ...then practice it
Everything that's scripted ahead of time sounds weird at first. Practice until it sounds natural and normal. Make it authentically you. This is what I say:
A lot better than:
"I'm a mental training coach and entrepreneur and I focus on teaching people how to be more mentally tough in all they do."
"Uh, I own my own business...?"
3. Cheer for (other) women
Let's face it, us women are not consistently great at boosting each other up. But the good news is that this is a fixable habit. And the really good news? The better you feel about yourself, the easier it becomes to cheer for others.
4. Call women out on it
Do you hear women around you apologize for their awesomeness? Do you do it yourself?
It's hard, if not impossible, to analyze what you are saying and how you are saying it. We need mirrors around us to let us know how we are doing.
Be that mirror for a woman in your life and let her know it's okay to talk and act and sound confident! Ask others to do the same for you.
5. Talk about it
Insecurity is not the easiest topic to ask others about, but it's golden if you can have those conversations.
I have some pretty badass women in my life-head coaches at big universities, C-level executives at Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurs, Olympic athletes-and every time I tell them I'm working on being more bold in my personal story they identify with it too.
These are strong, accomplished, badass chicks, and they have to work on telling their awesome story? Wow! I guess we all do.
So here's to all of us telling our unique story to the world!
I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. What's YOUR story? What makes you unique? Are you sharing it with the world? If not, why not?