“If life were one long grade school, women would be the undisputed rulers of the world.” That’s a quote by Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, and it points to the issue that competence plays second fiddle to confidence.
And as infuriating as that may be for all of you who have worked hard for your degrees and accolades, truth is, when people feel confident - when they think they are good at something - regardless of how good they really are - they get more positive feedback, People naturally gravitate toward them and like them. They’re more successful.
In the self-help world, we hear a lot about how confidence is a muscle that has to be developed – that it doesn’t come naturally – you have to work at it. I often counter this argument because I believe that every single one of us is born with confidence, that it is an innate trait that comes with the package when we’re born.
But I also believe that there’s more to the story because along comes life and with it, we get socialized into our camps of what’s appropriate boy and girl behavior. And these can be powerful habits to break unless we see them for what they are.
These habits of behavior run deep. I see it daily in my work. Heck, I even see it in my own behavior and thinking. I see qualified women constantly second-guessing themselves and worrying what other people will think of them if they put themselves out there. I see women caught up in the perfection trap thinking that their work has to be perfect before it’s launched. I see women avoiding social media and making videos because they think they're too fat or old. I see women hiding until they take yet again another course, degree, or training. They wait and wait for the day that never comes.
What they’re really waiting for is confidence.
This is the power of socialization. The truth is that girls are not encouraged to take risks, speak out, and make mistakes. We are raised to be the good girl, the nice girl. And then we go out into the world of work and realize that our advanced degrees and exquisite manners are not always rewarded. On the contrary, our very character is called into question when we run the risk of being assertive, opinionated. We are disliked and sometimes labeled a bitch.
Boys, on the other hand, learn to be more resilient when it comes to taking risks. When they’re criticized, they take things more in their stride. They don’t take things so personally, whereas girls make criticism mean something deeper about themselves. I will never forget when I was told off by a teacher for talking when I shouldn’t have been, and who subsequently made me stand in the corner. I remember feeling so humiliated and horrified that she thought so badly of me. The good girl syndrome goes deep.
If it's true that confidence is innate – if it’s part of our default setting – how can we recover it once again and untether ourselves from the shackles of social conditioning?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
It begins with seeing and understanding how it got covered and obscured in the first place. But the process of seeing and understanding doesn’t mean we have to blame or remind ourselves that we women are disadvantaged because we got off on the wrong foot. It’s not so much about WHY?
But here’s the part I really want you to hear because it is what has worked for me.
It begins with trusting in yourself – trusting that you have everything you need -that you are confident despite what society indoctrinated and told you how you should behave.
But trust is just the beginning because I’ve also seen that believing and trusting that I am enough is not enough. Women have to stop thinking too much and take action. We have to LIVE IT AND DEMONSTRATE that trust. And that means taking risks, putting yourself out there, showing up with all your imperfections. And knowing that whether you succeed or fail, is irrelevant - you will be okay.
Competence is necessary but it will only carry us so far. When we wake up to the illusion and mistaken identification of our conditioned mind, our innate confidence shines through without any effort - without the need to build the confidence muscle.