Two weeks ago I spoke about image, brand, and executive presence at the Linkage Women in Leadership Summit in San Francisco and was asked tons of questions, including one that was wrapped around one of the best compliments I have ever received. Halfway through the presentation a woman asked, “How does one get more confidence?” Before I could answer she did a follow-up by adding, “How can I get what you exude in how you dress, speak and present?” As you can imagine I was really flattered. But I was also touched by the fact that this highly placed executive was – like many women in the corporate world – still struggling with a nagging lack of personal and professional self confidence.
Her question made me immediately think of that restaurant scene in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” when another customer overhears Sally’s passionate moaning and sighing and tells the waitress “I’ll have what she’s having!”
But I know exactly where she was coming from and how she felt. Early in my career with Macy’s I was a total introvert who lacked self-esteem and had a conspicuous lack of executive presence. Fortunately I had some great mentors who believed in me and taught me how to think bigger and push onward even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Superiors told me that I needed to step it up and exude more confidence when corporate executives visited my store, when I called on elite clientele, and when I addressed the 500 associates who worked in my store. I also needed that power and strength when I walked into the HR office or C Suite to convince decision makers that I deserved a promotion.
The problem was that I had a self-sabotaging mindset that held me back – and with that kind of internalized negativity going one nobody could impart to me the confidence I lacked. Like so many others in the corporate arena I was my own worst enemy in terms of career advancement because I was blocking my own path to success as a self-styled confidence saboteur.
But the turning point came when I made up my mind to enhance my personal brand and professional presence. I decided to empower my image in an authentic way because I was determined to accomplish my dreams. I realized that building my confidence was a vital component of my own unique individual and spiritual growth as a person – both in terms of my career and my own private life away from the office.
As I began to experience personal growth, my visibility increased and many more opportunities began to come my way. The transformation didn’t happen overnight because it is a process, not an acute event. But when it did my career leapt forward. I exuded confidence. I felt comfortable and authentic in my personal brand, dress, and communication style. My career acceleration was tangible, and my newly found professional presence was natural, genuine, and sustainable.
So if you hear those little negative or overly timid voices inside your head, know that you must first adopt a positive mindset. Just like when learning to play tennis or golf, it takes practice to develop confidence and poise – but you can do it and I’m living proof of that. Once I figured it out it was like the “secret passageway” to career success and an extraordinary life.
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Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author. Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.
Blog, Ezine & Website: www.illustraconsulting.com
Copyright © 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS