How to Carry Yourself With Competence and Confidence



Andi McNeal, CFE, CPA
Research Director

“It’s very important to rely, not just on your competence, but also, to carry yourself with confidence.”

This quote is from ACFE Regent Bethmara Kessler, CFE. She shared it at the Women’s Networking Reception at the 29th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. Her words touched many people at the conference, and they were specifically relevant to me. They set me on a path over the last year of exploring the concept of confidence.

I started thinking, “What is confidence and what isn’t confidence? What does it look like? How can we help instill it in others?” It lead me to some interesting points. First, I started thinking about what it looks like to actually carry oneself with confidence. So just humor me for a moment and close your eyes.

Picture someone in your life who represents the intersection of competence and confidence. Visualize this person moving through the world. Now, think about what other words you would use to describe this person and the way that they carry themselves. Do these words describe them?








As I’ve explored the concept of confidence over the last year, all of these things have come up. I can see all of those attributes when someone is expressing confidence. But the more I dug into confidence and competence and where they collide, the word that kept coming to me was vulnerability.

To me the intersection of confidence and competence is about putting yourself out there and risking that no, or even just risking not being able to do something perfectly the first time while also knowing that you’ll come out on the other side having grown and being able to do something new.

About a month after the conference last year, I was putting my youngest daughter to bed. She was seven at the time, and I cuddled her and said goodnight. But when I went to leave, she called me back and said, “Mom! My legs hurt.”

I said, “Aww, I’m so sorry. Did you injure yourself? Have you been running or exercising? Are they maybe sore?”

She said, “No. No. They hurt in my bones.”

I said, “Ohhh, growing pains.” We all remember those, right? You remember that deep ache at nighttime. I had forgotten about it until I had kids. I hadn’t thought about them in years, but all my kids have gone through it.

This time, I went back and said, “Oh, sweetie, this is growing pains.” I rubbed her legs a little bit. We talked about it. I said goodnight again, but she called me back one more time and said, “But why does growing have to hurt?”

I thought, “Yes, why does growing have to hurt?” My response to her was, “I’m not smart enough to know the actual answer to that question, but what I do know is that in a few days, you won’t remember that pain, but your body’s going to be taller. You’re going to be able to reach new things. You’ll be stronger. And this is going to happen again, and you’re going to feel the pain again, but you’re not going to remember the pain after that one either. You’re just going to keep growing and finding out that the growth is waiting for you on the other side. You can make it through this discomfort.”

I took that idea back and realized how relevant it is in our professional lives. My advice to you is to open yourself up to that opportunity for potential discomfort and for vulnerability. Move through your career with competence and confidence.

Know that putting yourself out there is the key to opening up and moving ahead. Invite that growth into your life. We can’t just wait for it. We’ve got to put ourselves out there.

I’d like to leave you with one quote that speaks to me and I hope it does to you as well. “Stay afraid but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” That is by the one and only Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia.

This post was adapted from Andi McNeal’s opening remarks at the Women’s Networking Reception at this year’s Global Fraud Conference. Ready to carry yourself with competence and confidence in your career? Join the ACFE Mentoring Program as a mentor or mentee. Enrollment is open until Monday, July 22.