Women We’re Watching: Heather Monahan of Confidence Creator
Heather Monahan is an inspirational speaker, business expert and the best-selling author of Confidence Creator. With a mission to help women utilize their unique traits to attain success, Heather uses her own life experience and business acumen to help others “leapfrog” over challenges to obtain what they’ve long believed is out of their reach. She also understands that self-confidence is key to a healthy, empowered outlook. Her commitment to enabling women, her tireless enthusiasm for uplifting others and her holistic view of wellness make Heather Monahan a woman we’re watching.
For those readers unfamiliar with your journey, can you tell us how you became an advocate for helping women to claim their confidence?
Growing up poor led me to a place where I lacked confidence and felt jealous of those that seemed to be born with it. I decided that being confident meant winning contests and projecting a confident image, but my plan and strategy ended there. The reality was I had no idea how to be confident, but I knew I wanted to be confident one day.
Through many mistakes and countless challenges, over time I learned how to get ahead and not only succeed in the workplace, but I also learned how to begin building my own confidence and to stand up for myself. At that time, I was an executive in corporate America and had been with the same company for more than a decade. I wanted to give back and give others what I had longed for as a young person, so I launched my personal brand, Boss In Heels, to show others what it takes to get ahead at work and in life. Taking that leap angered certain people at work, and I was told to shut my initiative down.
In that moment, I decided to hold my ground, build my confidence—and decline her request. This created a very tumultuous environment for me at work; I was constantly harassed for my initiative to help others. The reality was that shining my light made another person feel small. Eventually, the CEO fell ill and his daughter took over; shortly thereafter, I was told that my position was eliminated. Out of that situation, however, I decided to write my first book, Confidence Creator, where I share the lowest moments in my life and how I built my confidence back—and how you can, too. Working for myself now and empowering others has brought more meaning and purpose to my life than I could have ever imagined.
You have had your ups and downs in your own life, both personally and professionally. What has been your biggest challenge in finding your own confidence, and stepping into it fully?
Confidence is not static, so it’s not about a one-time fix. Your confidence level is going to change every day; it’s going to go up and down depending on what life throws at you, so the secret is to create a fool-proof plan that helps see you through these low moments. The biggest challenges to my own confidence were when I got fired, and then again when I wrote a book for the first time. Writing about the lowest moments of my life was hard—it took its toll on my self-confidence. Having that plan to build myself back up was the most important thing for me. My plan is detailed in my book, but the treetop view is a 30-day plan whenever I’m facing any type of major fear. I apply different plans at different times.
When I was told by someone close to me that I shouldn’t publish this book, I recognized that it was her own fear that was putting limitations on me, but her feedback still made me doubt myself. I often tell others to find like-minded people who stretch you beyond your comfort zone; for me, my editor is one of those people. I called him and we went through my friend’s list of objections one by one, and with every point, he was able to talk me through it and disprove her feedback. This part of the plan is crucial for regaining confidence.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness means some level of balance between having your heath, managing stress, working out, being with loved ones, feeling like you’re contributing in purposeful way and having a passion in your life. Together, I think all of these components bring you an overall feeling of wellness.
What are 3 things you do daily to help calibrate your frame of mind and feel confident throughout the day?
To me, these tools would change based upon what’s going on in my life, but some of my favorite ways to help me feel confident are:
- Putting myself first and investing in myself.
- Being around loved ones and spending quality time together.
- Leaving myself reminders of that which I’m capable. I write myself notes and leave them in my shoes, in my closet and other random places so when I least expect it, I find them and am reminded that I can do it.
When you’re having a bad day (or insecure moments), what helps you to come back to center?
One of the reasons journaling is important to me is that it helps keep perspective. I keep a running list of three examples of when I was afraid or worried, but things turned out fine. This serves as a reminder that I’ve overcome fear and anxiety before and I can do it again. Also, using aromatherapy scents like lavender help calm me and bring me back to center; listening to music can pull me out of a funk and turn me around—I have a playlist of songs that I loved during very happy, confident points in my life, and I will play it to help boost me. Lastly, I try and remember it’s temporary and take comfort in that. Like a wave, confidence may go down, but it will also go up again. Nothing is permanent.
What do you wish women knew about how big of a role confidence plays in the workplace, and what are three things we can do to improve confidence at work?
My first question is, how do women not know this? Having been in corporate America for more than 20 years, I can’t imagine that people don’t know this. Confidence in the workplace is everything! It’s so apparent in helping to elevate your career. Creating that image is critical in the workplace—even if you’re not feeling confident, you have to project it!
My 3 tips for projecting confidence at work are as follows:
1. Pay attention to your appearance. You may have heard this, but it bears repeating. Take time to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Paying attention to your appearance can mean something as simple as standing tall, pulling your shoulders back and shaking hands when you enter a room. Body language conveys confidence—or it doesn’t.
2. Get rid of “I’m sorry.” Apologizing for things that aren’t even your job responsibility can become reflexive and rob you of confidence. Give yourself a seven-day challenge to rid “I’m sorry” from your vernacular. Bumped into someone or need to excuse yourself from a conversation? Say, “Excuse me,” instead of “I’m sorry.” You missed a deadline? Instead of apologizing, try, “Thank you so much for understanding; I’m pulling it together now.” These small changes can create meaningful impact on how you feel, and are viewed, at work.
3. Challenge yourself to contribute one thought or idea during every meeting. Your job is to contribute, and if you have a seat at the table in a meeting, you need to show up and speak up. You’ll gain more confidence by speaking up, and will have earned your spot in that chair.
It’s 2018. Women are still fighting for pay equality and to close the gender pay gap, but many of us feel ill-prepared to negotiate money matters in the workplace. Do you have any advice for women who want to negotiate a salary or ask for a raise, but are afraid to ask?
First and foremost: Remove emotion. This is a fact-based conversation. If you practice this conversation at home, it’s extremely helpful. Write down what you’re going to say, and practice speaking it aloud. In addition, bring any reviews you’ve gotten to the meeting, along with what the expectations of the job were and how you’ve surpassed them or what you’ve achieved. These are all facts that will help remove emotion from the conversation, as well. Research what others are being paid in your field.
Practice how you speak, which words you choose and listen to the tone of your voice as you’re speaking. Always, always make sure these conversations are face to face and not over the phone. Lastly, when you’re practicing, play out the worst case scenario. Will you get fired for asking for a raise? No. Will you live if they say no? Yes. In the end, I weigh risks by how they help to build confidence: Will I have built my confidence for standing up for myself and asking for a raise? Yes. And that makes it worthwhile.
How do you incorporate joy into your daily life?
When you love what you do, you’re joyful. Find out what it is you love to do, and stop at nothing to get it. When you’re pursuing that passion, it brings meaning and joy to your life!
Searching for more workplace inspiration? Learn how this female entrepreneur used confidence to build her business from the ground up.