One of the first lessons that I learnt from one of my mentors was that I didn’t need to manage my time but my energy. Having lived the corporate life and then adding the family version to it, I found I was always hard pressed for time. No matter how well the day was planned.
When I missed not doing something, I had agreed with her for the second time, she asked, “What’s happening? How come you are not prioritizing yourself?”
It seemed lame to tell her that I didn’t have time to put me first, that I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities. She suggested I do something that was for me, that helped to energize me. And that has made all the difference in my life. My brain learnt to think in a new way. I am so much more confident to take on the world once I have taken the time to focus on myself. What this means has changed over time: for a phase in my life it was yoga and meditation, then I had a phase of reading, journaling, sometimes it was just sitting in my garden, listening to birdsong and watching the trees.
It’s easy to believe that confidence is in the mind – it is the way you look at things, even yourself. It’s easy to believe that confidence is based on how you think the world works, your assumptions and your stereotypes. As the Founder of Thrivewithmentoring, I hear frequently how confidence plays a huge role in the lives of our mentees.
My version of confidence was feeling centered, grounded and balancing my energy. I worked on it by introducing activities that helped me recuperate. Your version might be completely different. I welcome you to “Learn how to “DO” confidence” because becoming confident is more about what you do and less about how you feel.
What can you do as a mentor to support the mentees journey of gaining more“self- confidence”?
- Helping them embrace their vulnerabilities: When you are mindful of what you don’t know or don’t understand and don’t shy away from saying it like it is – it lets others see you as someone who is genuine. I am not your usual camper. I like my linens clean and tidy and off the ground. I prefer staying in Airbnbs rather than camping in a tent or a hammock. That said, I have gone for camping too. And I have told people around me that I am the icky sorts, so whilst they pull my leg for being the diva, they look out for me too. I understand it’s not as simple at the workplace, but the principle is the same. It takes courage to tell people that you don’t know. And yet more often than not, someone will show up to teach or to help. Nothing helps drive home the point like a story. Use stories and anecdotes in your sessions and help mentees find their own versions of how to articulate what’s important to them.
- Introduce them to ‘Power Posing’ their way to graceful articulation: Successful people find ways to build their credibility and likability by using social cues and emotional intelligence. Power posing is an intelligent social cue. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk which has been viewed 53 million times elaborates on this important technique. I have realized that in between heated discussions, if I draw in a deep breath and square my shoulders, I feel more grounded. And I am able to articulate myself better. I check my body language throughout the day, even when I am on a call and walking around. As a mentor, I engage in postural feedback – which means I tell my mentees to lift up their chins when we talk. Or to look me straight in the eye, even when they are not directly communicating with me.
- Offer them tips to use language that sounds confident: In ‘The Language of Female Leadership’, Dr Judith Baxter reported that women are four times more likely to use ‘Out-of-Power’ language, including engaging in ‘double-voice discourse’, which occurs when we assume that someone will respond negatively to what we have to say and so we qualify our opinion eg: “Correct me if I’m wrong…” or “It’s just my opinion, but…” These limits being perceived as experts, and opens the door for others to come in as the authority on a topic and sabotage your opportunities. Instead of using language that is passive and imprecise and thereby limiting your power, presence, and impact on others use language that is positive, specific and declarative that puts you firmly in command.
- Support them by extending your connections:As a mentor you have already opened lines of communication with mentees about their career goals, possible remorse over past career moves, impact of the way their family has impacted their thinking and the like which helps the mentee explore some of the possibly irrelevant ways of being. As a mentor you are already well placed in the industry and enjoy networks of your own. If a mentee is sincere and wants to grow, nothing works better than you as their mentor championing them. This not only boosts their morale but helps them with confidence building as they slowly but surely increase their exposure and move out of their comfort zone.
Mentees need positive reinforcement to build upon their sense of well being, to understand that ‘doing’ confidence is a journey. This is where your mentorship is tremendously useful.
I want to conclude with a beautiful story a Thrive mentee shared with me recently: She and her mentor had practiced a high stakes conversation scenario. They had spoken about the unexpressed and often invalid fears and agreed on a way to address it. She said ‘This time around when I wanted to say something in a high stakes meeting, I felt confident. I felt as if my mentor was behind me, supporting me, validating me, cheering me on’.
Here’s hoping for many more stories of ‘doing confidence to feel confident’!
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