Heather Lloyd-Martin, ACC
8 Ways Gen X Women Can Build Their Confidence Muscle and Feel Unstoppable
After my article about how women could build their thought leadership online, I received messages from hundreds of Gen X women thanking me for “seeing” them because they’ve felt “forgotten.”
One of the main themes that popped up after my last article was confidence. So this article is for all my badass Gen X readers who want to tap into their confident superpowers and do even more amazing things.
When was the last time you felt unstoppable and confident?
Play the memory back in your brain and remember the sensations. How did your body feel? How did YOU feel?
It’s fun to feel confident.
But for some women, we equate “feeling unstoppable” with “back when we had collagen and could sleep through the night.”
It’s hard to feel confident and negotiate that deal – or walk into a room and feel amazing – when we’re feeling stuck and second-guessing ourselves, dealing with peri-everything, and feeling just a teensy bit cranky.
For lots of good reasons.
Plus, society tells Gen X (and even Millennial women) that we’re aging out. It’s easy to look in the mirror, see wrinkles and gray roots, and wonder if feeling amazing was so 15 years ago.
Here’s the thing – you can build your confidence muscle and feel unstoppable almost on demand.
That means feeling more confident at work, with your partner and friends – and even when you’re by yourself.
These are the seven techniques (plus one bonus tip) I’ve used over the years to keep my confidence levels high and my focus on track – even while my hormone levels fluctuate.
Know there’s nothing wrong with you.
Once upon a time, a woman sidled up to me at a conference, pointed to the speaker, and said, “I wish I had her confidence. She’s an amazing speaker.”
Here’s what she didn’t know.
That amazing speaker? She had the pre-presentation pukes about an hour before her talk.
Then she washed her face, cranked up the music, and got her head in the game.
Most women aren’t born with unflappable confidence. They fake it long after they make it – and still have bad, insecure-feeling days when everything feels off.
I’ve been there.
Plus, if you’re considering a career pivot – or trying something new – it would make perfect sense if you weren’t feeling 100 percent confident all the time.
Doing new things is scary (and exciting.)! Launching out of your comfort zone – especially if you’ve spent 20+ years doing the same things with the same people is scary.
That’s normal. You’re normal.
I can look amazingly confident and be a nervous puddle of goo inside. There are moments when I’m convinced I’m messing everything up.
I’ve learned to give myself grace when feeling that way and do something good for myself – even a ten-minute break blasting loud music helps. Then I can get my confidence brain back in the game.
So your “lack of confidence” isn’t a defect. Confidence isn’t something that “other women have.”
Feeling confident is a skill that you practice—every day.
People have you at “hello.”
Have you ever hopped on a sales call feeling grumpy and stressed? How did it go?
Probably not great.
People judge your trustworthiness within half a second – barely enough time to say hello.
Research from Vanessa Van Edwards found that the best way to make a confident impression is with a happy hello.
Take a deep breath and try it right now.
I make sure I have a big smile on my face when I pick up the phone, and I greet the other person in a friendly, personable manner. I’ve learned that most people warm up to me faster when my voice pattern is approachable.
Bonding with someone quickly and feeling the conversation flow is always a nice confidence boost.
Having said that, the surest way I can mess with my confidence is by jumping on a call when I’m in a bad mood. I guarantee I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. playing back all the ways I messed up the call and blew the deal.
(More on how to deal with that in my bonus tip).
Sometimes, one of the best ways to build your confidence is to avoid putting yourself in the almost-sure position to squish it down.
Have you ever felt so nervous to talk to someone that you could feel your heart rate soar and your breathing quicken?
Yeah, you can’t feel confident when you’re not getting enough oxygen to your brain.
How does your body feel when nervousness hits? Does your stomach tighten? Do you hear your blood pounding? Do your thoughts race?
Then, whenever you feel those body cues coming on – or before a stressful situation:
Take a deep breath to the count of four.
Hold your breath for the count of seven.
Breathe out for a count of eight.
A few full-body breaths will give your brain the oxygen to think clearly and calmly, which will help you feel more confident.
I’ll do this before hopping on Zoom calls or podcast interviews. Focusing on my breathing makes it easier to speak…more…slowly (something that’s always been challenging.)
Watch your body language.
During networking events, it’s natural to use our phones as security blankets. Meeting new people feels weird, so we hunch over, scroll through Instagram, and tune out the world.
Your body language tells people you’re busy and don’t want to be bothered – but your brain screams, “I feel weird standing here by myself. Please talk to me!”
Confidence is hard to come by when our brains and bodies work against each other.
Eighty percent of communication is nonverbal, so providing the correct signals is essential. This is where practicing a few nonverbal cues can help. For instance:
Throw your shoulders back when you walk into a room and hold your head high.
