The Confidence Gap?

I read an article in the Atlantic about the confidence gap between men and women, and there was a test in there to see how confident you are. (Article: Test:

I took the test, and here were my results:

High Confidence

Thank you for participating in The Confidence Code Assessment!

You are now part of one of the first research studies related to women and confidence and we’re excited to work together to gather insight that will help women around the world embrace confidence in their lives.

Based on your responses to this quiz, you have higher than average confidence

What does that mean?

You probably feel up to most challenges, and are likely to embrace more risk and action than most. You feel you can solve problems or make things happen.

Most of the time, you are able to cope and deal with just about any challenge life throws at you – both key attributes of confidence.

How can you work to keep your confidence up?

But even those who are fairly confident often experience periods of self-doubt. Or perhaps you feel confident in most areas, but still feel more nerves than you would like before a speech. We believe there are a number of things you can do to keep your confidence at a high level – some may seem basic, but they can be transformational. 

Sleep, move, share

We may sound like your mother but it’s true. A lack of sleep and exercise produces an extremely anxious brain. (We’ve tested and retested the theory, and there’s no getting around it.) Being close to our friends boosts our oxytocin levels. Guilt-free girlfriend time is healthy. 

Also, find time to meditate. A calm brain is the ultimate confidence tool. You will increase the ability to control your emotions and feel clear and calm about your goals.

Practice making decisions.

The ability to make decisions big and small, in a timely fashion, and take responsibility for them, is a critical expression of confidence, and also leadership, according to all of our most confident women. Even if you make the wrong decision, they say, decide. It’s better than inaction.

What’s the worst that can happen? You could fail – but the costs of failure are nearly always worth the risk that comes with trying something just outside your comfort zone.

Make a list of decisions you’ve been putting off, big and small. Cross off two each day. Keep track of the consequences. 

Missteps really do provide accelerated opportunity for growth, as well as a chance to tap into another internal resource: self-compassion. As the research shows, practicing self-compassion provides a sturdy emotional safety net, one much stronger than our traditional concept of self-esteem. Self-compassion, centers on the acceptance of our weaknesses. Instead of saying, “I am not a failure,” it’s more useful to say, “Yes, sometimes I do fail, we all fail, and that’s okay.” It’s extending the same kindness and tolerance – the very same qualities we find so much easier to afford our friends – to ourselves, while coming to terms with our own imperfections.

Focus on others

Now that you’re cracked your confidence code, pass it on. 

Women support each other, but sometimes what a friend or colleague really needs is a push. All those Hallmark, ‘you’re the best’ might not be working so well, anyway. 

A few years ago, University of Waterloo psychology professor Joanne Wood conducted a study that found positive self-statements such as “I’m great, I’m perfect, and I am lovable” can actually do more harm than good. Wood and her team conducted a study in which they asked participants to answer the ten questions in the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. They then separated the participants into three groups depending on how they ranked on the scale. The people who scored lowest on the Rosenberg scale were deemed low self-esteem while the highest were put in the high self-esteem group, and those in the middle were labeled medium self-esteem. The people in the lowest and the highest groups were then randomly assigned one of two tasks. They either had to continuously repeat to themselves the statement “I’m a lovable person” for four minutes, or they had to write down their thoughts and feelings for a period of four minutes. Woods results showed that the people who’d been in the low self-esteem group and were assigned the “I’m a lovable person” mantra felt worse about themselves after repeating the phrase compared to the low self-esteem people who’d had to write down their thoughts and feelings. Wood believes the findings resulted from the gap between what participants were told to feel and what they really felt. Repeating empty statements only served only to underscore how far they felt they were from an ideal state of mind. The whole exercise made them feel like a double failure.

So, rather than repeatedly telling your friend she’s great, try encouraging her to take action instead. Often, it takes just one suggestion – one comment from a friend or co-worker. “You should consider that city council seat.” “I’m sure you could handle the supervisory job. You should go for it.” We can help each other most by giving each other permission to act. One little nudge might be all we need.

And ban perfectionism in your daughters.

Striving to grab the good girl ring as a child sows the seeds of trying to be perfect as a woman. Girls internalize the lesson that they need to get everything right to reach the top of the class, which leads to perfectionism. But this ends up smothering achievement. Perfection is the enemy of the good. It’s also the enemy of confidence.

– Praise her moderately, not excessively. Saying “Well done for working so hard on this” is much better than “You are the best student ever.”

– Help your daughter feel satisfied when she’s done her best, regardless of whether she’s done better or worse than others.

– Show your daughter you aren’t perfect either. When you make a mistake, don’t hide it. Then show her the world didn’t end just because you messed up.

I sort of wish I’d had this advice about how to encourage your friends before; now I know where I was going wrong with some of my friends. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember and apply this in the future!


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