When I was in first grade, I won a countywide writing award for my creative masterpiece, The Magic Rock, about—you guessed it—a magic rock. My success fueled my dreams of being a writer from an early age, and after that, I wrote all the time. By the end of first grade, I knew that I was going to become a famous writer.
Fast forward to almost-adulthood. Even though I had a bold, outgoing personality that screamed “Self-confident lady coming through!” I actually struggled with deep insecurities about my own abilities, appearance, and intelligence. I still wanted to be a writer more than anything, but at my core, I felt that I’d never be good enough to achieve my goals.
So I gave up on writing. I pursued a series of unfulfilling and unsatisfying jobs until a friend offered me a freelance writing gig with her company. I was nervous, but I submitted a writing sample anyway. And to my surprise, the editors loved what I’d written.
So I kept going. I was not going to win a Pulitzer for those blog posts, but it felt great to flex my creative muscles after so many years away from my craft. Getting my first paycheck for my writing was one of the best days of my life. Yes, it was peanuts, but it was real money I earned from writing, a dream I’d had since I was 6 years old. And it gave me the confidence to apply for more writing gigs until last year, when I officially became a full-time writer. Seriously, now I even have business cards, so you know it’s legit.
Often, though, we feel inadequate in our appearance, how we parent, and in the workplace. According to a 2002 Monitor In Psychology article, people who base their self-worth on what others think about them are more likely to have higher levels of stress, anger, and relationship issues.
“Self-confidence impacts how we perceive our health,” says Jim Seibold, PhD, a family therapist based in Arlington, Texas. “Those with higher self-confidence are more likely to view themselves as healthy. Those with higher self-confidence cope more effectively under stress and are low utilizers of physician visits.”
But confidence doesn’t come easy for most women, myself included. That’s why I sought out advice from confident women, like NY-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, Dallas-based realtor Kathryn Sharrock, and CEO Mae Karwowski to really find out how to be a confident woman.
How to Be a Confident Woman: The Importance of Putting Social Media in Its Place
“Julia’s newest promotion popped up in my newsfeed. When will it be my turn?”
“She probably didn’t mean it, but Rachel’s comment about my weight on my new profile pic really stung. I mean, I just had a baby!”
How many times have you been scrolling through social media and been hurt by something that someone posted?
The effect social media can have on confidence has evolved along with social media itself. In a 2008 study, researchers suggested that people with low self-esteem could benefit from engaging on social media platforms like Facebook because it helped reduce loneliness. Fast forward a decade, and some experts believe that social media can actually have a negative impact on confidence. One recent study found that the more participants used Facebook specifically, the worse they felt about their overall well-being.
“Rude comments or bullying in general can make one feel hurt, sad, or angry, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, or self-esteem issues,” says Hershenson. “When the rude comments or bullying are online, and you are looking at social media at home or at work, it can be even worse because it is happening to you in a place you should feel safe, and possibly when you are around people [who are] important to you, such as your children.”
It’s also hard to escape online comments because everything on the internet is seemingly forever, and erasing an image or disabling an account we’ve outgrown can feel like it requires an act of Congress.
So, how can you be a confident woman and interact with social media?
Try to limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Over the past year, I found myself feeling sad or upset almost every time I logged onto Facebook. I tried giving up the app by deleting it from my phone, but found myself simply scrolling though on a web browser instead. Even though it made me feel bad, I couldn’t stop looking at it. What if I missed something?
Because I couldn’t quit social media on my own, I downloaded the Freedom app, which blocks social media on your phone for a certain number of hours a day to help you take a healthy break. Instead, use the time you would have spent on social media apps to practice self-care, have a face-to-face interaction with a friend, and practice healthy habits, whether that’s reciting affirmations (more on that to come) or rolling out your yoga mat rather than continuing to scroll down your feed.
Girl Bosses Rule: How to Be a Confident Woman in the Workplace
“I work mostly with women, in a warm, open workspace, and I still feel like there’s a gender confidence gap,” says Dianna Leyton, a digital marketing strategist based in Richmond, Virginia. “I’ve noticed that women, even in a comfortable environment, feel as though they need to be an expert on every topic before speaking up in a meeting or even applying for a job. Men, on the other hand, seem to be more comfortable relying on confidence and ‘winging’ a situation.”
“Research shows that men are more self-assured than women,” Hershenson explains.
She’s right. An eight-year study with participants of both genders from all over the world found that men universally exhibit much higher self-esteem than women. The gender confidence gap, as it’s come to be known, is especially detrimental to women in the workplace.
Confident people tend to speak up more in meetings, criticize leadership with few consequences, and show higher favoritism to those who are similar to them. Since men tend to be more confident than women, this can lead to a woman being overlooked in the workplace. Combine the gender confidence gap with other issues women face in the workplace, and it is no wonder that 95 percent of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies are held by men.
So what can you do to be a confident woman in the workplace?
”When you’re doing a great job, it’s easy to have confidence,” Karwowski, the founder of her own social influencer firm, Obviously, says. “It’s important to feel stress at work. It means that you are growing and you are getting out of your comfort zone. That growth is vital for you to improve in your career. I always remind myself that any insecurity or doubt means that I’m putting myself in a situation to grow—so I should go for it and do an awesome job!”
“I also take the time each morning to ask myself what my three priorities are for the day and for the week,” Karwowski continues. “ I then ask myself What are the things I’m worried about, and why? For example, I’m worried about this big pitch meeting we have on Thursday. Once you can clarify your concerns, it’s much easier to plan how to tackle that challenge and be ready for it.”
