International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been achieved and to focus on the challenges that lie ahead to drive the action needed to create a more gender inclusive world. It is interesting then, to consider whether we are creating the bold and challenging mindset in younger generations of women needed to champion this change.
Research conducted by Amazing If shows that female millennials are being held back by perceptions of their limitations, with 90 per cent of them suffering from inner Confidence Gremlins. The most common Confidence Gremlins that showed up for female millennials were a fear of being put on the spot, a concern that people won’t like them and being intimated by senior people. The research showed that these 'Gremlins' were less prominent for men than women. These Confidence Gremlins are holding our future female leaders back, preventing them from realising their potential and accessing opportunities to make an impact.
Confidence Gremlins are based on internally held assumptions about ourselves. We assume other people perceive our actions in a certain way and then modify our behaviour accordingly, without ever validating whether that assumption is true. For example, someone that worries that people won’t like them is less likely to raise a contrary point of view in a meeting, for fear that people will think badly of them. Instead, they keep this potentially valuable and important point to themselves. With 37 per cent of female millennials having this Gremlin, that is a lot of value that is not being surfaced and a slower pace of change for female empowerment than we should accept.
We need to support our young female leaders to be aware of their Confidence Gremlins and how they are holding them back. With time and focus, these Gremlins can be tested, their impact lessened and the fear caged. It’s not easy, but there are practical steps that can be taken to take control.
Tune in to your fears
The first step is to be aware of what Confidence Gremlins could be holding you back. They feel different to everyone, but there are 10 Gremlins that show up most often.
Once you have identified yours, reflect on how it’s getting in your way. Is it stopping you from taking a certain action or from speaking to someone? Start to be more aware of your Gremlin and when it’s showing up.
Take a test
The next step is to challenge your assumptions. Often people assume the worst will happen thinking that they will be laughed at, freeze when presenting or even fail at something and never have an opportunity to redeem themselves. This is very rarely ever the case and these assumptions need to be tested one small step at a time. For example, if you fear that you don’t know enough and you’re going to get found out, you’ll probably find yourself spending hours preparing and feeling anxious. A small test for someone with this Gremlin, would be to go into a work situation unprepared. Perhaps not a significant and important meeting, but something like a team meeting or a discussion with their manager. Being able to admit 'I don’t know... but I’ll find out' will feel scary, but it ultimately empowering as you can free yourself up from feeling like you have to know everything, all the time. An unrealistic expectation that will hold you back more than admitting when you don’t know something.
Get some insight
Often an objective point of view can provide some perspective on your Confidence Gremlins. Let’s say you’re scared of conflict and you decide to raise a challenging point of view in a meeting as one of your tests. Initially, you’ll probably feel very nervous about this and this may affect your reflections. Asking someone you trust about how they thought you came across can provide useful insight in how other people perceive you. We’re often our own worst critic, and getting a sense of perspective can be a very useful confidence builder.
Recognise your progress
Test. Feedback. Test. Feedback. This is the key to caging your Gremlins. With this action, over time, your fears will stop holding you back. You may never truly be rid of them, but they won’t prevent you from doing the things that will increase your impact and value. This will feel hard and at times uncomfortable, so it’s important to recognise how far you’ve come. Share this with others to inspire them to start this process too.
Overcoming Confidence Gremlins will female millennials to take bolder action and increase their impact. There are so many things we need to do to drive create a more gender inclusive world and this is one thing that can be started right now.
For more advice on how to Overcome your Confidence Gremlins, you can sign-up to Amazing If’s 10 part podcast series on iTunes.
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