Confidence – “the quality of being certain of your abilities” or “the quality of being certain of your own ability to do things well”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow entrepreneur about our approaches of building business. No matter which industry or product we focus on, I think most entrepreneurs share a certain set of the same problems. I am always curious to learn how others deal with them.
When you start something from scratch and risk your money and career, of course, you think about the risk of failure. But very often I have the feeling that women think about failing much more than men. When I asked my conversation partner how he dealt with failure he answered that he thinks about it but immediately added that we cannot let the fear of failing influence what we do. I totally agree with that. However, I wanted to know more and asked how he dealt with fear relating to financials. I have to make a small note here and say that that conversation partner is a very accomplished entrepreneur and that his days of worrying about rent, start-up expenses etc. are long over. Nevertheless, as a business owner you always are exposed to certain financial risks.
He started thinking. It actually took him a really long time to come up with an answer. I realised this was probably a question which he rarely asks himself. “Well… I think it is part of what we do but actually I make some financial projections for the year and then I know that I can do it and achieve or exceed my projections.”
And there it was. Confidence. And not in a negative way at all. It just made me realise that I tend to forget about my own confidence. I would never regard myself as “being certain of my own abilities to do well”. I always think that I can do better, that I need to work harder, that it is not enough.
Of course, if you are an accomplished entrepreneur like my conversation partner, you see things differently. But I have asked this question so many times. When I compare the answers of male and female entrepreneurs, I see a pattern. I never got the above-answer from a woman.
Looking at myself, I probably would struggle to answer it like that as well. Firstly, because I do not want to come across as pretentious (a no-go as a woman, being humble is what we have been taught from early on). Secondly, I know that I have certain skills, that I can achieve a lot, that I work hard. But I always question if it is really enough to be successful. This trait is in line with studies suggesting that women tend to apply more conservative financial projections and, hence, display less confidence regarding their business performance, compared with men (see My Catalyst cited in Kochie’s Business Builders).
And this is the vicious circle we start for ourselves. If we do not even believe in ourselves, why should others? Why should our customers buy our products? Why should people work with us? I see so many competent and successful women around me who are far from the confidence level I mentioned above. As if we felt we were never really good enough.
My biggest learning over the last weeks has been that there is nothing wrong in being confident. The seeds we plant now will be the crops in the future and this is how we have to think. We took risks to start business or take our careers forward. Women plan more than men, calculate their risks and are more than competent. Why do we keep doubting ourselves? It will only harm ourselves and our businesses and careers. We still play in a men’s world, so why not use the things which make them strong. One of them is confidence.