In the 15 years of my professional experience as a personnel manager and HR manager, I have become aware of this time and again: In very many cases, women do not lack expertise, but rather self-confidence on their career path. In my professional career, I have come across women who are – let’s put it kindly – averagely well educated, but who have had a really steep career. And vice versa. Women with excellent expertise, but who never really found their way professionally.
This phenomenon can also be wonderfully observed in public. Let’s look at politics. Haven’t you often wondered how it is that a person can be responsible for a ministry but have no expertise or training at all in the area for which he or she is responsible? Of course, network contacts and party affiliations play a role. It’s no different in business. Regardless of gender, some exotic resumes can be found in CEO positions and on boards. What all these personalities have in common, however, is a healthy self-confidence and, as a result, a certain assertiveness and leadership.
What exactly does “healthy self-esteem” mean?
We don’t have to make rocket science out of the topic of “self-confidence” at this point. But simply claiming that self-confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and self-love are all synonyms, as is often propagated on the Internet and in some reference books, is then too little. When it comes to defining self-confidence, I agree with the well-known German author, speaker and entrepreneur Bodo Schäfer. He has written a very readable book on the subject of self-confidence. According to his definition, self-confidence is made up of the components self-confidence, self-esteem, and one’s self-image.
- Self-confidence means the knowledge of being able to meet the challenges of one’s own life.
- Self-esteem means knowing one’s worth as a human being and knowing that one is lovable and must treat oneself, not just others, with respect.
- Self-image describes that a person knows exactly who he is, what he wants and what not.
So people with healthy self-esteem have a strong confidence in their own actions, a high self-esteem of themselves and a positive self-image. They value themselves as people, know their values and what decisions they make and why.
If you feel that your self-confidence is rather low, or at least could be a little stronger, then you can ask yourself if you lack confidence in your abilities? Or are you very hard on yourself and unaware of your values? Or do you not really know what you do, make and want why? Do you lack orientation in life?
A few practical examples from my experience as a career consultant and HR expert
In almost every career step, you come into contact with your self-confidence, even though you may not even be aware of it yourself. You go to work every morning annoyed and stressed, but you’re afraid to take the next step in your career and prefer to push the “job problem” aside. There is a lack of self-confidence here.
You’ve picked yourself up and are searching Indeed for job listings. You find one and don’t apply, however, because you only meet three of the four requirement criteria and don’t assume that you will be invited because of your “lack of qualifications”. So you search for months on Indeed or Stepstone for the 100% suitable job until your head is literally spinning. Again, self-confidence and self-esteem are lacking.
Finally you have found a job. You apply and are invited for an interview . The recruiter asks you the question, “What values are important to you in life and how can their values benefit us as a company?” You are wet with sweat. My values? Again, it’s about self-respect. Or you hear the following question in the job interview: “Describe in 2 minutes why exactly you will successfully advance our company in the future and what are your promising methods and tools? (Keyword self-confidence).
We continue with the topic of salary negotiation. Unfortunately, there are no studies yet that show that the adjusted gender pay gap is also due to a lack of self-awareness. However, I suspect that this is the case to a certain percentage. Women are often very hesitant and uncertain when it comes to formulating their salary wishes. Companies, on the other hand, are happy when salary expectations are nice and low. This inevitably creates a gap. Now, I don’t recommend that women play poker with unrealistic expectations during salary negotiations. Which salary is set as the so-called anchor salary depends on many other factors. But at least confidently renegotiating if the salary offered doesn’t feel right is a bold first step.
In the job, too, a lot depends on self-confidence: Communication with superiors, with colleagues, taking on too much responsibility, dealing with conflicts at work and managing the work-life balance.
I could continue the list of practical examples endlessly. Maybe you recognize yourself in one or more of the examples?
Why does your self-confidence have a “crack”?
As you probably already guessed, our childhood plays a role that should not be underestimated. I don’t want to go too far now. But children who are often criticized, raised too sheltered and fearful, given too little attention, or who have experienced something bad, often suffer from low self-esteem. If children are not sufficiently taught their value as a person (and not their performance!), they may overcompensate in adulthood and try to get recognition and value from the outside: Through status symbols, through career steps at the top of the career ladder. Often these people find themselves in a tunnel and do not even realize that their striving for “higher, faster, further, more” is not doing them any good at all and that this does not result in the “feeling of happiness” that they so ardently desire.
Failures of a professional or private nature can also have a negative impact on self-confidence. Or to put it positively: The more self-confidence you have, the better you can deal with failure and criticism.
