I have a real problem with this stat: 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way.
And it’s not just girls who lack confidence.
The other day, my own (dear) 3-year-old son casually informed me a girl can’t be a doctor; only a boy can.
It must get better as we get older, right? Wrong.
One study reports that at age 13, 53 percent of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies,” which grows to 78 percent by the time girls reach 17.
Then we get to the workplace, and women are less self-assured than men. The research shows both men and women doubt themselves sometimes. But men don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do. And, notably, they don’t make it mean something about them—that they’re not good enough—but rather that the thing is just hard.
“Having talent isn’t merely about being competent; confidence is a part of that talent. You have to have it to excel,” the researchers said.
So, confidence is a must-have. And the good news? It’s a skill you can develop—starting with the words you use.
How words shape the way you show up in the world
To begin, we need to define what confidence means for you.
I once heard confidence described as always having your own back. That means—in whatever happens, good or bad—you choose to cheer for yourself rather than criticize. To choose to believe in yourself every day and to communicate deliberately both with yourself and others.
It’s a safe bet that you use words all day, every day, and they are your most under-utilized resource.
What’s worse is even though you’re regularly harnessing this ultra-powerful tool, you have no idea what it can do to change the way you show up in the world when employed. That includes what you think, how you feel, and the actions you take.
Consider this: You have experiences.
(These are indisputable facts: X happened or She said Z.)
You have thoughts about your experiences.
Your thoughts cause your feelings.
And your feelings cause your actions.
Facts > Thoughts > Feelings > Actions > Outcomes
This is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy model, which assumes there is a natural cause-and-effect relationship between our life stories, thoughts, and feelings. Our lives are more or less made up of these outcomes.
Isn’t that so interesting? How we feel isn’t about our experiences but about our thoughts (i.e., the words we use!) about those experiences.
And when you’re aware of those thoughts, you can change them. You can think anything you want—you’re in charge.
So, name yourself the CEO of your life, the hero of your story. Commit to having your own back and living with that main character energy.
3 ways to watch your words and boost your confidence
Let’s get practical with three specific strategies you can adopt today to be more confident in the words you use.
First, when you’re feeling a certain way and can’t shake it, write down (really, actually write down on paper!) what happened, the facts, then list out what you’re thinking and feeling about those facts. You’d be amazed how much clarity you can get on why you’re feeling a certain way from that little list.
Watch for negative words like “I can’t,” or “I have to,” or “I should.” Not everything in your life will be positive, of course, but using positive or affirming words to reframe a situation can have a significant impact on your feelings and subsequent actions—all of which determine your life as you know it.
Ask: What’s the story I’m telling myself here? Is it true?
Consider: What’s the best that could happen?
Swap those negative words with “I will” and “I want/get to” and “I choose to.”
Make a new list of the thoughts you will try on and then choose to think them deliberately, with intention.
Second, in your writing—including emails, texts, and captions—be assertive, not apologetic. There’s a big difference between “I’m so sorry to respond so late” and “Thanks for your patience” or between “Does this make sense?” and “What questions do you have?”
A key place to be assertive in writing is in your openings—parachute, don’t preamble.
When you start writing, don’t tell us what you’re going to say to us with a long, drawn-out wind-up to the “meat” of your writing. You definitely do not want to lead with: “I’d like to tell you a story about a time when I learned….”
Instead, drop us into the action to capture attention and set the tone.
A news story leads with the essential information, which immediately tells someone why they’re reading and (hopefully) draws them to want to know more. If you’re writing an email, start with the point (your message and intent) and then offer any needed background for context.
If you’re writing a story, start with a scene that offers a “turning point”—where it’s clear things cannot be the same for the hero moving forward. She’ll have to make a choice, and that will set her on a journey. Then offer needed background for context and theme.
Third, the single best way to strengthen your writing is by carefully selecting your verbs—and using verbs with verve.
Stronger, more descriptive verbs are more vivid, specific, and compelling. They share not only what is being done but how.
Did he walk? Or saunter?
Did she eat? Or devour?
A verb with verve helps the reader see the action unfolding. Verbs with verve keep things moving and succinct (removing the need for adverbs, i.e., walked slowly = saunter).
Save this list to deploy well-chosen verbs in your writing:
Move: advance, bound, burst, climb, dash, leap, sashay, swing, waver…
Hold: bear, clasp, clutch, grab, palm, reserve, snatch, wield, wring…
Talk: address, banter, bargain, counsel, discuss, exhort, lecture, negotiate, present, recite, report, schmooze, tattle…
Attack: bash, hammer, maul, pelt, slug, thump, wallop, whack…
Sense: acknowledge, imagine, import, grasp, reason, perceive, purport, recognize, suspect, question…
The bottom line? Show up to your life with main character energy—and make every word count.
Take Christin’s free 5-day challenge now to discover the top 5 ways to break out of self-doubt just by putting your words on the page, whether you think you’re a writer or not.