"It is confidence that sways people. We may not realize it but we all give confidence inordinate weight and we respect people who project it"
Confidence can be a touchy subject. I assume everyone is more confident than I am, and I’m confident. But in talking with other people, as authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman did, it is quickly revealed that what you see on the outside is not the same as what is happening on the inside of a person. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know, examines the science behind confidence and what people, more specifically women, can do to increase their confidence.
The Big Idea
Being good isn’t that good
"Soon we learn that we are most valuable, and most in favor, when we do things the right way: neatly and quietly. We begin to crave the approval we get for being good. And there’s no harm intended: Who doesn’t want a kid who doesn’t cause a lot of trouble"
It turns out that the girls who were the quietest and good growing up end up lacking confidence. What does this mean for adults who have always thrived on being good? You need to leave that comfort zone and start to take action. Good isn’t always best, and you’ll gain more confidence (and the respect that goes along with it) if you speak up and occasionally take action. If you are raising children, start by not over-criticizing the bad behavior and over-praising the good behavior.
I am attracted to this theory of good girls not getting as far as women who speak up a little more. I was a good girl for much of elementary school, but it all changed in junior high. In junior high I was suspended over 8 times and then kicked out of the entire school division (not just my school, every school in the division!) I was violent (broke a girl’s jaw) and questioned all authority. Interestingly, when this comes up in conversation in a professional setting, people respond with, “I would have never guessed that”, “I am seeing you in a whole new light”, “better watch this one”. Those who know me, see me as compassionate first, “get it done” second. The image of me as a “reformed bad girl” actually boosts my credibility with people who assumed I was one way. It shows that I’m not afraid to take action when it is needed, and I’m not looking for approval.
Embrace your differentness
"…genuinely confident women, perhaps genuinely confident people, don’t feel they have to hide anything. They are who they are, warts and all, and if you don’t like it, or think it is weak to show vulnerability, too bad for you"
Confidence is not about pretending to be anything other than what you are, and being comfortable showing more than a superficial version of yourself. Don’t care so much about blending in, embrace what makes you special – it will probably be what is appreciated the most. When I was changing careers, I would attend interviews pretending to be more boring – scared to show my energetic and creative side, and coming off as a complete bore. At the last interview I decided, “Whether they like me or not, I am just going to be myself and own it”. I got the job offer. Embrace what makes you unique. Own it. Love it.
Adopt a growth mind-set
"Confidence requires a growth mind-set because believing that skills can be learned leads to doing new things. It encourages risk, and it supports resilience when we fail"
Confidence requires a growth mind-set, a mind that allows us to see everything as an adventure and learning experience, rather than another chance to fail. A growth mind-set (concept credited to Carol Dweck) is believing that you can improve and learn new things. It means not avoiding or giving up on something because it’s hard for you to learn, but to keep working on it for improvement. It means that when parents talk to their children they should encourage them to participate in things that are not easy for them, and where they might fail – because confidence comes from trying and making progress, not achieving perfection.
Overall, The Confidence Code is a useful resource for people interested in increasing their confidence in themselves and the science behind confidence. There is some solid advice throughout the book on how to use these concepts with your children to ensure the next generation is resilient and confident. It includes tips like letting children fail and praising children for trying rather than perfecting.
Have you ever suffered from low confidence? What has helped to boost it?