Girl boss Sharrock, who started her own empowering women’s group with two chapters in Texas, shares a tip she practices regularly:
“Start a gratitude journal and become grateful! Write down three things a day that you are thankful for. Your mind will start to naturally see the good in life and in yourself. Last but definitely not least, surround yourself with confident people, people who are going to encourage themselves and you to do great, believe great, and be great.”
Even though Sharrock describes herself as extremely self-confident, she says there are still moments in which she feels totally inadequate. When Sharrock starts feeling less than, though, she has a plan of action to boost her confidence right back up.
“There are so many moments when I feel gross, I feel useless, I wonder if I am living my best life, and that’s okay. When you have a bad day, write down your blessings and fall asleep; you’ll reset and wake up with a whole new mindset and fresh start to knowing [the] badass you really are!”
How to Be a Confident Parent
Women’s confidence issues aren’t just at work. It’s easy to let doubt in our own abilities creep into all aspects of our lives.
“Did I permanently scar my kid when I punished him this afternoon?”
“Misty’s kids never act out. Why is she so much better than me?”
Sound familiar? It’s important to know that you can be a mother and a loving partner while still being a confident woman.
If others (like the snarky third-grade room mom) second guess your parenting choices, the mama bear in you may come out—or you might shy away from the confrontation, and in the process, lose the ability to defend your parenting choices confidently.
“Consistency in parenting is essential for creating confidence and security in your children,” says Seibold. “They are also more likely to consistently follow household rules and expectations because they do not change.”
Proactive parenting is also a sign of confidence, says Seibold.
“Look for opportunities to teach them the values you want them to learn instead of just reacting when there is a problem. …Catch [your kids] living out the values you are teaching and let them know you notice.”
“When you do this,” Seibold says, “you will also have more credibility when you do need to be corrective.”
It’s important to be humble as a parent, and if you’re wrong about something, you should definitely acknowledge that mistake. But all too often, women over-apologize when it isn’t warranted: to their kids, partners, friends, the barista at Starbucks. Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to be a confident woman and parent is to stop apologizing for your actions when an apology isn’t necessary. We apologize because we’re taught that boldness is rude in a woman. Even confident women still tend to couch their requests and desires as “I’m sorry” statements.
What does that teach our daughters? Our sons? None of what we’re after in our search for confident womanhood.
So only apologize when it’s really necessary. And in doing so, teach your children the right kind of confidence.
How to Be a Confident Woman…in the Bedroom
It may be easier to be a confident woman when it comes to your kids, but what happens to that confidence in the bedroom?
Maybe you don’t like how you look naked. Or you’re afraid your partner thinks your sex routine is no longer satisfying. But confidence in the bedroom is critical to a fulfilling, romantic relationship with your partner.
One way to build confidence in the bedroom?
“Don’t apologize for your quirks—things you do or say that others may find different or ‘odd’ are usually what makes you you,” says Hershenson.
If you like when your partner does certain sexy things, don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know. Or, if you like something that’s a little wild, bring it up! Your partner can’t please you if they don’t know what you want. A confident woman knows what she likes and how she likes it, and shouldn’t be afraid to pipe up, even when sex is less than spectacular.
If you’re struggling with body image issues in your romantic relationship, buying yourself some sexy lingerie may help boost your confidence, because when you look good, you really do feel good. When your partner sees you in that new teddy, all they’ll see is a confident woman. And that’s sexy as heck.
Being a confident woman takes practice.
Don’t expect your behavior to change overnight if you struggle with confidence issues. After all, breaking negative habits is hard.
Still, practice really does make perfect. One thing you can start doing to be more confident right away is to stop negative self-talk. Instead, aim to use words of affirmation when talking to and about yourself.
“Start by simply telling yourself that you are great,” says Sharrock. “Words of affirmation are real. You talk to yourself more than anyone else, so make sure your words are kind, they are confident, they are positive to yourself. You may not believe it at first, but you will once it becomes habit.”
Before a big meeting, Karwowski does the same thing to pump herself up.
“Telling yourself in the elevator It’s go time. Time to crush it! actually really works! You need to project confidence in your tone, body language, and speech.”
Banishing negative self-talk will require more than just saying nice things about yourself. You have to mean them, too.
“Self-compassion is being gentle with yourself, not beating yourself up over your past decisions and accepting that you are human and make mistakes,” says Hershenson. “Negating your thoughts or feelings by saying That’s not true isn’t helpful because in your mind, you truly believe you are stupid, ugly, out of shape, et cetera.”
“Acknowledge your feelings without discounting them. When you get into a negative headspace, you can simply say, Even though I feel this way, it’s okay; I’m still worth being loved.”
Another confidence tactic is to reframe these negative thoughts about yourself. If you made a mistake, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, ask yourself why the mistake happened. Was it really your fault? Was the situation beyond your control? How can you move forward? This way, you can turn a negative situation into a positive, confidence-boosting moment.
But, like the superheroes say, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
“If your confidence leads you to put down others or consistently put yourself first, then your confidence needs to be re-channeled in a healthier direction,” says Hershenson.
In other words, don’t let your newfound confidence let you become a full-fledged jerk. Because it is possible to become too confident. Be respectful (but firm) and apologize for mistakes (when really warranted), and you’ll probably never have to worry about becoming an egomaniac.
It’s tough to be confident as a woman. But as Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write in the introduction to their bestselling book, The Confidence Code, “Life on confidence can be a remarkable thing.”