It didn't dawn on me until seconds before walking into a room of young, restless alpha males that quite possibly I was in over my head. I would be the only woman to coach these elite performers, and I'd never played professional football a day in my life.
My company, Velvet Suite, partnered with the National Football League to execute the first-ever NFL Player Brand University. We coached more than 350 pro athletes across nearly 20 teams in six weeks. As a female-owned enterprise, we became the first personal-branding program of its kind in professional sports.
To be frank, feelings of fear and thoughts of self-doubt were lurking in that moment. However, I knew a few secrets to kick my confidence into high gear.
Experts say women in particular struggle with self-confidence. When you lack confidence, you shy away from the promotion and self-select out of new opportunities because you think you're underqualified. You avoid risks and miss new opportunities that push you past your comfort zone.
The authors of Women Don't Ask interviewed male and female master's students upon graduation and discovered that only 5 percent of women negotiated their salary versus 52 percent of men. By their estimates this could result in as much as $1.5 million in lost income over a woman's career.
Fortunately, a rare and rising breed of women leaders who feed off fear have learned to silence self-doubt to advance beyond these statistics. Jessica Alba, Oprah Winfrey, and Barbara Corcoran are just a few who each have their own journey but can be defined as supersuccessful and clearly confident.
Here are my three proven secrets that I've used and other leading women already know to elevate their confidence when the pressure is on:
1. Purpose is your greatest asset. Knowing who you are fuels what you do. The greatest gift you can give yourself is the journey of self-discovery. Take time to understand your unique identity, purpose, vision, mission, and the gifts you bring to the world. With clarity comes confidence. When I clarified my unique purpose coupled with my skill and expertise in branding, I had a new level of confidence to transfer my knowledge and experience into the business of sports. Embracing your authentic purpose is the guiding truth that will be a source of assurance as you try something new. It gives you courage to take risks and push past self-imposed limitations.
2. Confidence is an inside job. When we secured the contract with the NFL, I had spent the previous three years pitching the same idea to two different NFL teams and got rejected. Use rejection as motivation. Rejection confirmed that I needed to better understand the business, connect with the culture of sports, and tweak my approach. Confident women stand on a mountain of "No"s to get to one "Yes." You don't need external affirmation. Work your plan from the inside out. Do the research, package your product, build meaningful relationships, and master your craft. When opportunity comes knocking, you will be more than prepared. You will be confident, maybe even be a little cocky, because the world woke up to see what you knew all along.
3. Power comes from your inner "shero." There are three sides to every woman: who she is today, who she will become, and who she dares to be. A confident woman connects with her daring side daily, especially when she has self-doubt. Going into practice facilities and locker rooms would be uncomfortable. I told myself, "I have every right to be here." I stepped out of fear and into my "Wonder Woman" zone and silenced the subconscious and started the positive self-talk. Be intentional about your mindset. Every "shero" is extraordinary, competent, and extremely valuable. Know your worth. When you change your mindset, watch how others respond.
The secret is out, and now you hold three proven keys that confident women already know. Experts say there is a close correlation between confidence and success. It's time to step up your confidence and access your next level of success.