Have you wanted to say “yes” and lead a project but felt nervous to raise your hand in the meeting? Did you want to apply for a job but decided not to because you thought you didn’t have all the qualifications?
It is frustrating to want to say “yes," but a lack of confidence is holding you back. This is known as the confidence-competence dichotomy, a topic discussed in the book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance written by BBC World News Anchor Katty Kay and ABC News Reporter Claire Shipman. The authors point to studies revealing that the confidence gap is most prevalent in women and that men “consistently overestimate” their abilities and women “routinely underestimate” their abilities, even though actual performance of men and women is the same. For women, saying "yes" is critical to attaining equal opportunity, which we recognize with days like Women's Equality Day.
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If you want to advance your career, sometimes you will have to say “yes” before you feel ready. Advocate for yourself, and don’t risk losing the opportunity. Here are four ways to help you build up the confidence to say “yes:”
1. Always be prepared.
Do your research, and stay in the know. Know what and with whom you are dealing, whether it is in a meeting or an interview. Understand the players and the context. The more you know, the more you will feel prepared and confident to seize the opportunity.
2. Know that feeling uncomfortable is the new comfortable.
If you feel a little uncomfortable, you are doing something right. If you want to advance, you need to stretch yourself. Think you are taking a big risk? You’re not. The greater risk is staying in your comfort zone. Feeling uncomfortable is the new comfortable. The next time you feel uneasy, pat yourself on the back.
3. Remind yourself that you will figure it out.
Think back to situations where you didn’t know everything but you survived. You figured out how to solve the problem. You’re smart. Have confidence knowing that you will figure out what you don’t know. Comedian Tina Fey says, “Say ‘yes,’ and you’ll figure it out afterward.”
4. Don’t let the guy next to you steal the opportunity from you.
A New York Times article on why women aren’t in leadership roles includes this story: “A presenter asked a group of men and women whether anyone had expertise in breast-feeding. A man raised his hand. He had watched his wife for three months. The women in the crowd, mothers among them, didn’t come forward as experts.” Wow.
While you may not feel you are the expert, you have what it takes. Don’t let others, including men who overestimate their abilities, cause you to lose out on an opportunity. The next time you hesitate to say “yes,” ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable with someone else, who has the same or less ability, taking advantage of an opportunity that I could have had?
If you want to advance in your career, you sometimes have to say “yes” before you feel you are ready. Most likely, you are ready. Use these tips to help you get over the feeling of uncertainty or the doubt that may be holding you back.