From the outside, I appeared confident. I was achieving courageous feats for a young Indian woman, including being one of eight women (out of a group of 300) to complete a Navy Diving Course. However, in social situations, I found overcoming shyness impossible. I suffered from constant doubts and anxieties, always thinking that “people are going to judge me because I am going to say something stupid or wrong”.

Then, I was faced with a situation that required me to either speak up or go down a road that I did not want to. When I was about 22 years old, my parents began to discuss who they were going to find for me to marry, which is customary in India. The thought of having to spend my life with a stranger was the catalyst for me to finally choose to have courage, speak up and stand my ground. This experience proved that I could overcome shyness, voice what I wanted and that speaking up did not make my life worse. It empowered me to make it greater.

Now, a certified FAA Commercial Pilot, I have learnt that with determination and pragmatic tools, anyone can learn how to overcome shyness and find a more empowered self.

The key elements to overcoming shyness are:

1. Ending the self-criticism

Most shy people use judgment, self-criticism and self-doubt to stop themselves. This has to end.

Achieve this by: Replacing self-criticism with self-gratitude. Ask yourself if you are willing to be your best supporter instead of your harshest critic. Any time doubts or critical thoughts creep up, actively choose self-acknowledgment and self-gratitude instead. It takes practice, but if you commit to ending self-criticism for good, you will.

2. Take charge and choose what is right for you

Only you know what is right for you, so it has to be you that takes action. If you take charge and are clear about your goals, you will be amazed at who and what will show up to support you.

Ask yourself: “What do I truly want for my life and future, and what is one action that I can take today that brings me closer to that?”

3. Go beyond your comfort zone every day

There will be times when you think you can’t achieve something, or you are not sure if you can choose it. If you are willing to stretch yourself and be uncomfortable, these are often the moments when you will have a breakthrough and create more for yourself than you initially imagined.

4. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know

Your unique way of understanding things is your greatest strength. You don’t have to learn everything from schools or experts.

My mother was a stay at home mum most of her life. One day she decided to start a business, even though she had never run one before. She knew she was good at persuading people, so she decided to pitch to a company to market their product. She hired professionals to help her create a pitch, which she pitched and got the account. Then she hired professionals to do the advertising for the product. Two years later she was running an advertising agency of her own with two offices.

Ask questions, learn as you go and hire other people. You don’t have to know everything to create what you know is possible.

5. Practice true leadership every day

A leader is not someone who has followers, controls everything, speaks the most or has all the solutions. True leaders empower themselves and others to create more. Leaders acknowledge the contributions of each team member. When people know you are invested in them, they will continue to contribute fresh ideas and energy.

Ask your team: “What is the question people should be asking you, that no one currently is?”

6. Commit to being yourself to the best of your ability

Be willing to know who you are, no matter how different from others that may be. Define success on your terms, give it your best and do whatever it takes to create what you desire. Validation doesn’t come from other people.

Ask yourself: “If I were truly me and there was no one else around, what would I choose?”

Overcoming shyness isn’t about magically feeling confident and never being uncomfortable or uncertain. It’s about being willing to do it anyway. Choose one bold step a day, and you will be surprised at how you can overcome shyness and make things happen!

About Smriti Goswami
Smriti Goswami is a communication mentor, life and business coach, and a certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness special programs. She is a certified FAA Commercial Pilot, experienced glider pilot and co-owner of Mumbai organisation, ArtEscapades. A committed advocate for women’s empowerment, she offers individual consultations and classes around the world, empowering people to think out of the box and follow their dreams. Find out more at Right Voice For You.

You can always come up with a reason why you should not speak up. Everyone has a past story or memory of a time they spoke up and it backfired, blew up in their face or just plain didn’t work out. But that doesn’t have to be your story now.

I’ve overcome shyness several times in life – first, by creating my translation (and first ever) business in my 40s; just being willing to talk to people and let them know I had a business took courage, as not everyone was supportive of my endeavor, and I had many opportunities to give into self-doubt. Even more challenging was a time I lost my physical voice after a surgery. I was diagnosed with vocal paralysis, which meant speaking became difficult, unpredictable and unreliable, my sounds coming out strangely and erratically, even after I underwent years of vocal therapy.

I could have given up and stayed hidden, but I made a different choice, and it led me to radically change and empower my voice in all areas of my life. Here are 6 ways I helped myself overcome shyness and find my true voice:

Make a commitment to you

It was only when I began to make a very different type of commitment to my voice – that of finding my true inner voice (no matter what occurred with occurred with my outer one!) – that I began a journey to successfully overcome the debilitating shyness, developing confidence and ease with speaking both out in the world and in my own life. Are you willing to acknowledge that you have the power to change this, and to make the commitment to you that you will have your voice?

