This essay was originally published at She Loves in 2014.
In June The Atlantic published an articled called The Confidence Gap, which cited evidence that women are less self-assured than men. They found that confidence affected success just as much as competence and that women, in general, suffer an acute lack of confidence compared with men.
Even female leaders, women at the top of their careers—investment bankers, pioneering engineers, WNBA stars—revealed that they are plagued by self-doubt, that they feel they came across their success by luck rather than skill, that they feel like imposters or frauds, undeserving. Women don’t consider themselves as worthy as men for promotions, predict they will do worse on tests, underestimate their abilities, are less likely to ask for raises and if they do ask, they ask for less. Unless they feel 100 percent confident, or borderline perfect, a woman is less likely to take a risk or initiate something new.
“Having talent isn’t merely about being competent; confidence is a part of that talent. You have to have it to excel.”
Women are more likely than men to blame themselves. In a tough course at school, men will say, “That was a hard class.” Women will say, “I wasn’t smart enough.” Women fixate on performance and are more likely to strive for perfectionism which, ironically, keeps them from getting anything done.
This little post cannot do the article justice and I encourage you to go read it, take the confidence test at the end, and then work toward change. I took the test and, to no one’s surprise, ended up with lower than average confidence.
My husband read the bios of writers at a site I write for and he commented that almost all the women included sentences like, “trying and failing to …” or “blundering through …” or “a life filled with mistakes …” while few of the men’s bios included these kinds of caveats and disclaimers.
Knock it off!
Seriously. Knock it off. (Me, too.)
I didn’t write for my school paper in high school or college. I wanted to, but I was afraid. I didn’t study creative writing. I wanted to but I was afraid (instead I studied an equally useless-when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-degree). Afraid of what? That I wasn’t good enough. That putting my desire out so clearly to the world and then failing at it would be worse than not going for it at all. That is the confidence gap, it is timidity and cowardice and I have spent the past few years trying to wrench myself out of that gap.
How about you?
Can you look at the work you do and say, “I am good at that?”
Look at your painting, your pottery, the sermon you wrote, your diaper-changing, the meal you created last night. Look at your essay and your photography and the blanket you knit and the math class you taught. Look at the surgery you performed and the bill you got passed through congress and the hairstyle you designed. Look at the financial portfolio you managed and the house you sold and the client you represented and the blog post you wrote and the baby you nursed at three in the morning. Look at the committee you chaired and the 5k you ran and the leadership you provided.
Look at the labor of your hands, your mind, your voice, your imagination.
Look at the work you do and say, “I am good at that.” Look at the work you dream of doing and say, “I would be good at that.” And then do it.
“The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back.”
Don’t hesitate. Act. Risk. Initiate. Lead.
Let’s close the confidence gap.