What Makes Women Confident? 

Why are some women more confident than others? Why is it harder for some women to build their confidence? Female confidence is something I have been fascinated with for a long time. In this blog I break down my findings, and what’s helped me throughout my corporate career and running my own business.

From Shy to Confident

Would you be surprised to know I struggled with anxiety, I used to be a shy kid. Probably given I am so different today. But to know firsthand what it takes to go from being timid to being able to talk on a stage is key in helping others build their confidence. Building one’s confidence can seem like an impossible task, the secret though is to be consistent, because consistency creates a behavioural pattern that you become familiar with. Familiarity helps squash anxiety and fear.

Learning about Makes Women Confident

When I read about the confidence gap back in 2014 it really resonated with me.  Katty Kay and Claire Shipman really did a fantastic job of providing evidence showing that women are less self-assured than men.  As a former confidence coach turned stylist, I totally concur with their sentiment that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. 

That’s probably why it takes women so long to settle into their own skin… how many times have I heard women say life starts at 40?

Confidence is Different for Men and Women

Confidence comes in all shapes and sizes, peaks and troughs, You can still have oodles of it and still be struck by days where you feel not quite good enough, that pesky little thing called imposter syndrome can creep in… It seems that feeling can get in the way for women a lot more than it does for men.

It’s no surprise to see a statistic by a KPMG study that found 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers. In the Confidence Gap article, Katty and Claire talk about their conversation with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. They met with her before her book, Lean In, was published and she told them: “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”

They mention a study by Cornell University that found women underestimate both their own abilities and performance, whilst men tend to overestimate themselves in both. You can see how this looks in the graph below.

Source: zengerfolkman.com

Women Take Their Time to Build Confidence

This interesting study by Zenger Folkman shows that as women, we take our time to build up our confidence. The graph above (kindly borrowed from zengerfolkman.com shows that women’s confidence increases more with age than men’s. But what that data reveals is absolute BONKERS, women are only getting the confidence to do what men have been doing since their twenties, when they are almost halfway through their life.

So why is it that women feel the need to work harder than men to get the same recognition?  And do men have an unfair advantage or do women actually have more untapped options available to them that they aren’t utilising? Those questions always drum up a great debate…

So what makes A confident woman?

You could say self-confidence for women is about feeling like they are good at what they do, who they are, and that they are comfortable in their own skin. 

The oxford dictionary defines ‘self-confidence’ as a noun, to have a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement and the definition of self-esteem confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.

Oxford Dictionary

Inside-out female confidence

When a woman feels good on the inside it radiates on the outside… It’s hard to argue with that. As I sit here typing with my newly manicured nails, the feeling of looking groomed and pulled together boosts my confidence, nobody can see me. Here’s the thing – it’s how I feel about myself that matters. Women are often their own worst critics, but they can also be their biggest fans if they choose to be. It is all about perspective – and your environment.

Our appearance can change how we feel about ourselves

 It certainly shouldn’t be underestimated the value it brings to pay attention to one’s appearance. Whether we like it or not most women will attest to the fact looking good, helps to boost their self-esteem. When a woman knows how to dress in a way that makes her feel like the best version of herself, competent, comfortable, appropriate and stylish, that’s quite an incredible tool to be able to fall back on.

Women need to Utilise all the Tools they have available

How can we better utilise these extra tools at our disposal to help close the confidence gap? As women we need to believe in ourselves, that our life matters, that we matter and we are entitled to getting what we want from life – we just need to be comfortable enough to step up, speak out and be seen.

A study by Frontiers in 2019 found  “there is a clear connection between higher self-esteem and positive outcomes, such as occupational success, better social relationships, a sense of well-being, positive perceptions by peers, academic achievement, and good coping skills”

How do confident women behave?

They say confident women don’t need to seek the approval of others. A confident woman will trust her judgment and go with that belief. Confident women value their time, and energy and this leads to a higher sense of self-worth.