Let’s keep in mind at this point: Regardless of the causes for your bruised ego, a healthy self-confidence can be trained so that you can take the steps professionally that you want to take. Because only if you do (professionally) what you really want to do from your heart, you will be satisfied.
How does your confidence get a boost and your career get a booster?
In the following, I’ll tell you four tips on how you can give your self-confidence, especially in your professional life, a small or big push.
Tip #1: Become aware of who you are and what you can do professionally
Now we first deal with the basis, so that the three components of self-confidence (self-confidence, self-esteem, self-image) can grow on it. For this purpose, I recommend you to make a professional location analysis. Write down answers to the following questions:
- Am I satisfied with my professional life?
- Do I feel comfortable in a team with my colleagues and superiors?
- Does my job fulfill me? Do I experience my job as meaningful?
- Does the job leave me enough room for private interests and family?
- What are my professional achievements?
- What competencies do I have?
- What values are important to me in my professional life?
Why is answering these questions so important? Many people lack focus on the present. I often experience a tendency to brood among my clients. They think about issues of the past or worry about the future. What if I do the job poorly? What if I don’t pass the probationary period? What if the colleagues are much more competent than I am? What if I can’t handle the job stress much longer? And the endless negative spiral continues. By answering these job questions, you’ll know what your self-worth and self-image are like professionally. At least on paper. The first step has been taken. But that doesn’t mean you feel more confident now.
Tip #2: Identify the drivers for your professional steps
This is about finding out what the motivation is behind your career choices. Self-confident motivators are, for example, the chance to get to know a new area in another company and thus to learn something new. Or even choosing a position that is more compatible with family life or private interests that are important to you. If you are applying for a job with much more responsibility and prestige, you should ask yourself what makes you do it? Are you a picture-perfect leader, passionate about telling other colleagues what to do, and do you love to hold the reins? Or is it about being able to publish on LinkedIn that you’re finally a marketing manager, even though you don’t really like taking on responsibility? So get to the real reasons for professional decisions! Set your goals for yourself and not for those around you.
Tip #3: Conquer your fears
In professional life, fears are not at all uncommon. Fear of the boss’s opinion, fear that the project won’t go right, fear of giving a presentation to the department, fear of applying. We can also give names to these fears: Fear of failure or fear of change, for example. Fears feel anything but good, but combine something good in them. This is because they are based on misinformation that only our brain makes us believe. Because I now firmly assume that there is no real lion sitting next to your desk in the office and roaring at you while you bite into your sandwich. People with healthy self-esteem have skills to better manage anxiety. It is often the case that they focus on successes in their professional lives and do not dwell on minor failures. Your self-confidence only gets a booster when you face your fears and become a success collector:in. Only by small or gladly also large successes you can train your brain positively, away from the fear, to success and to a good self-confidence. It certainly won’t happen overnight. But you didn’t go from a couch potato to a well-trained jogger:in overnight either.
Tip #4: Actively practice self-care
Get out of “taking care of others” mode and start with yourself first. Women in particular like to feel guilty at this point. I should think of myself first? Yes. Because without energy, you can’t perform your role as wife, mom, daughter and employee or self-employed. And if you’re low on energy, then we don’t need to look at how your self-esteem is doing. Do you want to get six good self-care tips for more power on the job, I invite you to read my blog article.
You need to take responsibility for your actions and get into the doing to give your confidence a boost and your career a booster.
I would be happy to help you with this or other career steps. Feel free to visit my homepage and contact me.
You like to read articles about Female Career, Mental Health at work or High Sensitivity at work? Then feel free to visit my job life blog.
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Book tip: I can do it (2021): Bodo Schäfer
About the author
Saskia Vocke ist Gründerin und Inhaberin von Jobleben Consulting, einer Beratung für berufliche Neuorientierung und mentale Gesundheit im Job - speziell für Frauen. Ihre beruflichen Stationen führten sie bereits um die ganze Welt. Als Karriereexpertin mit 15 Jahren Berufserfahrung im HR Bereich und zertifizierte Burnout Beraterin unterstützt Saskia aktuell Frauen dabei, ihr (neues) Berufsleben und ihre mentale Gesundheit in Einklang zu bringen. Ihre Vision ist, das Berufsleben von Frauen stressfreier und zufriedener zu machen. Ihre Botschaft als Unternehmerin: kein stimmiges, zufriedenes Jobleben ohne mentale Gesundheit und umgekehrt. Ihre Klientinnen berät sie in 1:1 Sessions online oder persönlich.