JANET STREET-PORTER: Want to reach the top All you need is an ego as big as mine!

Janet Street Porter


03:28 GMT, 20 August 2012



07:54 GMT, 20 August 2012

Failed your A-levels Been made redundant Or simply stuck in a dreary job Don’t despair. Exams, qualifications and role models turn out to be relatively unimportant — you hold the key to your own path in life, and it all depends on your self-esteem.

According to a new academic study, people who exude bags of confidence receive more respect from their peers at work, and are frequently promoted way beyond their capabilities.

What’s more, these egotists are highly popular, regularly getting described as ‘terrific’, even though they may not be particularly clever. In short: charisma and drive are huge factors in attaining your goals and doing well.

Karren Brady

Kate Moss

Egomania: Businesswoman Karren Brady, left, and supermodel Kate Moss

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology talked to hundreds of students, teachers and ordinary workers and found that super-confident people believed they were far more socially adept, good at their job, and even better at sport than they were. Because they believed in themselves, they sailed past their self-effacing pals.

Modern women do not need role models to succeed, but burning self-belief. The super success of our female competitors at the Olympics — 45 won medals — in a huge range of sports, from equestrian to taekwondo, sailing, the heptathlon, the modern pentathlon, hockey, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, tennis and track events, shows there’s no bar we can’t jump over once we put our minds to it.

Nicola Adams, a 29-year-old boxer who was so short of cash she worked on building sites and appeared as an extra in Corrie and EastEnders, and who received no support funding until 2009, became the first woman to win a boxing medal — and it was the gold, by a decisive margin.

Nicola is a perfect example of a self-driven ego. Growing up, she wanted to box from the age of 12 — her heroes were Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, not high-profile women or film stars. She epitomises the way that self-belief is the key to high achievement.

Dame Kelly Holmes thinks successful females like Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott will inspire a new generation of girls to take up sport and set aside anxieties about their body image. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation polled 16 to 34-year-old young women, finding 41 per cent say they are ‘inspired’ by the Olympics and want to be more active.

More from Janet Street Porter…

JANET STREET-PORTER: I box, swim and play tennis, but my toughest opponent is age

JANET STREET-PORTER: Don’t tell us oldies how to behave, Dave, I’ll do the job

JANET STREET PORTER: Of course we're smarter than men – but say so and you'll end up alone

JANET STREET PORTER: From T-shirts to hospitals, why I'd choose LESS choice

From T-shirts to hospitals, why I'd choose LESS choice

JANET STREET PORTER: What makes clever women stick by creeps for so long

Wear what you like, read all the books you can – and ignore EVERYTHING boys say: My manifesto for young women

JANET STREET PORTER: Getting a gong just for doing your job This system stinks!


Great, but don’t set unrealistic goals you will never achieve. Surely
it’s better to build self-confidence in tiny steps. Physical
achievements that result in medals require long hours, single-minded
dedication and a strict diet. I’m more interested in women realising
their potential in other ways. Sport should be for fun.

I grew up shunning role models and constantly set my own goals.
Learning to believe in myself was as difficult as winning a medal. There
are plenty of highly successful modern women who — like me —
demonstrate that all you need to get on is a big ego, a capacity for
hard work and a thick skin.

Look at Kate Moss — short by the
standards of the modelling profession. Beautiful bone structure,
granted, but what this woman exudes is confidence, always a star, even
at an age when most models have retired, because she’s never shown one
moment of self-doubt.

She can put on anything and all you see
is Kate. She makes it look effortless, never complains about ageing.
She just does her job, says very little to dent the mystery, and pockets
the cash.

Karren Brady — a massive success in a man’s world —
lied about her qualifications (claiming she had a degree) in order to
get accepted on a graduate trainee scheme. Highly persuasive, she was
selling advertising when she talked one of her biggest clients (David
Sullivan) into buying a near-bankrupt football club.

At 23, this completely unqualified pushy woman was managing director
of Birmingham City. Sullivan gave her the job because ‘she was a sacker’
and she quickly turned the fortunes of the club around.

Tracey Ermin

Nicola Adams

Highly self-rated: Artist Tracey Emin, left, and Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Nicola Adams

has ever stood in her way — having babies, a brain aneurysm, carping
male critics. Vice-chair of West Ham, she shines as Alan Sugar’s
right-hand woman on the Apprentice.

I love Karren Brady because she looks normal and hasn’t got a degree. Self-belief shines through. I dropped out of a degree course after a couple of years and took a job as a writer on a teenage magazine. Since then, I’ve edited a national newspaper, worked as a top executive at the BBC, and built a high-tech television station.

Surrounded by people far more qualified, I never compared myself with them. I told myself I could do something, and got on with it, tuning the carpers and critics out of my head — they weren’t going to get through on my waveband.

Tracey Emin has achieved so much because of burning self-belief. Other artists might mock Tracey for her one-note subject matter — her emotional and sexual ups and downs — but she is one of the only modern artists (apart from David Hockney) that men and women in the street recognise and want to meet.

By being so up-front and enthusiastic, Tracey connects with the public in a way politicians would love to. She is a genuine one-off you can’t ignore. Doubt is not in her make-up. She’s not conventionally attractive, but exudes a zest for life that’s so infectious.

The X Factor returned on Saturday and the female judges are now virtually interchangeable. Tulisa Contostavlos and Nicole Scherzinger have been primped, airbrushed and squeezed into skin-tight dresses displaying their rounded rears and breasts. Their long hair falls in artfully contrived loops around their glistening lips and heavy eyebrows.

Talk about exercises in unoriginality — they have been moulded into telly-totty. They might claim to be confident females, but they are just puppets dancing to a tune dictated by Simon Cowell.

As role models, they are laughable. But who needs a role model when you can get where you want on your own terms