Do you remember when you first started out your career? How exciting it was, and also how scary?
Exciting because you were on the road to independence. No longer a student or dependent on someone else. In charge of your own destiny!
But, I’m willing to bet that in amongst that excitement and enthusiasm there was also a tiny tinge of apprehension, or maybe even fear. A worry that you might not be able to deliver, might not fit in with everyone else in the firm. Perhaps maybe even a fear of saying the wrong thing.
Totally nerve-wracking! Right?
You’re not alone if you have ever felt any of those things. Heck, I can remember my first jobs in London.
I worked first for a private hotel chain with interests in the Middle East and then for a private Arab bank in the City. The receptionists and PA’s were always beautifully made up with never a hair out of place. Luxury abounded. Rich wooden furnishing. Plush carpets. The smell of wax polish combined with fresh flowers.
No one was called by their first name – I was Miss Van Buerle. People spoke in hushed and reverent tones. We even had a very fancy doorman to open the door to the building.
I wore high heels, kept my nails manicured at all times, even if it meant reapplying polish very late at night. I got up bright and early to put on my make up and carried a little kit for reapplication during the day. I also had a dry cleaning bill that was not funny!
The high heel shoes pinched my toes. I had to be careful on the London Tube escalators not to get the heels stuck between the grooves. I was never actually comfortable in that workplace. I felt that I was always “on”.
Fast forward many years later.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a co-shared workspace – The ThinkLab – dressed in a pair of jeans wearing a comfy pair of flats. Sure, I’ve got a slick of lipstick on, but the rest of my face and nails are bare today.
How do I feel? Very comfortable. Not just in the physical sense, but also in the emotional sense. I feel confident. I am confident in myself and my abilities. I trust myself.
So where does confidence come from?
My first mentor was a most unlikely sort. We met when I started working at one of the oldest private Swiss banks (established in 1796). She was the office manager, controlling everything that happened in that office, including the two bosses. She’d field calls from girlfriends, chastising over expense accounts being run up during weekends away in Europe, ordering flowers for the wife, and juggling everything else in that office. She was truly talented.
Lorraine was a Londoner. Born in the East End and a plain-speaking Cockney complete with accent. She also spoke fluent French, hence her role in a Swiss bank. She had no air and graces. Her hair often stood out like a bird’s nest, her stockings sometimes had a ladder in them. Her make-up was not immaculate.
Did she care? Not a fig! She was authentic and the absolute soul of discretion.
This woman was highly respected and trusted. From her, I learnt that it was okay to be who you really are and that confidentiality is a rare, but highly valuable commodity. That being true to yourself is what matters. No matter where you are, or what the circumstance, unless you are in tune with your heart centred self, then you’re always going to struggle to feel comfortable and confident.
Confidence should never be mistaken for bravado. Confidence is when you know your stuff and are comfortable with yourself.
Clothes can only do so much. They are actually meaningless, even though they can give you a quick confidence boost – I’m all in favour of power dressing when appropriate!
A spray of a favourite perfume. Your best purple knickers. Lucky earrings. Favourite cufflinks. Wearing your power colour. All these little things can help you feel more at ease, especially if you’re nervous about an event. But they are simply props for the occasion. They are external.
Confidence comes from within
The fear of being rejected, of being thrust into the spotlight can be crippling – but, if you know your stuff you can overcome the fear. Not easily, but it can be done. I am the living proof of that!
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become much more adept at going with my gut feelings. I have given up worrying about what other people may be thinking. I know that if I remain true to myself, I’ll deliver great outcomes.
When you take the approach that you want to help solve a problem, rather than simply sell a product, you’ll be surprised how that can turn around your business. People buy people. They always have. There is a need for trust to be built.
Confidence is one of the key components of business success. It cannot be brash. It has to be authentic.
In my book, authenticity plays a key role in how confident and successful you will be. If you are genuine, you will be confident.
Look around at all the people you come into contact with. Take a moment to think about who you consider confident.
What is their magic ingredient? I’m willing to bet it’s the fact that they are comfortable in their own skin and authentic.
Confident people do not need public confirmation or affirmation of their value.
Confidence is a mantle that is easy to wear. It sits comfortably.
Confident people are frequently very generous people too. The SMART Circle closed group on Facebook has a great bunch of highly confident individuals in there who are 100% supportive and believe in paying it forward by sharing experiences and helping each other out with advice.
It’s by no means an exclusive group, and if you’d like to connect, share and gain support, you are most welcome to join us.
To your success!
Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.