Photo by Carolyn Coles
If your household was anything like mine, the tale of the courageous “Little Engine That Could” was on the top of your bedtime stories list. As a reminder of that plucky story, the little train doesn’t think he can make it over the hill… until he believes in himself. Then he owns that hill and more!
Moral of the story: self-confidence goes a long way. So if this book was read to little boys and little girls alike (as it was for me), why do we as women continue to doubt ourselves? (Perhaps a plucky little female engine might have helped.)
More importantly, how can we stop this ridiculous habit of undermining ourselves?
Let’s get chatting about it…
More and more, women are coming forward and admitting that they often don’t think they are smart enough, talented enough, or sufficiently qualified for opportunities. And these aren’t just any women. These are ridiculously intelligent, motivated, and capable women.
I’m talking about little girls, young women, and older women alike – all questioning if we can actually “do it.” And “it” may be anything. In my case: a promotion, a committee, a new job, a volunteer opportunity, or even a project in my current role.
The good news (in some ways) is we aren’t alone. Anyone who follows the Sheryl Sandberg movement has learned that in business and life alike, we can be our own worst enemies. Many women will wait until asked to jump on an opportunity rather than be proactive and demand inclusion. Furthermore, we may doubt ourselves when these opportunities are presented.
So, we aren’t alone – which means we need to start talking about it, sharing our stories, supporting each other, and most importantly, supporting ourselves.
We must also consider: what else can we do to end this “little-engine-that-cannot” nonsense?
Trust yourself and your common sense
Go with your instincts, ladies. You sat in those same classes, got those same high grades (and often higher), and read those same books as your male counterparts. You have the same leadership, guidance, and support around you if you’re willing to look and ask for it. While men are more likely to speak up, women are certainly as intelligent and qualified.
Let’s stop putting ourselves in those situations where we think “I knew I should/shouldn’t have done that” after the fact. Let’s start presenting our ideas with confidence, and start trusting ourselves.
If we are wrong about something, or make a mistake – who cares! Own your mistake, move on, hold your head high, and approach the next situation with the same level of confidence. Not only will you begin to trust yourself more, but others will follow suit.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Perhaps you’re terrified or unsure. Guess what? Nobody else needs to know! Start presenting yourself with confidence from day one. The fact is, male or female, most people embarking on a new journey or opportunity may be clueless. However, women are much more likely to express this – causing others to doubt us, and worse yet, doubting ourselves.
So dress the part, walk the walk, and talk the talk – even if you feel like a phony inside. You will impress others, and (shock!) actually become this confident woman in little time.
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals
Some of the most successful women you know will tell you the same thing. They have doubted themselves and questioned their own intelligence. I’ve heard it from female mentors and leaders over and over again. There is no better way to end this fear than to hear those you want to become admit to the same challenges and insecurities.
After all, if they still emerged as that superwoman you greatly admire, you can too.
Own the climb
The takeaway is this: let’s get talking. The more we share stories, the more we will learn and grow as a gender. We have this incredible pool of resources, talents, and intelligence among us. Let’s start owning these strengths, just like that little train owned the hill.
Athena Leadership is a Manitoba-based, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing young women in leadership. Laura Wittig currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Director of Communications. She is a proponent of helping other women advance in their careers, and seeks to share her perspective on how we can always keep learning personally and professionally.