Have you ever started your day with a confidence mantra? What about a power pose?

If so, you’re on the right track.

If you’ve never heard of these self-esteem boosters, meet confidence guru Rita Kakati-Shah. Our confidence can be strengthened with regular practice, just like a muscle, says Kakati-Shah, a gender, diversity, inclusion, and career strategist who began her career at Goldman Sachs.

The epitome of self-assurance and poise, Kakati-Shah presented confidence-boosting strategies in her live masterclass, Confidence Essentials – Create unshakable self-confidence to meet any challenge head-on. When she had a tough time rejoining the workforce after having children, despite a successful career, Kakati-Shah launched her own company to help create opportunities for other women facing similar challenges.

Today she is founder and CEO of Uma, a platform that empowers women and minorities returning to the workforce, and trains companies on diversity, inclusion, and retention strategies. “I wanted to make a difference,” Kakati-Shah says. “Now I can give back to the workforce more than ever before.”

3 Big Ideas to Boost Confidence

Create your confidence mantra: This exercise starts by making a self-affirmation checklist. Include achievements that make you proud, your unique strengths, and how you would like others to see you. Post this list everywhere—your computer, refrigerator, mirror—as a daily reminder of your assets and accomplishments. Next, write down two positive words to serve as your confidence mantra. “If your words are ‘unique’ and ‘strong,’ you will start your day taking deep breaths and repeating five times, ‘I am unique. I am strong. I’ve got this!’” Practice saying this every morning. Repetition is important for muscle memory, Kakati-Shah says. “You want to train your head and mind. The repetition actually helps you believe it more.”

Leverage confidence hacks: These include finding your support network among family, friends, and peers. You can also strike a power pose for just two minutes to change your body chemistry to be more positive (with increased testosterone) and more confident (with decreased cortisol). Kakati-Shah referenced Amy Cuddy’s research, noting that standing up straight with hands on hips, also known as the Wonder Woman pose, is a way to feel powerful instantly. “When you want to feel confident, you want to let your own unique personality blossom,” she says.

Fake it ’til…you become it: Though we often seek recognition from the outside, true confidence comes from within, says Kakati-Shah. “Our confidence is our voice, our strength, our fighting spirit,” she says. Factors that shake our confidence include past experiences, fear of failure or rejection, and our own attitude. We can rebuild confidence with regular practice and by leveraging a strong support group that offers encouraging words. You need someone in your corner who believes in you, she says. In the meantime, as we build confidence, Kakati-Shah advises, “you want to appear confident by dressing the part and faking it ’til…you become it.”

Q&A with Rita Kakati-Shah

What challenges did you face professionally after having children?
Reentering the workforce was difficult for me after I took time off for my kids. Even though I had 15 years of professional experience, including 10 years at Goldman Sachs, nobody cared when I became a mom. When I met with old friends and colleagues, I was very surprised at the questions I was getting. Nobody was looking at my background and credentials. They focused on the gap. It was a fixation. There was a perception that I was a quitter, and there was no room for quitters. There was an unconscious bias that I could not be trusted because I had taken time off. I started my own company to help other women transition back to work.

Do you ever feel intimidated by confident people?
If there’s a networking gathering, extroverts will be the first in the room, while introverts will need to be invited into the room. If I meet someone extremely confident, the fact that they are so positive draws me into their story. I can turn fear around by going over and complimenting them. I always ask myself how the situation can be a growth opportunity.

What has helped you stay confident?
I am so passionate about my work that it comes across as confidence. People who exude passion also exude confidence. Connect with your passion. Choosing my support circle wisely has also made a difference. If you spend time with a positive person, it rubs off. If you spend time with a grumpy gus, that rubs off too.

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