Is that shyness really yours?

How much of the shyness you currently have going on are learned reactions and behaviors, as well as awareness of others around you? All of us have had an experience of walking into a room and sensing the mood in the room. When and in what situations does “shyness” come up for you the most?

If you’re willing to acknowledge that some shyness you’ve learned from others, and some parts are what you picked up from others around you in the moment, you can ask yourself, “So how much of the shyness I thought was mine, isn’t?” And if it’s possible a lot of it isn’t yours, how much confidence and ease do you actually have available that you’ve never acknowledged?

Recalibrate the negative self-talk

Self-doubts and criticisms keep shyness in place. When I started truly listening to my inner-dialogue with myself, I realized it was mostly negative. I was afraid to speak up and make a fool of myself, using that fear to withdraw.

I decided to challenge those fears. Whenever a negative thought come up, I made a conscious choice to stop believing it. I made a commitment that I was changing my point of view completely, and then employed different ways to replace the negative thoughts with an empowering alternative – such as kindness, gratitude, and self-acknowledgement.

Have gratitude for you

When your attention is on gratitude, judgments cannot stay in place. Gratitude is inherently empowering, while judgement is inherently disempowering. Choose gratitude for you and praise yourself for what you accomplish, what you are great at, what is different and unique about you. Everything in your life that you enjoy is there because you created it and chose to have it. Have you acknowledged that lately?

Ask a question

Every judgement we make against ourselves is like closing and locking a door to a tiny room. A question can open a door for you to see beyond that tiny room. One of my favorite questions is, “What’s right about me I am not getting?”

Negative self-talk focuses on making ourselves wrong. But if you ask, “What’s right?” you turn everything 180 degrees and can see yourself in a totally new light.

Trust your “Inner GPS”

A major component of shyness is holding onto self-doubt: the places where we have stopped (or never started) trusting ourselves. Trusting you and listening to your inner guidance system is one of our most potent allies. It may take a while to rebuild your self-trust, but it just takes practice. Trust isn’t about making the right choice, or having everything work out perfect, it is knowing that you can trust you to handle whatever comes.

Even when you have made a ‘bad’ choice, or something didn’t work out, how often have you landed on your feet? And the times when didn’t work out, where they also the times that you overrode yourself to listen to other people – whether it was taking a job, going on a date or buying that recommended brand when somewhere you knew it wasn’t going to work for you? Start practicing looking to yourself for the answers – ask, “What do I know about this?” “What is my sense of this situation?” and “What would work for me here?” Put your own instincts back into the picture and give your inner voice a chance to be heard.


Creating the confidence and willingness to speak out beyond shyness truly is an “inside job”. If you are willing to recalibrate and revolutionize the way you perceive and speak to yourself, the way you communicate and interact with the world around you will change naturally and come much more freely (and with a lot more joy!) as a result.

Norma Forastiere is a business mentor, natural therapist and certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs. A self-proclaimed seeker, Norma began practicing mediation at an early age and then went on to study metaphysics and several energy healing and natural therapy modalities. A native Portuguese speaker with a proficiency in English and Spanish, Norma offers workshops and consultations for those willing to explore greater possibilities in life, communication and business.

In Australia, statistics show a significant increase in women in business operating as leaders at all different levels – running organisations, starting their own company (self-employed) and in prominent Government positions, for example. They are determined, courageous and successful.

Whilst there has been a steady increase in women in high ranking positions over the last 20 years, with the number of women running their own show increasing at a faster rate than men (although men still dominate the business sector) there is a long way to go. And many hills to climb.

So, what are the pitfalls this dedicated army of entrepreneurs might meet along the way that may prevent them from enjoying a long-term income, future-proofing old age, contributing to the economy and getting on-going job satisfaction?

Eventually we should aim to stop referring to ‘women’ entrepreneurs, but simply note there are segments of people within the population who are entrepreneurial and whose gender is no longer of interest.
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Am I good enough?

Self-doubt, uncertainty, trepidation and a lack of up-to-date awareness of the challenges one might face, are all part of the business culture, particularly in the early days when your working world isn’t full of clarity, and goals are hard to reach. These feelings are natural when we launch into the unknown. Too many women allow them to determine what they do, on a day-to-day basis.

Inequality has left women on the back burner, and often our greatest inhibitor to success is fear. We allow ourselves to be plagued by thoughts and ruminations that keep us disadvantaged. The huge gender pay inequality (recently estimated at 15.3% by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency) and the general slow career progression of women, exacerbates this fear. The current trend is to attempt to reverse this issue for a range of critical reasons, not withstanding that it is now generally acknowledged that in the workplace, women make fantastic leaders.

