The other day I saw Katty Kay and Claire Shipman being interviewed on the Colbert Report. They were talking about their new book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know. It was a really fascinating discussion, and although I have not read the book yet, I plan to.
They talked about the fact that statistically speaking, women are generally less confident than men, and they said there are several reasons for this. First of all, men are raised to face failure. They are more likely to play sports, and therefore have experienced losses in that realm. They also are usually the ones that ask for dates, and have known the rejection that comes with that. Because they’ve faced failure, they’ve learned that when it happens, the world won’t come to an end, and therefore they’re willing to take more risks than women are. This increases their confidence.
In addition, women tend to be perfectionists, and since perfection is rarely if ever achieved, it tends to wear your confidence down. We are taught to please people. Many of us never feel quite good enough, because we can’t really be responsible for how others feel or react, can we?
They also mentioned the hormonal and genetic aspects of confidence. Testosterone gives one a great deal of confidence, so needless to say that puts women at a disadvantage. There are also several genes (not one specific “confidence gene”, mind you) that play a part. Apparently if you have a certain combination of genes, you’re more apt to be confident. So a portion of confidence is basically the luck of the draw. Either you have it or you don’t.
But there are things you can do to boost your confidence. First of all, there’s a test you can take on their website to determine your confidence level. Check it out here. Even though this test is geared specifically toward women, it can be taken by anyone. It only takes about 5 minutes.
I just took the test myself. I think a lot of people would be surprised at my results, because all my life I’ve been told I was strong and opinionated and intelligent. I’ve always been kind of annoyed when I’m told I’m strong, because honestly, what’s the alternative? Curl up in a fetal position and suck one’s thumb? The bills won’t stop coming just because the world just shat all over you. That’s not strength, really. That’s just survival. I’m assuming that those people who think I’m strong would also think I was confident.
The test revealed what I already knew to be true. I have lower than average confidence. I’ve had so many setbacks in the past few years that my confidence is at rock bottom, even for me. But it’s never been that high to begin with, except in two areas: my intelligence and my writing skills. Those are things that I’ve always been completely secure about. Everything else? I’m a mess.
After you’ve taken the test, it gives several suggestions about ways to improve your confidence. My result suggested that I break tasks into smaller chunks so I don’t feel so overwhelmed. Succeeding at a small part of a project will give you confidence to do the rest of it.
It also stated that “research shows that gratitude is one of the keys to happiness and an optimistic mindset. That mindset encourages confidence.” It mentions being grateful for little things, like when someone lets you merge into traffic. It also said to just say thank you when you receive a compliment. Don’t argue about it or deny it. Just appreciate the sentiment.
Negative Automatic Thoughts were also discussed. You know what that means. That nasty little voice inside your head that tells you those shorts really do make you look fat. Learn to identify those thoughts, counter them with logic and three positive thoughts. Think of things you’d say to a friend. Be a friend to yourself.
And yes, they discussed facing failure. Take risks. Start small.
Know any confident women? You can nominate them to be featured on the Confidence Code website. We can all learn from each other. So take that test and nominate someone today!
I have confidence in me!