The Massive Confidence Booster That Changed my Life

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I had a big life moment back in 2015.  

I realized I wasn’t the only one who sometimes felt like an ‘imposter’ with confidence crippling insecurities as I sat in the massive auditorium of the Emmanual Centre in Victoria, London.  I was at a lecture in London hosted by The School of Life, with famous Professor Steve Peters. 

(Author of the brilliant book The Chimp Paradox)

Dr. Peters gave an incredibly inspiring keynote speech about peak performance. He was very open (and a bit un-PC) about women, men and their ability to succeed.  

Basically, he confirmed what many of us have talked about since the famous Sheryl Sandberg book and TedTalk “Lean In”.  Whether you’re a Lean In fan or not, there does seem to be a common theme when it comes to women holding themselves back.

Essentially, we all kind of knew this, but perhaps we didn’t realise how damaging we were being to our careers and success in business and in life.

I for one, at times, was secretly crippled by imposter syndrome and the deep dark thought that I wasn’t good enough to be taken seriously in business!  (I thought I was the only one.)

On that day things changed for me, and it all started with me plucking up the courage to ask a question. (Note, I was the only woman in the audience to ask a question and I nearly soiled myself!)

During the Q&A the professor encouraged women to put their hands up to ask a question, 

‘Oh come on, please, we need a woman to ask a question!”

So, heart rate pumping, I took a deep breath (good tip, breathe) and stood up to ask my question….

“Can you give us some practical advice” I dared to ask in front of 500 plus eager ‘Chimp Paradox’ Fans…

And at that point, to my surprise, the professor looked at me, smiled, paused, (spot the excellent speaking technique there) sighed, and went on to take up the rest of the Q&A time with my question (woo hoo, it must have hit a nerve).

What he said next changed my life and may inspire you and the women in your life too…

“Women are terrible…. you keep beating yourself up, you never think you’re good enough when you are brilliant”

He had a point. 

Having worked in Broadcasting for over 20 years I had never really noticed the female headcount when it came to senior roles, I was focused ‘on air’ and there were plenty of strong female voices at the BBC.  I launched Vanessa Feltz’s radio show back in 2002 and at the time there were quite a few ‘loud and proud’ women in the media.  

But what about in business and in the boardroom?  I didn’t realized how profound the lack of women was.

In my experience, since leaving the glam and glitzy world of TV and radio to help people present and pitch to clients in business (Deloitte, HSBC, Barclays, Societe Generale, and Global law firms like A&O and Squire Patton Boggs Llp) I have realized a shocking truth.

WOMEN don’t like to step into the spotlight.  

Many women avoid it and point blank refuse to put themselves through the ordeal of public (speaking) humiliation.

Hearing these words of Dr. Steve Peters inspired me to help myself and other women to overcome our inner chimps and stop holding ourselves back. 

Here’s what Dr. Steve Peter’s told me at the School of Life Lecture.

I’ve put this into practice….so please do share this with women in your life both professionally and personally….

“Become your biggest fan….. be your own cheer leader….stop blaming yourself for everything….give yourself a big hug, start loving yourself… yes, love yourself” (Dr Steve Peters)

After he told me that in front of the 500 strong crowd he paused and grinned……then continued…

“ha ha….there….see… now you know what it’s like to be a man”.  

The whole auditorium at the Emmanuel Centre in Victoria in London roared with laughter, clapped and cheered.

Hilarious!  

After the lecture people came up to me to congratulate me on the best question in the Q&A.  I blushed and almost started being too humble (the usual default position, oh little old me).

But something happened that day.  I decided to take Dr. Steve Peters’ advice.

I gave it a go, I started liking, I mean loving myself a little bit more (I found it really hard) and giving myself credit.  

My business transformed as a result.  No longer did I default to NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  No longer did I shy away from the spotlight.  I started speaking in public more and now – I speak at conferences all over the world.  

I’ve learned to work with my strengths and I’ve learned to love it and do you know what?

YOU can too.

So my dare for you today is to do this yourself and tell as many women as possible to …..

  • Get into the spotlight
  • Start loving yourself
  • DO be bold
  • DO be your own biggest fan
  • STOP giving yourself a hard time

Oh yes, start enjoying your success!

If you'd like more tips on how to have more confidence and impact when pitching, presenting or speaking in public, sign up to my weekly newsletter here! 

Esther Stanhope