As a female FBI agent, I needed to come across as confident when interviewing suspects. Confidence sent the message that I was both competent and in a position of authority.
I focused on conveying the right body language with shoulders back, head up, and making direct eye contact. I spent time preparing for the interview by looking at the facts of the case and thoroughly going over the analytics, assessments, and witness accounts.
This process was important because it removed all doubt of my competence in my own head. It imbued me with the confidence that I could find the truth and make reliable conclusions.
Confidence should never be confused with arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you are better than somebody else; confidence is knowing you are competent and expecting to be treated with respect.
I learned from my fellow FBI agents that men can suffer from lack of confidence as acutely as women, but females struggle with a more complex array of confidence issues than men because media and slick advertising promote the image of professional women as thin, dressed in designer clothes, and wearing stiletto heels.
But it doesn’t stop with this—there are few areas in a woman’s life that are not targeted for improvement, and with that comes the implication that she is far from perfect. Some areas of low confidence include: not worthy of a promotion, too fat, wrong skin color, not educated enough, not worthy of love, not athletic enough…the list goes on.
No wonder women lack confidence! In truth, confidence has nothing to do with beauty, height, weight, skin, clothes, relationships, or intelligence. Confidence is a gift that only you can can give to yourself. If you have it, no one can take it from you. On the other hand, don’t look to others to give it to you, either.
Here are 6 things confident women never do:
1. TAKE THEIR DAY FOR GRANTED
Confident women never forget to start their day with gratitude. Gratitude puts your life into perspective. Start and end each day with at least 5 positive affirmations about what you are thankful for about yourself.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion for mental toughness because it reminds you to be confident in yourself and your abilities. How can you be thankful for what you’re going to receive if you aren’t grateful for what you already have?
Bottom Line: Confidence is about progress, not perfection. Positive things happen to positive people.
2. AVOID MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH EVERYONE THEY MEET
Confident women never miss an opportunity to flex their confidence muscle during their day in the world. They make eye contact with everyone they meet because they have the confidence to initiate conversations and spread their influence. They know their thoughts have the ability to make a valuable and impactful contribution to other people.
Bottom Line: Women with confidence can look a man in the eye and control the situation, and not trivialize the encounter by allowing it to turn into flirting.
3. STAY INSIDE THEIR COMFORT ZONE
Confident women never shrink inside their comfort zone. Instead, they are curious abut the world around them and look for ways to explore it.
Women with confidence believe in their ability to gain knowledge and solve problems. Self-esteem is believing in your competence—learn from your failures and mistakes so you do not repeat them going forward.
Bottom Line: Past failure does not predict future failure— develop the mental toughness to stick with it because when you do succeed, that experience will give you more confidence.
4. SPEAK IN QUIET TONES
Confident women never fade into the background by speaking in low tones. They know how to crank up the volume so their opinions and views are heard. This does not mean they are shrill or boisterous.
I do not have a loud voice, but I do have a strong one. When I have something to say, I say it loud enough and enunciate clearly so people both hear and understand.
Bottom Line: If you don’t have anything of value to say, keep your mouth shut. Don’t lose credibility by blabbing just so you can stay in the conversation.
5. OFFER LIMP HANDSHAKES
Confident women never offer a limp wrist or dead fish handshake. They clamp down and shake hands with authority. Women, in particular, can be bad about this and it sets a weak and feeble message from the very beginning. Practice your handshake if need be, but get it right.
In an FBI interview, if there is a conflict between what the suspect is saying and their body language, agents will always give more credibility to the non-verbal message.
Bottom Line: Body language sends a powerful message so make sure you are not sabotaging your career by using powerful words that are weighed down with wimpy body language that is full of self-doubt and lack of confidence.
6. FORGET THEY ARE DEFINED BY THE COMPANY THEY KEEP
Confident women never forget that by surrounding themselves with people who are upbeat and positive, they are making a choice on how their life will be defined.
Plato once said, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”
If we are not nourished, our souls will choke and wither away. Don’t put down roots in poor soil because we grow where we’re planted. Rich soil empowers us to surround ourselves with friends and mentors who show us how to move forward with confidence as leaders.
Bottom Line: Pick your friends with care—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those who value them as much as you do.
Confidence is believing that we are a person of value. We are ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in our lives. People who are confident keep building on their self-worth, and when they do, they convey the competence and authority they need to be successful in business and life.
Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”