Fiona Grayson, Founder of She can. She did., — a platform that supports female entrepreneurs in their teens, twenties and thirties — tells us how she boosts her confidence at work and banishes that dreaded imposter syndrome we all know (and don’t love!). These five tips serve as a great checklist to reference before any work (or life!) challenge.
In addition to her list, Fiona shares that confidence comes from accepting deep down that sometimes things do not work out the way you want them to — and that is ok. There is much to be gained from persevering regardless of the outcome, and never giving in when that self-doubt, anxiety, or imposter syndrome creeps in. Remember that you’re a whole lot stronger than you think. Dig deep, keep going and remember that you’ve got this!
1. Practice really does make perfect
As the saying goes: ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.
Life would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to put the work in to win, wouldn’t it? But there’s something so satisfying about the feeling of finishing a task that you’ve been dreading, knowing deep down that you put the work in, and it went as well as it could have gone.
I grew up in a household where I was told that so long as I’ve done my best to prepare for things, the outcome doesn’t matter; I can hold my head high regardless.
Despite nerves being ever-present, there’s something so liberating about walking into a meeting, pitch, public speaking engagement or any scary work task, knowing deep down that I’ve done all I can to prepare.
Having said that, I’m a great believer in the less travelled route to practice. Take public speaking practice for example. Rather than reciting a speech over and over in front of the mirror or family and friends, I tend to practice during quick 10-minute car journeys to and from the office. The words tend to flow more freely and naturally without being too rigid. That way I am more confident that I won’t ramble because I’ve only ever rehearsed with 10 minutes to spare.
Be it setting aside half an hour before an important call to go over your notes, half a day to prepare for a crucial meeting or a number of days to prepare for a make-or-break interview or exam, it’s vital to do your homework and trust your instincts. You’ll be surprised by how much you can trust your gut when it’s time to shine. And so long as you have prepped enough, you can walk away with your head held high.
2. When in doubt, embrace your inner alter ego (aka. Beyoncé’s alter ego, Sasha Fierce)
If an alter ego is good enough for Beyoncé, it’s good enough for us, right girls!?
There have been so many moments since launching my business She can. She did. where I’ve felt such severe imposter syndrome and all I’ve wanted to do was run back to bed and hide. But in those moments, I ask myself, “what would Beyoncé do?!”
Speaking to Oprah in 2008, Beyoncé talked about how she would channel her alter ego throughout her twenties when her nerves kicked in backstage before a show and she could hear the crowd waiting for her: “that’s when Sasha Fierce appears! My posture changes, the way I speak, everything is different”.
How would the person that you admire handle the task you’re worrying about? How would they walk? How would they talk? How would they sit? How would they stand? How would they handle the situation if your voice wobbles mid-sentence or you trip up as you walk into the room?! Think about it carefully, step into that version of yourself for the task and then trust your inner Sasha Fierce to get the job done.
3. Start saying “yes” to things that scare you (in and outside of work)
Step one is to say ‘yes.’ Step two is to tell people you’re going to do them, so you’re held accountable!
Every time I’ve pushed through a challenge that has filled me with dread, I’ve grown a whole lot stronger and more confident in myself for doing so.
Be it a physical competition you’ve signed up for that seems somewhat impossible to complete; you agree to deliver a speech at a conference even though the idea of talking in front of 10 people fills you with dread, let alone 100; you find the courage to take the leap and launch that business idea you’ve been dreaming about for months on end; or simply you agree to take the lead in a meeting when you’ve never led one before. Every time you push yourself out of your comfort zone and say “yes” to things that scare you, the more comfortable that feeling of discomfort becomes.
Sooner than later, those experiences add up to something much bigger — self-belief — and before you know it, you’ll soon have a whole roster of achievements to fall back on when you’re scared that will serve as a reminder throughout life of how capable you are.
4. Learn to laugh at yourself when things don’t quite go to plan!
Within the first two minutes of my opening remarks at the launch of the She can. She did. - Midweek Mingles back in April 2018, my mouth went so dry from nerves that I could feel my lips physically sticking to my gums (I can only imagine what the ladies on the front row must have been thinking!).
Yet, whilst the teenager that hated public speaking inside me wanted to curl up into a ball and hide and I could feel myself start to panic internally, I paused to take a sip of my drink, acknowledging that things got a little nervous, and had a laugh with the audience. Moments later, I relaxed, and we could all move on.
The minute you loosen up and remind yourself that life and challenges are about the experience and not a perfect ending, it gets a whole lot easier to deal with.
Ultimately, if you can find a way to take control of the situation you’re worried about, you will exude confidence. Be it you notice a dodgy spelling error midway through an important presentation, you walk out of the ladies’ room with your skirt tucked into your underwear or you can’t remember someone’s name at a networking event. The minute you hold your hands up and acknowledge the error and have a laugh, you reduce that so called ‘error’ to nothing more than a funny story to tell (and perhaps a life lesson to check in the mirror before leaving the toilets!).
5. Pack your own survival kit
Be it packing a spare pare of tights in case you get a ladder in the ones you’re currently wearing pre-presentation; carrying bandages for blisters so that you’re not thinking about sore feet when there’s a job to get done, or having gum on you to avoid the dreaded ‘dry mouth syndrome’… Packing your personal survival kit before a big day at work makes a big difference and provides a steady source of reassurance deep down when you need it most.