Eighteen years ago, I was a new college graduate with my sights set on a career in broadcast journalism. Being a television news reporter was something I had wanted to do since I was a kid in middle school, and I was finally ready to do it. I knew TV was a cutthroat business, but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. I proudly sent samples of my work to dozens of news directors all over the country and eagerly waited for their responses. Imagine my shock when I received rejection after rejection after rejection… after rejection.
“Your voice is too high pitched,” said one news director. “You look too young,” said another. “You’re not a natural on TV,” wrote a third (that one stung the most). It can be crippling to hear from these so-called “experts” that you’re not going to make it, that you’re not going to get a job doing the ONE thing you’ve wanted to do since you were 12 years old. I cried. A LOT. At this point my self-confidence was shot, but for some reason I refused to give up. It took almost two years, but I finally found one news director who agreed to give me a chance. He hired me as a weekend news anchor and reporter in a small Northern Michigan town. That was in 2001.
Over the next decade, I worked my tail off and I moved up. Bigger TV markets, better jobs, more money. I started winning awards (including two Emmy’s) and news directors sent me all over the country to cover some big, important stories. Even though I was experiencing tremendous success, I couldn’t help but think about all those rejections I got early on. There was always a voice inside my head asking, Do I sound okay? Do I look okay? Am I natural on TV? Do I deserve to be here?
Unfortunately, I think that’s common. A lot of us tend to focus on the negative even when we have a tremendous amount of positive in our lives. If we would just stop and take a moment to think about all the things we’re good at, instead of all the things we’re not good at, self-confidence would come authentically. Authentic self-confidence is an attitude and it starts with believing in yourself.
If you’re reading this and you’re in your 20’s or early 30’s – hang in there. Sometimes these decades can be harder on your self-esteem than when you were a pimple-faced, braces-wearing teenager. It gets easier with age. The more life experiences you have, the more you learn and know, and that knowledge equates to confidence.
I’m about to turn 40 this year and I finally feel like I’ve figured it out. Here’s a bit of advice.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
Whether it’s a parent or friend, listen to them when they tell you how amazing you are. Your Sigma Kappa sisters are perfect for this job! If you’re having a rough time at work and a lack of confidence is keeping you from asking for a raise or going after that promotion, get your girls on the phone and plan a dinner or weekend away. Nobody can lift spirits like a Sigma Kappa!
Focus on your strengths.
Nobody’s perfect, but we’re all good at something. Make a list of everything you’re really good at. Read it and believe it.
The harder you work the better you’ll be. The better you are, the more confident you become.
Being authentically self-confident takes time and it’s definitely a work in progress. Throughout your life, you will find yourself in situations where you feel a little “less” than someone else. Not as put together or knowledgeable about a certain topic… it’s okay. Next time YOU will be the one who has the advantage and your confidence will shine through – if it’s authentic.
Jennifer Bauer is a 1999 graduate of Michigan State University where she was initiated into the Alpha Tau Chapter. Currently she is a television news reporter for the NBC station in Houston. Jen and her husband Mike, who also works for NBC, have a four-year-old daughter named Aubrey and a son, Evan, who is about to turn two.