I delivered the first talk of the opening night of Spring Forward, A women in tech event in Brighton 2019, and wanted to share it in blog format. It’s my Wonder Woman tool kit, filled with things to help you feel good about you. This is the unedited version of what was on the Code Enigma blog , but as I wrote it, I’m saving it here for prosperity.
If you don’t want to read the wall of text, here’s some slides in a PDF and a poster.
These are these things other people have told me, some I’ve learned by reading or watching Ted Talks and others I’ve figured out, the hard way. These are mostly mindset tools that keep me - or help me get into a position where I have the confidence to reach my best self.
First and most importantly, I really believe that having confidence is to have belief and faith in yourself and that’s a big deal!
One of the first steps in having faith in yourself - and showing it to those around you is to learn your own strengths and more importantly your weaknesses. I found I learned a lot about myself from reading The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. In the book you learn about how everyone has a inner chimp who is emotional and likes to make a lot of noise when feeling distressed.
Understanding that emotional responses were caused by my inner chimp - Nora - meant that I could learn how to control them better, sometimes it meant shouting back at her, and that’s why naming your chimp is important. Sometimes it meant letting her tire herself out, so taking myself off to a safe place, with people I trust, and letting it all out. Primal stylee.
By being in control of Nora, my inner chimp, when I do have something to say I know that it isn’t an emotional response or a triggered response but I know it’s actually something that have faith in, because it’s me speaking and not my emotions, it’s not my inner chimp. That alone gives me confidence to speak up in situations I’d normally have kept quiet in.
It took me a long time to know when to speak up or even to reach out for help. I used to find myself screwing my toes up in a meeting or fixated at the computer screen fretting over a problem I couldn’t fix. I actually made myself very sick by not speaking out when I was stuck on a big project.
Learning how your body feels in tense situations is invaluable, check in with yourself, regularly. Not only listening to your inner chimp but the rest of your body, to be able to preempt the pesky chimps behaviour means you can position yourself well in awkward situations. I found meditation really useful here, I use the Headspace app to spend just a few minutes a day checking in with myself, listening to my body, what hurts or feels tense. They are signs you’re not telling yourself how you really feel and that you may need to stop and readdress things.
Check in with others around you too, ask questions when you don’t understand something. Be comfortable with saying “I don’t know”. I don’t know but I can find out if you give me 30 minutes. I don’t know but please can you show me. Not knowing does not make you weak. It shows courage, it’s something that is rare and employers value someone who admits when they don’t know something. So learn to be comfortable saying I don’t know.
Also. “No. is a sentence.” As soon as you’ve mastered that one… tell me how!
I was always told that you really do have to communicate more than feels natural, to be heard. And from experience, I can confirm that is true. This still happens to me today, I can say something and it will go ignored, then someone - normally a man - will repeat the same thing minutes later and they get the praise. If you find this happening to you, and it’s hindering you career then you do have the power to speak up because you’re in control of your chimp. You know you aren’t being emotional and it is important you get the credit for the idea.
But sometimes you do just have to let it go and pick your battles wisely, by letting someone else take one idea from you might open your path to a better idea, so embrace that and learn from your previous mistake, over communicate everything. You need to be able to prove you said it first, write everything done, tell more than one person. A presentation is more powerful than you think it is.
Back things up with evidence or try doing a bit of what you want to do in your own time first then ask for time to do it more in-depth. It truly sucks that we have to do that, but an hours homework might make all the difference.
Learn to tell great stories. Share evidence you have with real stories, your feelings, be open and raw. There is great power in vulnerability. If your presentations are relatable and personable then they’ll hit home harder.
Remember to check in with yourself so you know when to dig deep and when to take a break - and if you don’t feel like you’re being heard after providing the evidence or digging deep and giving that hours homework then you can get another job. YOU ARE WORTH MORE
Even though you have your chimp under control a little more. You will get emotional and that’s ok! Emotions show everyone how much you care.
Ask yourself will this be important in 2 minutes. 2 days. 2 years… it will help you to ground your emotions. You might need to be angry because it affects 2 years of your life… so don’t hold that in, but again try not to let your chimp control your anger, show your passion, your fire.
Being angry about something that’s just going to be uncomfortable for 2 days or 2 weeks it isn’t worth it and it’s probably that chimp talking again.
Find your tribe, people that you look up to - they don’t even need to know you exist, follow their footsteps, learn about them and how they got to where you want to be. Ensure you have those people who you can show your inner chimp to.
Importantly your tribe must have people that believe in you when you don’t. People who will guide you somewhere when you can’t even see the road in front of you — there’s also lot of research out there that shows women who have a tight tribe of 3 or 4 women friends to confide in and bounce ideas from will succeed more than women who have more men in their tribe.
Now I come from a web development background so for a long time a lot of my tribe was male. I found two key women to confide in and they boosted my confidence for me when I couldn’t.
You will feel like you don’t belong, everyone else is feeling the same. The sooner you know that the sooner you can be comfortable with it.
Always Say Please and thank you
If you’re unsure about doing something, do it and say sorry later. It’s very likely you won’t have to apologise. There’s no reason to say sorry when asking for their help. The only time to say sorry is if you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Because you want some of their time to do your job better, isn’t anything to apologise for.
If you feel intimidated by a situation then I really recommend - running into the nearest bathroom - no seriously - this is where mantras really boost your confidence. Saying “I can do this” or “I am important” over and over - I used to say that walking up the three steps into the office of my last job. Each step a word. I. Am. Important. Those steps meant something to me, that ‘me time’ literally helped me start my work day the right foot.
Above all of this: Keep doing it. Keep making little changes. Keep fighting for each 2 minutes, 2 weeks, 2 years. keep focussing on you and you will make it. You will find that faith in yourself.