Why re-gaining your confidence starts with you.
"How excellent am I?"
I recall the feeling of euphoria and pride when I delivered my first son into the world almost nine years ago. I’d never felt so capable, so clever and so strong. I mean, I’d just made something from scratch, something Pretty. Damn. Extraordinary.
I still hold this peak experience in my mind as my toughest physical and mental achievement, but rather than considering the often gruelling, always challenging and eminently skilful role of mothering that followed my 13-hour labour that cold July day as a large feather in my cap, I found my confidence wavering when I considered my ability to return to work after becoming a mother.
And it wasn’t because of the many external obstacles women face today when they seek to return to work like finding reliable, affordable childcare, finding a suitably flexible work arrangement or dealing with the guilt of spending less time with your children. My lack of confidence was driven by the internal workings of my mind.
While I was busy trying to be an excellent mother, I’d forgotten how excellent I actually was.
Rather than focussing on the new interpersonal, leadership and effectiveness skills I had gained raising three little men as assets that would make me even more formidable when I returned to work, I instinctively focussed on my fears of not being able to perform at the level I used to.
Rather than focussing on my strengths (that had not evaporated during the birthing process), I was instead intimidated by the social media personas of old colleagues that I’d see on LinkedIn.
Rather than reflecting on my excellent accomplishments during my career-before-kids which would have been great for my confidence, I reflected on the two knock-backs I got when I went for two job interviews that I didn’t really want anyway.
It was time for me to get out of my own way. To let my inner confidence, wake up from the epidural it had been given.
Building your confidence is up to you.
When it comes to returning to work, your confidence really counts, and science also tells us that believing that you can accomplish what you want to is one of the most important ingredients - perhaps the most important ingredient in the recipe for success. My experience working with people on their goal achievement and wellbeing over the last 10 years certainly supports this claim.
Our level of confidence impacts how we think and feel, the choices we make, the level of risk we take, and importantly, how much we will persevere towards our goal when we face obstacles. In a nutshell, our confidence is our belief in our capability to achieve something. Remember the classic children’s story of the “Little Engine that could” – confidence is knowing deep down that YOU CAN.
While other people can help to bolster your confidence by believing in you, encouraging and supporting you, ultimately, it’s YOU who holds the key to rebuilding your confidence.
Confidence is so important for mothers seeking to return to work after a career break that we have devoted a whole chapter to it in our SheThrives Career Comeback Program. We explore 5 science-backed confidence building strategies as well as a series of daily confidence-building tactics.
For women already back at work, our Cultivate Your Confidence online program is perfect if you feel like your confidence has taken a dip and you’d like to strengthen it. This program is comprised of 5 tutorial videos and a 20+ page Discovery tools booklet.
When you remember how excellent you really are (and I mean, get really specific on the work stuff you really rocked at), you fill yourself with the confidence you need to take that next step, and the step after that. Regaining your confidence takes effort, but the self-belief that returns is worth it.
Often, a return to work doesn’t require a new degree, a new skillset or new capabilities (although it of course can if you want to switch fields that require these), often it requires a new internal perspective on your excellent-ness. A perspective that matches the little engine that could when she looked up and saw the mountain she needed to climb.
So… what will it take for you to start saying… I KNOW I CAN?