Building Confident Women, Starting with Myself

It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend, no big plans. But that totally changed when my boss asked me to speak at an event she could no longer attend. I had less than 24 hours to prepare for a panel about taking political action. My co-panelists included a candidate for governor and a candidate for lieutenant governor. I spent the entire day before the panel at the office questioning myself: “Can I do this? Am I capable enough to represent my organization?” I even asked my colleagues several times, “Are you sure I can do this?” “Absolutely!” was always their reaction.

It certainly felt like a contradiction that I was representing an organization that works so hard to fight the confidence gap that makes women believe that they lack the skills to lead in politics, yet I found myself doubting my own skills. I was unsure of my ability to speak about the importance of overcoming insecurities, taking political action, and ultimately running for office. It wasn’t until the very last minute before I sat down at the panel that I said to myself what I told the audience seconds later as an opening line: “You are capable.”

I wish more young women could hear those exact same words while growing up and as teenagers, as their confidence starts to decline: “You are capable.” I hope women will look at the mirror and say, “I look like a politician,” at the same rate as men. I’m fighting for a future where women don’t have to be told seven times that they should run for office before they even consider it as a possibility.

But until that happens, we must remind women that if we don’t fight to attain powerful positions ourselves, other people will. We need to reassure women that they are qualified, in order to stop the unfairness of women having to work twice as hard to get half as far. Because we know that when women run they win at the same rates as men. We know that better decisions are made when women have the space they deserve at the table. We know that more young women will make great leaders when they see more female role models to follow.

And I will not stop fighting until I see that happening.

As I sat on the panel beside three successful women, I reminded myself that I am also a successful woman. The speaking engagement went so well! I could certainly tell from the audience members that hearing from confident and empowered women, empowered many more women to own their confidence.

That’s why I’m so excited for Running Start’s upcoming Resilience Summit on July 12th. The Summit will focus on overcoming impostor syndrome and bouncing back from failure. Seeing and hearing successful women admit to struggling to feel qualified and think of themselves as capable after setbacks is powerful. Fear of failure shouldn’t stop women from exciting opportunities — just like I didn’t let it when I rose to the challenge and took the stage.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Natalie Caraballo earned a double major in Public Relations and Political Science at the University of Puerto Rico. In 2016 she moved to DC to intern for Senator Harry Reid. She then joined the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, serving as an organizer in Alexandria, Virginia. Natalie strongly believes that women need and deserve stronger political empowerment at earlier stages in their lives, which is why she joined the Running Start team as the Operations Assistant.

Currently, Natalie volunteers for two Puerto Rican diaspora organizations, aiming to empower civil society in Puerto Rico. In her free time, she likes to learn German and discover new cities around the United States and the world.