Ways to investigate inequality

  • Investigate what is meant by discrimination and explore your own prejudices
  • Look at values and how they influence prejudices
  • Explore how we can embrace and understand ‘diversity’ and define difference
  • Challenge assumptions and stereotyping
  • Research and obtain a real understanding of what inequality means (under Equality Legislation) and how it impacts daily life

Fear is the greatest enemy of confidence

A strong emotion, fear manifests in many different forms and can be both liberating and disempowering. Fear can present physically – for example, in the form of a headache or a sore back; emotionally, in the form of depression or anxiety; or mentally, causing confusion, memory loss or forgetfulness.

The fear of outcomes, the unknown and change often prevent women from achieving our goals and dreams. The key question we must ask ourselves is – why? Why is fear stopping me from doing what I really want? What thoughts, emotions or feelings are preventing me from striving to take actions that will help me achieve my dreams?

Reflect on your success. Look at what you achieve. There is so much you do well already. Appreciate those things, discuss them with close friends or family, and start to believe in YOU! These small changes and realisations will, over time, build confidence, courage and self-belief, and leave fear behind.

There is very little you cannot achieve if you put your mind to it.

What does it mean to be empowered as a woman?

The words ‘empowerment’ and ‘empowered’ feature regularly in everyday discourse. They’re used in government, in the office, in the media, in conversations with friends – but what is empowerment? What does it mean to be empowered?

Empowerment is all about confidence and strength. Being realistic about your strengths and areas for improvement. It’s about knowing how to set realistic goals and fulfil your potential, and to make intelligent choices, so you can be in control of your life. It’s about knowing yourself and the positive impact you can make in your life and those around you in everyday decisions, situations and actions.

Personal empowerment is about being the best version of ourselves, so we can achieve the goals that are most important to us, on an individual basis, and feel good about who we are and what we do. It is a sense of personal contentment and the ability to ‘back yourself’ with confidence.

Key factors to becoming personally empowered as a woman

Know yourself

We all have strengths and weaknesses. By recognising your strengths, you can amplify them to work in your favour. In the same way, by acknowledging your areas for improvement, you can identify how to upskill or improve in the areas where you don’t naturally do so well. With a little help, advice and encouragement, everything can be learned.

Be confident in your abilities

Confidence can be selective with its appearances. Many successful business women appear to be confident at work, but aren’t always in their personal lives, or vice versa.

Confidence can be developed in both situations with training and practice – for example, a nervous public speaker will build confidence with every presentation they give, as their skills improve and they see their audiences’ response. Similarly, a person who shies away from conflict can learn skills to deal with challenging situations and conversations, go into them prepared and come out feeling a sense of accomplishment, which in turn, builds confidence. A person lacking confidence in their abilities at work, but pushes themselves to speak up and make suggestions in meetings, will grow in confidence as their ideas are positively received by their colleagues.

Confidence starts with belief in yourself and grows by ‘doing’ – putting yourself out there, travelling alone, standing up and saying what you think, doing things you may initially not be comfortable with – these all help to build the confidence that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Set SMART goals, design your plan and stick to it

Empowerment comes from first knowing what you want to achieve, either in business or in your personal life, and making the right choices to be successful. Setting SMART goals can help. SMART is a well-used goal-setting acronym in business coaching. It means getting Specific about what you want to achieve, making sure your goals are Measurable and Attainable, that they are Relevant to you and Timely for what you want to achieve. Once you’ve set your goals, develop a clear strategy to achieve them and stick to it!

Stand your ground

Be assertive in how you communicate with others – at work, home and in life overall. Don’t back down when you believe in something. Learn the difference between being aggressive and being assertive; they are fundamentally different. Assertion is when you confidently stand up for yourself and what you believe in, without attacking or disrespecting others.

It’s easier to stand your ground if you learn good communication skills – active listening, being empathetic and asking open-ended questions are a good start. Build resilience – strive for your goals and don’t be discouraged when setbacks arrive (as they always will), but instead learn from them, stand up and keep going. Don’t worry about what other people say about you – listen to constructive feedback, but only action those which will have a positive impact on your journey and fit with your goals and plan.

Stay positive

Be optimistic. Research indicates optimistic people tend to be more successful in life overall. Love your life, love yourself and enjoy the ride. Claim your successes and enjoy your achievements – little or big, claim what you do well and be proud of who you are and what you achieve.


