“Does my bum look big in this?”

She knows the feeling. Uncertainty with a hint of dread, as she examines those curves again and tries to work out whether to put that outfit back or keep it on.

Fronting up to those colleagues today, with that client, she wants to feel her best. And if her bum looks big, it will just be one more thing that takes up thinking space and could throw her off her game…

I am a Personal Stylist and it’s my job to help women feel more confident about themselves. I work with them to understand their current wardrobe and outfits and take them in the direction they want to go. If my client doesn’t end up with a smile on her face, brimming with confidence, then I haven’t done my job.

As women in business, we know the difference confidence makes. If we sound confident as a podcast host, we are seen as someone with authority. If we convey confidence in a business meeting, we can attract more interesting work. We might even be able to charge more.

None of us deserves to be held back in life. We are entrepreneurs, dreamers, changemakers and doers. We can see what is possible and we are making it happen. Why should anything hold us back?

The no.1 habit to change…

I believe the no.1 restriction that holds a woman back from being confident is the way she sees herself.

We can be so hard on ourselves. We have made a habit of it. We can use terrible words to describe ourselves. When it comes to body parts, I sometimes hear words like ‘chunky’, ‘flat’ and ‘sticks’. I’ve heard women say “I have no style” and “I’ve got such a weird body shape.” This can extend to our careers and businesses: “I really don’t know what I’m doing…”

The thing is, there are always two ways to see ourselves. The glass is either half full or half empty. Having a perception that is distorted towards the negative is like wearing the wrong prescription glasses – we see ourselves in a distorted way doesn’t help us put one foot in front of the other.

The ultimate way to build confidence is to change the words we use, to swap out the critical, judgmental and negative terms with something that is still plausible, but is positive. Instead of ‘chunky’, your legs might also be ‘strong’. Instead of ‘ flat’, your chest could be ‘sporty’. Or instead of ‘sticks’, your arms could also be seen as ‘slight’.

This is more than just a word game, and I think I can prove it. Anyone who reads that previous paragraph back to themselves and notices their internal state as they read it will pick up that the negative words provoke tension and stress, while the positive words bring lightness and ease. Reading the positive words is a completely different experience.

This woman’s legs, chest and arms are still the same in terms of their size and dimensions, but now she sees them differently and feels differently when she talks about them. And that’s the beginning of confidence.

For sure, any woman taking advice from an experienced styling professional will find it easier to accept these ways of seeing herself. But the option is available to any of us who want to recognise the power of our own words to create the way we see ourselves.

The second surprise restriction…

I believe the second condition that holds us back is a lack of messages in our environment that line up with our confident selves. A woman might have her internal head game finely tuned – she sees herself in a new light, she sees her possibilities and accepts her unique shape and personality.

And yet her things are shouting ‘loser’ and ‘failure’. Every time she looks at that ball gown on the left of the cupboard, it quietly reminds her of feeling out of her depth that night she wore it. She keeps that corporate suit only because her mother-in-law told her she should have it, but it seems to remind her of something she hasn’t been able to reach.

Then there is the opposite experience. Imagine the woman who finds great joy in her daily environment. She has fewer moments of tension. She questions herself less. She feels more confident.

One of my favourite reads from last year was a book called ‘Joyful’ by Ingrid Fettell Lee. As a previous head designer at the world-famous design company IDEO, Ingrid sees the power of beautiful design to lift and direct people’s moods.

Ingrid shares all the many ways you can bring energy, abundance, freedom, harmony, play and more into your environment through its look and feel, signature elements, décor, ambience and other features.

It’s enlightening to realise that our emotional brain understands shapes differently and prefers some shapes over others. So if you don’t like those angular chairs, or that oddly-shaped dress, or that table in your study, and you are just putting up with it, perhaps that thing is creating a low-lying source of stress for you.

And conversely, if you add things to your environment that reduce your stress and tell you a different message, then every day you hear a different story and those old negative, critical judgments can take a back seat.

Take this crucial step…

There is a special kind of magic we can create by giving a couple of quick ‘one-two’ punches to confidence killers.

When we change not only our internal game, but also our external game, everywhere we turn it’s a different story – that old confidence-ruining narrative doesn’t have a home.

The trick is to tune into the messages we’re hearing from ourselves in the words we use to describe ourselves, and the messaging coming from the objects in our environment. If we don’t like what we hear, we can show those messages the door and replace them with words and things that will help us be our best.

All the best to you as you pursue your goals this year.

Nina Fountain, Personal Stylist at Style Gorgeous

Remote and local styling to help women everywhere unlock personal style they completely enjoy.