The one universal wish 40-something women have for 20-somethings is to give them confidence. What we all know now is that you do really have it going on…but you just don’t know it all of the time. Even the most confident women recall moments of insecurity in their 20s. It is a lifestage of extremes. A time when you think you know it all or at least can give a pretty good go at challenging the status quo…and at the same time feeling like OMG! How do I get that across in certain situations and why do I feel like I’m pretending to be an adult?
A recent Forbes Women column by Pretty Young Professional on “5 Things You Need to Succeed As An Entrepreneur” summed up this confidence conundrum:
When Morgan First started her first company, a Boston city guide and planner, she felt isolated at CEO networking events. She was not only the lone female, but also a 21-year-old redhead in a room of middle-aged, grey-haired men. She was naturally intimidated but, after the first few events, she realized that “when I walked in that room and I was confident, everyone in realized, ‘she’s different, I want to talk to her.’ And it was really just the difference of the energy I carried.”
First advises young entrepreneurs to have boundless confidence in themselves and their ideas, or at least to “fake it until you make it.” You might not have years of experience under your belt, but you must show confidence about your idea before anyone else—clients, partners, or investors—will take it seriously.
This applies to any situation whether pitching a start-up, a new idea to a boss, going on an interview or giving a presentation. Be confident. But how? That is my response everytime a 40-something wants to give a 20-something confidence. One woman had an interesting point:
“Confidence is as much a rhetorical position as it is a real attitude that people carry with them. That just because someone is projecting confidence through what they say and the way they act has no relationship to whether they actually feel confident all the time. That’s liberating because you can project outside confidence even if you don’t feel you have it. But then you also can understand that the people you are ‘projecting to’ are just people. You have to respect that that’s a human being on the other end regardless of whether they seem like they have every answer. One of the most wise things that anyone has said to me, I think she was in her 40s, was, ‘I think the more you get to know people, the more you realize how everyone’s got their own little universe.'”
It goes back to fake it until you make it with a little dose of “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” Yes you can project confidence but you also have to realize that you do have it. You don’t have to go in full of bravado. You just have to realize that you are just as likely to have a great idea as they do. Talk to them like a person and be genuine rather than full of show.
You have it. So even when you don’t feel it. ACT BIG.
This was a great analogy I got from a 20-something woman on how she was able to act confident when pitching her idea for a start-up in front of seasoned professionals and successful entrepreneurs. She related it to a duck. A duck glides smoothly across the water but underneath that effortless looking glide their feet are paddling wildly. They are just treading water to stay afloat! They are acting big. So keep it calm, no matter how you feel on the inside, you can stride.
You have so much going for you. Own it. I leave you with this poem a 40-something women shared with me as her advice to a 20-something. It is a poem she wrote to her 20-something neice upon graduation from college:
From Me to You
You…so full of potential
The power you have, the prowess you possess
Is a mere shadow of your greatness
Trust that you have it, that you are it
Fake it until it becomes real
Decide now that you will honor yourself
Decide now even though you may feel lost
Decide now that your dreams come true
And when you feel disbelief, look at a seashell or the sunrise or the sunset
Or the moon and venus together and tell yourself how lucky you are
Tell yourself that you are the light, the star in the universe
That is here for a purpose, a good purpose
A purpose that is determined by you
That it matters not what you do, but that you follow your light and your heart
In this big cosmic soup
Listen to your thoughts, correct them if they need correcting
And believe in yourself.