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Authors: Helene Lerner

The Confidence Myth

BOOK: The Confidence Myth
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The Confidence Myth

The Confidence Myth
handbook for any woman looking to succeed in her career. Helene Lerner cuts through the noise and gets to the heart of what keeps women from succeeding in business—and how to get past it!”

—Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul and star of ABC's
Shark Tank

“Helene Lerner tackles head-on the myths and truths about confidence—a hot topic linked to women's success. Her straightforward, authentic approach incorporates practical tips and exercises to help build your confidence muscle. This book is a treasure trove of advice to help advance your career.”

—Sharon Orlopp, Global Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President of Corporate People, Walmart

The Confidence Myth
offers practical insights, tips, and tools that can help you move through your fears and spark your confidence. It's an indispensable read for women who want to become empowered and successful while staying true to their values.”

—Denise Morrison, President and CEO, Campbell Soup Company

“This is a powerful and heartfelt book about what it actually means to have true confidence. Helene inspires women leaders to tackle the confidence myth and provides actionable advice for women to propel their careers to the next level.”

—Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Founding President and CEO, Center for Talent Innovation

The Confidence Myth
is a must-read for every professional woman; it provides pragmatic advice for present and future leaders. Helene Lerner's insights are extremely valuable for any woman who wants to develop into a world-class leader.”

—Ana Dutra, President and CEO, Executives' Club of Chicago

“Every woman needs to read this book. It confirms you are not alone in your fears and worries while offering solid strategies to get beyond them. I started dog-earing pages I wanted to return to until I realized it would be easier just to dog-ear the ones I didn't.”

—Janet Kelly, Senior Vice President Legal, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Conoco Phillips

“We all struggle with knowing how to express our own value and move through our fears. This book walks women through these common struggles and helps them emerge as stronger, more confident role models. Helene Lerner's combination of both honesty and insight makes this a valuable tool for women of all ages.”

—Mika Brzezinski, cohost of MSNBC's
Morning Joe

The Confidence Myth


Why women undervalue their skills and how to get over it

Helene Lerner

The Confidence Myth

Copyright © 2015 by Helene Lerner

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000
Oakland, CA 94612-1921
Tel: (510) 817-2277, Fax: (510) 817-2278

Ordering information for print editions

Quantity sales.
Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, contact the “Special Sales Department” at the Berrett-Koehler address above.

Individual sales.
Berrett-Koehler publications are available through most bookstores. They can also be ordered directly from Berrett-Koehler: Tel: (800) 929-2929; Fax: (802) 864-7626;
Orders for college textbook/course adoption use.
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Berrett-Koehler and the BK logo are registered trademarks of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

First Edition
Paperback print edition ISBN 978-1-62656-202-8
PDF e-book ISBN 978-1-62656-203-5
IDPF e-book ISBN 978-1-62656-204-2


Cover design by Crowfoot/Leslie Waltzer

Book design and production by Beverly Butterfield

Copyediting by PeopleSpeak

Indexing by Rachel Rice

I dedicate this book to the people
who have shared their insights
with me through the years and
the talented women who will
be moved to step up



1 Transform Fear by Stepping Up

2 Lead with Presence

3 Win with Honest Feedback

4 Create Power Parameters

5 Stand Out and Attract Sponsors

6 Trust Your Inner Compass


Appendix A:
Thirty Days of Confidence Sparks

Appendix B:
The Women and Confidence Survey: Methodology and Results




About the Author


What would change if you felt more confident? Would you have a better job with more responsibilities, making more money? Would your personal life look different? Would your conversations be more honest? Think about this for a minute.

If you said yes to any of these questions, let's look at some of the reasons why you aren't where you'd like to be. You probably want to address both external and internal factors. Externally, women face cultural prejudices that impede our advancement—we are confronted by gender inequities every day. We get frustrated because sometimes our goals have to take a backseat to navigating through this resistance.

But despite these obstacles, some women have been able to move up to the C-suite. So how did they do it? Do they, internally, have more confidence than the average woman? These questions intrigued me.

As an expert on women's issues, I am often asked how to develop confidence. This question kept coming up, so I thought it was time to write about the important topic of women and confidence. I interviewed a number of successful women leaders to find out their thoughts, and after talking to them and reflecting on my own experiences in
the workplace, I realized that Confidence with a capital
is a myth. No one has the confidence issue all sewn up, but there's this pervasive misconception that some of us do.

Confidence is often understood to mean

• Being comfortable with oneself (true)

• Courageously taking action while not knowing the result (true)

• Practicing fearlessness (false)

Fear is actually an inherent part of stepping out in a new way. Too many of us wait until we feel comfortable that
of our skills line up before we make a move, and as a result, we miss out on the big breaks needed to advance our careers.

The goal of this book is to demonstrate that most women in positions of leadership who have achieved high levels of success felt shaky at times, but they took action anyway. If they hadn't, they would have missed valuable opportunities to make a difference.

My story

Truth be told, my level of fearlessness varies on any given day, even now. Looking back on my career, I often had to act as if I believed in myself when I was doubtful. My list of achievements—television host, author, diversity consultant, and founder of a popular career women's website— certainly did not come easily to me.

When I started my own business in the mid-'90s, “stressed out” was my natural state of being. My friends thought I was crazy for going out on my own during a recession. Money was of great concern as my husband (at the time) and I had a toddler to support. Despite those circumstances, I knew it was time to leap into action, time to take a smart and calculated risk.

I had a burning desire to empower women and girls by creating a multimedia company focused on the issues of working women. I was very motivated, but I did not know the first thing about producing for television or putting together a website. I had to learn everything from scratch: how to get a distributor, create a sales pitch for potential sponsors, manage a production budget, handle releases and get them executed—the list went on. I definitely did not feel like I had everything under control as I stepped out each day and bumped up against more obstacles.

At first I found it difficult to reach out for support (as a child I was taught to appear self-sufficient), but in time I learned to humble myself and accept help from others. I realized that if I wanted to make big changes, I could not do it on my own. Not everyone was supportive, but more than enough people offered me their time and expertise along the way. One colleague, Suzanne Altfeld, was incredibly generous. She became a mentor to me, offering priceless feedback, celebrating my successes, and motivating me to continue when I made mistakes.

What I know for sure—as a result of my experience and the experiences of other successful women—is that you can have lofty goals and achieve them without feeling like you are in complete command of what you're tackling.

The importance of taking action anyway

Shari Levine, an executive vice president at Bravo Media, told me over lunch that she often interviewed for jobs she would need to grow into. She has used her confidence and straight-talking ability to land several of these positions.

In fact, most senior women leaders have had to take big risks to get bigger jobs. They may have felt shaky and unsure about their qualifications, but they took action anyway. In doing so, they moved closer to their goals. Their commitment to making a difference was greater than any gender prejudice or self-doubt they might have felt.

Reaching a higher level is often an uphill battle, but shying away from the challenge deprives others of our valuable insights. We can no longer wait on the sidelines. My call to action is not just for the leaders at the top but for
of us: if you are not making a difference and you know you can, step up. Shari advised jokingly, “Just wear a skirt long enough to cover the fact that your knees are shaking.”

I'm sure that men could benefit from some of the material presented in this book. However, I chose to focus on how the traditional concept of confidence relates to women because false perceptions—myths about what confidence is—harm women more than men.

BOOK: The Confidence Myth
8.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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