Becoming personally empowered is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Allow yourself to make mistakes and celebrate successes. Remember, nothing great in life is achieved without passion and courage. Passion, to have the raw energy to achieve what it is you want, and courage to understand that fear, uncertainty and trepidation will try to stop you and make you falter.

Strong women go out and get what they want in life. They are brave and courageous, and are dedicated to their cause or belief.

Caryn Walsh is a renowned international leadership and team development specialist, psychotherapist and executive coach. She develops boards, leaders and teams at all levels across three continents. The Empowering Women to Thrive initiative helps women gain the skills and opportunities they need to thrive, through women’s retreats, seminars, monthly webinars, training programs, an annual conference and a soon-to-launch 9-stage online ‘Empowering Women to Thrive’ Program for women to access anywhere, anytime.

For women, the workplace has long been a battleground. The gender pay gap is real: in Australia, women earn 16.2% less than their male counterparts[1]. Globally, female entrepreneurs receive less investment than men, and due to societal expectations to raise children, women’s careers can suffer when employment and motherhood collide.

However, the outlook is changing. Technology is having a profound impact on helping women to work more flexibly, connect with other entrepreneurs and even access credit and investment. Let’s explore how.

The rise of flexibility

Sarra Bejaoui co-founded SmartPA after becoming frustrated with the rigidity of her corporate job. “There was absolutely no flexibility in terms of working hours or location,” she explains. “This is particularly challenging for women with children, who might need to take their child to the dentist on a Tuesday morning.”

“From their own experience, female business owners have good ideas about what female friendly work arrangements look like,” Sarra says. With a predominantly female workforce, SmartPA offers its employees complete control over their hours and projects, as well as the option to work completely from home. “Real empowerment in the workplace is about listening to how women want to work – giving women the power, the tools and the coaching to unlock their own destiny and potential.”

Hayley Smith, Director of Boxed Out PR, agrees. Also advocating a remote working model, she says that her staff are “happier, healthier and less stressed out” when they’re not as worried about managing childcare, expenses and a fixed workload.

Better access to capital

Jennifer Hart, Director of Sydney-based Everyday Cashmere, applied for finance from a traditional provider to pay for a shipment of cashmere from Mongolia. Her business growth was impressive (41% year on year for three years), and yet she was turned down. Before rejecting her application, the traditional provider asked how much her husband earns. “It made me feel worthless,” Jennifer recounts. “I don’t think the outcome of a man’s loan application would be changed by how much his wife earns.”

According to research by EY[2], women are more likely to accept rejection when it comes to business loans. However, Jennifer didn’t let it stop her. After speaking up about her treatment by the banks, she turned to alternative finance sources – who approved her application almost immediately. “At first, it was hard to swallow the rejection,” she says. “But a bank is just one – fairly traditional – institution. It’s crucial to empower yourself with as much information as possible about other avenues.”

Venture capital funding for women is still lacking: in 2014, only 3% of venture capital funding went to companies with female CEOs – which is nearly as low as the percentage of women at partner level in VC firms themselves (6% in 2014[4]). However, the good news is that women are actually leaving the big VCs to set up their own firms. Given that VCs with female partners are nearly three times as likely to invest in companies with women in management positions[5], this is great news for female entrepreneurs.

Growing mentorship networks

In her seminal book ‘Lean In’, Sheryl Sandberg points to a lack of mentorship as one of the factors that hold women back at work. Considering that many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs wax lyrical about the importance of mentorship, observing women’s lack of access to it is disheartening.

Sarra met her mentor – who is now on the executive board of SmartPA – through work. Her mentor’s experience, business acumen, and later investment, empowered her to launch and grow her company. “One of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give a female entrepreneur is to find a mentor who is interested in and committed to your business,” she says.

Luckily, in tandem with the growth of female business owners, a range of support and mentorship networks have opened up. Some great ones (besides Leaders in Heels, of course!) are:

Building confidence

It’s probably not surprising to hear that initiatives directed at women work best when they’re coordinated by women. Elli, a business consultant, recounts a programme at her former job, a male-dominated corporate. “My previous company had a women’s empowerment group. It was run by men who talked at us about how important women are in the workplace, and it ran classes on etiquette and cooking,” she laughs. “At best, it missed the point. At worst, it was condescending.”

One of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give a female entrepreneur is to find a mentor who is interested in and committed to your business.

Part of empowering women is helping them to build their confidence and assert themselves in the workplace – a trait that is often discouraged in women from an early age. At SmartPA, Sarra ensures that she runs regular webinars and training sessions to help her team grow their self-esteem, learn new skills and ultimately, realise their value.

However, women shouldn’t pressure themselves to adopt more ‘male’ traits in the workplace. Sarra explains, “don’t fall into the trap of measuring your worth in the framework of masculinity – embrace your DNA and build your confidence as a woman.”

