Confidence—A Woman’s Challenge

flower theme by Liane Sebastian
In honor of Women’s History Month, I confront one of our deepest and most insidious challenges: the Confidence Crisis.

Women of previous generations may have had less options—but they had similar upbringings. Lifestyles change faster than values. In a time when more doors were closed, these pioneers confronted their limitations through self-honesty. They recognized and built upon their strengths, rather than become weakened by their disadvantages.

Imagine that you are sitting down to tea with eight illuminaries from the past, and you ask:

How do you maintain confidence to confront the largest challenges?

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
—Georgia O’Keefe (1887–1986)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.”
—Jane Austen (1775–1817)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.”
—Helen Keller (1880–1968)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“Those who are blessed with the most talent don’t necessarily outperform everyone else. It’s the people with follow-through who excel.”
—Mary Kay Ash (1918–2001)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”
—Zora Neale Hurston (1901–1960)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“Fashion changes, style remains.”
—Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883–1971)

flower theme by Liane Sebastian“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe we are gifted for something, and must attain that thing at whatever cost.”
—Marie Curie (1867–1934)

These women also represent the courageous of previous generations. Since the dawn of time, women have been entrepreneurs. Courage to confront barriers always inspires. But these are realities I’ve only faced in adulthood.

As a child, my parents infused me with the belief that I could do anything I wanted to do—IF I worked hard at it. Multi-talented and honor roll student, my choices were like a banquet. Never did I think I could not do something because I am female. Then, fresh-faced and 23 years old, I showed up in Chicago to begin my career.

Graphic design doesn’t inhibit women—both sexes have the same potential, though the sacrifices might be different. As far as I know, I never lost an opportunity as a women—maybe I actually was awarded more work and attention because of it!

Confidence professionally was never a question either—I knew I was enterprising and of value to any employer—which I proved to be. I learned how to grow businesses, both for clients and for myself as an entrepreneur.

So it is profoundly shocking—it pierces my very core of compassion—how many women struggle with confidence. I see this everywhere. Speaking at executive women’s conferences, I even see it manifested in the most educated.

Media portrays successful women as dragon ladies or queen bees (or both). Yet the most successful women I have every met are charming (disarmingly so), clever, deceptive, and positively manipulative. They have a “take no prisoners” unspoken force, but it is masked by charisma. Confidence oozes from them—whether they feel it or not—you’ll never know.

I’ve worked very hard for ten years on understanding women’s greatest challenges, and confidence is always at the core, or even the beginning of each! The best book I have ever read on the subject is Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within. If you haven’t read it, it is mandatory reading for anyone who wishes to alter the social dynamic. It is so deeply cultural, we all must question it.

Feeling so strongly that we hold ourselves back, we are given an opportunity to step up to this crisis. To find solutions and remedies, don’t take my word for it. Rather, I have culled my collection of quotations from those wiser than me in previous generations.

How do you deal with the Confidence Crisis for workingwomen?

Also check out my book Women who Win at Work  that has a chapter on Confidence with advice from those who know.

Liane Sebastian, illustrator, designer, writer, and publishing pioneer

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2 Responses to “Confidence—A Woman’s Challenge”

  1. The Nooner Assistant Says:

    Great post!

  2. wisdomofwork Says:

    Since this posting, I have a new article, “Serial Entrepreneurs Reveal Insights” from confident women. Read it in Women Entrepreneur at http://www.womenentrepreneur.com/2010/04/serial-entrepreneurs-reveal-insights.html.

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