Don’t cross your arms or hold your hands in a “fig leaf” position – especially if you’re on stage.
Frequently roll your shoulders back and down – this keeps you from unconsciously slouching.
Using body language to act confident – even if you’re not feeling it – can make you seem more trustworthy and approachable.
On the other hand, I have used nonverbal cues to make myself almost invisible – on purpose. Have you ever wanted to sneak out of a party? Put your head down, move towards the edges of a room, and slowly keep moving towards your exit.
Understanding nonverbal communication comes in handy in so many ways.
Use ritual to pump yourself up.
Every morning throughout four years of high school, I would listen to The Who’s “Who’s Next” album at full blast. And sing.
By my count, that means my poor parents listened to me sing “Baba O’Reilly” 1,060 times.
Having a pumped-up playlist is one way you can build ritual into your confidence building.
Consider what rituals you currently have that make you feel good. Some women go for a run or journal. Some women diffuse essential oils. Others may meditate. Or drink coffee.
Before I go on stage, I walk around the venue and view the stage from different perspectives. Seeing what the audience sees and visualizing myself at the podium is part of my ritual.
Think about what’s worked in the past and give it a try.
Wear what makes you feel amazing.
Most of us have clothes that make us feel unstoppable. It could be a colorful shirt that looks and feels incredible. Or the scarf that makes your eyes pop.
Those favorite, feel-good clothes are what you want to wear during high-confidence times.
Why? Because they’ll help you feel powerful and put together. You don’t want to surreptitiously adjust a scratchy seam or annoying bra strap (been there) while showcasing your brilliance.
It splits your focus and could throw you off your game.
Before every speaking event, I try on every outfit, pair it with jewelry, and see how I feel wearing it.
If I’m not feeling it, I’m not wearing it – no matter how much I love it.
I also get professional makeup help to ensure I use the best colors and application techniques for my Gen X face. My skin is pale, and my lashes are blonde, so wearing light makeup makes me feel more confident.
It’s okay if you don’t wear makeup. Confidence is about rocking what makes YOU feel good – not what society wants or what you think you “have” to do.
You do you.
For me, I know applying makeup is a weak spot – and if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right and not as I did 20 years ago.
Otherwise, I’d still be overplucking my brows and wearing blue eyeshadow.
I have made some makeup…mistakes…over the years.
Find your cheerleaders.
I bet you frequently forget how freakin’ awesome you are in your career.
I know because I do it too.
Our perception of ourselves and our accomplishments gets skewed because we’re so busy.
We’re spending so much time trying to keep up – and beating ourselves up around all the ways we’re “failing” – we forget to notice our successes.
Here’s an example.
Just last month, I was complaining to my business coach that things weren’t going “fast enough.”
She reminded me that I had launched the new initiative less than a week ago. Then she also reminded me of everything I had accomplished in the month prior.
I was so focused on not seeing immediate results that I forgot all about what I had accomplished (which included launching a new coaching website for Gen X and Millennial women.)
Having a business coach in your corner can help – my game truly leveled up when I invested in coaching. I needed someone to call me on my shit, help me uncover limiting beliefs holding me back, and encourage me to do bigger things. Plus, it’s nice to have someone to talk to who “gets it” and doesn’t buy into the drama.
Sometimes, being your own cheerleader can give you the confidence boost you crave. For instance, reviewing your accomplishments is one way to pump yourself up before big calls or presentations. Especially if you pair it with another ritual, like a rockin’ playlist, to get your head in the game.
Plus, I have a great network of smart friends with whom I can be myself – friends who celebrate my successes rather than snarkily putting them down. Friends like that are essential.
Removing negative people from my life and replacing them with cheerleaders has freed up a lot of mental energy and helped maintain my base confidence level.
Bonus tip! Review your day in the third person.
You don’t want to break down your confidence muscle when you spent so long building it up.
Learning this tip changed my life.
Do you know those times when you screw up? Instead of beating yourself up like, “I can’t believe I was so dumb,” rephrase it in the third person:
“That speaker was talking too fast and losing the audience.”
Doing so pulls the emotion out of the situation and allows you to view it differently. You’re not focusing on why you messed up and how embarrassing it was. You’re focusing on the objective facts – which can help you learn lessons for next time.
As someone who loves waking up at 3 a.m. and breaking down all of my mistakes, this tip has helped me sleep. I may still wake up, but I don’t spend the next two hours beating myself up.
It helps me feel at peace with my performance.
So know that your confident superpowers are right there, ready for you to tap into them. You can feel unstoppable again.
Yes, even during those peri-everything days when you’re feeling just a teensy bit cranky.
Are you ready to build your thought leadership expertise? Contact me and share what’s on your mind.