Increasingly, women are choosing entrepreneurship, self-employment and flexible companies to work in a way that works for them. And while it is inspiring to see the myriad networks that are helping women around the world to access finance, mentorship and support, women’s work is far from done. Challenging, speaking up and making allies is essential groundwork to make the year of 2017 better than its predecessor. As Sarra says, “a woman is every bit as worthy as her male counterpart – empowerment is about helping her realise it.”


Kelly Maguire is the PR and Communications Manager for Spotcap Australia and NZ – a Berlin-based global online fintech lender specialising in the commercial lending space. Previously in corporate communications, she initially cut her teeth in journalism at the ABC, and holds a Bachelor of Communications and an MA from the University of Technology, Sydney.


Public speaking is the number one skill that’s guaranteed to position you head and shoulders above the competition, so why do so many people avoid it?

Gerald R. Ford said, “If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and learning to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

It’s the top skill that will place you miles ahead of your competition, yet it’s frequently overlooked as an essential marketing skill. My own take on having the ability to speak well in public is that it’s probably the single most powerful thing you can learn to do that gives you the ammunition to say “If I can do that, I can do anything”. Once you can confidently stand up in public and give a great presentation, you’ll never fear anything again.

If you’ve ever marvelled at the abilities of a great presenter, the clever use of words to draw pictures, the confidence and charisma that exudes from the platform and the awe in which they are held, you’ll agree with the above statements.

So why is it that when it comes to attending training courses, presentation skills aren’t always the first port of call? Could it be to do with that oft-quoted (and probably misquoted) statistic that speaking in public is feared more than death? Let’s not go into an examination of how ridiculous that would be if it were true. After all, how many of you would really swap places with the guy in the coffin if you were asked to speak at a funeral?

There’s no doubt that public presenting or pitching can get the palms sweating. But given the benefits you’ll get when you can do it well, you can’t afford to let this stop you. Let’s examine what these barriers really are, so you can lay your fears to rest and get this most important of abilities added to your list of “things you MUST perfect,” shall we?

First, examine why you’re nervous. There’s always a reason for nerves. Examine what the reasons are so you can deal with the cause and go a long way toward eliminating the symptom. Note that I say “go a long way toward eliminating,” the chances are that you’ll always feel some nervousness but nerves are your friends because they keep your senses sharp and prove that you want to do well.

Even seasoned performers suffer from stage fright. Some had it so bad they could barely perform! Fortunately, the thought is usually worse than the task. Once you get started, you’ll often find your nervousness will disappear. I liken it to knowing that you’re about to tackle a drive round London’s Hyde Park Corner or Paris’s Arc de Triomphe in rush hour. Thinking about it really freaks you out but when you’re in the middle of it, you’re too busy concentrating on not hitting anyone and it’s only afterwards you get to think “Wow, I made it in one piece, and you know what? It wasn’t as bad as I’d expected.” It’s true that the thought is usually worse than the activity.

Some of the most common reasons I’ve found for people suffering from nerves are these:
– Worry about forgetting what you’re going to say
– Worry that the audience will think you’re a fraud
– Worry about saying the wrong thing and offending somebody
– Worry that someone will ask a question to which you don’t know the answer
– Worry that you’ll get a dry mouth or get tongue tied
– Worry that you’ll finish too soon or run long

Some of the less common ones I’ve heard were “I’m worried in case there’s a fire alarm halfway through my talk” and “I’m worried that the hem on my trousers will unravel in front of everyone during my talk” and “I might fall off the stage.”

I could dismiss all these are “silly” or “invalid” and tell you that none of them will ever happen, but the fact is that they often will. (Yes, even the trouser hem thing’s happened to me, and I watched someone tumble off the stage just last week!). Looking down the list, you can see that there’s a lot you can do to avoid these situations occurring: being well prepared, stating your qualifications in your introduction, knowing your subject matter inside and out, timing yourself several times during rehearsals, and so on (sorry, I don’t have a magic wand to disable fire bells during speeches).

But so what if any of them still come to pass? What’s the worst that can happen? Well, it’s not life or death, you know. You have to learn to keep your fears in perspective. And remember, the audience wants you to be good because nobody enjoys sitting through a bad presentation.

Do what you can to be prepared and don’t let fear of speaking stop you from gaining that most revered of all skills, the one that will impact every area of your personal and business life. Give yourself the very best opportunity of succeeding and you’ll find the rewards are massive.


Maria Davies is a top sales presenter & success coach who works exclusively with women. Her presentation skills training will show you how to increase the audience share for your product or service by as much as 91%.