On a good day, I’d say that feels pretty accurate, but that’s a good day for a woman in her forties who has been working on her confidence since she was fourteen years old… So, what else have I discovered during my research and years of building my own confidence and surrounding myself with women who inspire me?

confident women know when to say no

I’d like to say most confident women know when to take a break! They can step away and say no. Enough is enough. Health is wealth after all, and we all know 100% might look very different to 100% on another day ( and that’s OK). Accepting that we cannot do it all is key. Knowing our value. Not saying yes to appease others or through guilt, is powerful and it builds you up.

Confident women don’t need to compete

When a woman is confident in herself, she won’t feel the need to compete with other women. Instead, a woman with confidence in her own abilities will seek friendship, partnerships and collaboration over competition.  That being said some women do seek healthy competition. Why? It helps to push them further. Confidence, like life, is always evolving and what we do to maintain it, will change as we get older.

Confident women forge their own paths

As women, we need to realise our own path to unstoppable confidence looks very different to others. And no two paths are the same, nor do any continue in a straight line. Every woman’s confidence journey will take twists and turns, and dip into difficulties. However, it is the true testament of a confident woman to be able to take a knock, deal with the setbacks and come back stronger.

Confidence really is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger you become. The harder life hits you the more resilient you become.

What made me a confident woman?

Taking control of my health, and not allowing my happiness to be determined by others or defined by money.

I also realised my wardrobe was an untapped resource, and my personal style could do more for me. I discovered this feeling of ‘fake confidence and bravado’ when I got dressed up and into character. On stage and performing in front of others was terrifying – if I had to be me. But Roberta in character and in costume, now that was something else. I was able to step into a persona that I knew could get me through – and the costume choices for every role heavily shaped that feeling.

Wearing my values has been a game changer for me, the level of confidence in feeling aligned and authentic with my beliefs is truly astonishing – and my wardrobe acting no longer as armour but a celebration of who I am. Finding my ‘purpose’ and stepping into my calling in my thirties was extremely liberating, but it has been a lot of hard work, starting my career again from scratch and learning (the hard way) to run a business isn’t for the faint-hearted.

And once again it was my clothes came to the rescue – they were a talking point for me when I stepped on stage. I had aligned how I felt about fashion and my bleiefs and curated a style that reflected that. My clothes that made me feel authentic, powerful and confident. My clothes had meaning – I was not hiding behind them, pretending to be someone else, they were allowing me to be me and do it confidently.

With so many factors at play, and with so many things influencing us, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  If you’re looking for some inside-out style and confidence tips you can access all my secrets for free – no gatekeeping from me.

I believe all women deserve to feel confident and have the courage to chase their dreams, we shouldn’t have to wait until we are 40 to start.

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Empowering Women – The Link Between Confidence and Fashion 

As a fashion stylist, I think of all of the women that work in the fashion industry, 80% of which are women.  Whilst clothes are an important part of our self-image (and nobody understands the power of clothes more than me) I cannot help feeling stuck in an oxymoron.  I want to help women unlock the power of transformative style, but I can’t talk about empowering women whilst we are actively supporting a fashion system that employs and exploits millions of garment workers around the world, who are women.

This is why I work very differently from your average personal stylist.  I use sustainable styling principles and a values-driven approach for meaningful, impactful style transformations that amplify who you are and what you believe in.  No bingeing on fast fashion, no chasing trends…no mindless consumption resulting in clothes that are never worn.

the styling course

Everything you need to know for unstoppable style confidence. Colours, body shape, outfit planning, styling tips and more!

My goal is to change the relationship women have with themselves and their clothes, so they can discover a whole new world when they open their wardrobe doors.  We should feel excited to get dressed, to feel confident, but also understand the importance of re-wearing, repeating, restyling, repairing, loving and cherishing our clothes for many years to come.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please check out my podcast where I interview and celebrate women throughout the entire year, focusing on showcasing a range of diverse interesting women with inspirational stories.  

PS. I’m Seeking Inspirational Women

I’m looking for some extraordinary women to join my podcast for the new lineup for 2023 and beyond. The Inspirational Women Series is making a comeback. If you would like to share your confidence journey please feel free to comment below. 

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