Confidence RoosterI recently finished reading The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, and it was great. They concentrate on the subject of confidence, specifically in women- what it is, how it shows itself, and how to bring more of it into our lives.  There were some good takeaways that are worth sharing.

Confidence is Very Hard to Define

You want to take a stab at it?  I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal, but clearly it’s a debatable definition.  Some will claim it’s the “air” you have, maybe the way in which you speak, or the self-assured actions you take.  Either way, it’s clear from their research that everyone that studies it has a different way of defining “confidence”.  A few of my favorite definitions included:

“It’s a belief that you can accomplish the task you want to accomplish. It’s specific to a domain.  I could be a confident public speaker, but not a confident writer, for example.” – Christy Glass, Utah State University

“…how sure are you that you have the skills that you need to succeed in doing a particular thing.” – Brenda Major, UC Santa Barbara social psychologist

The one thing I’ve taken away from the different definitions is this:

You may not be confident in everything at all times, but you can damn sure be confident in a few things some of time.

Think about it.  It’s true.  There is a domain or skill that you KNOW you are good at, because you have practiced, it comes naturally, or it’s not even difficult anymore.  That feeling of knowledge IS confidence.  It’s in there… hiding.

Displaying Confidence Wins in the Workplace

It has been proven that most men are visibly more confident that most women in the workplace, and they get paid for it.  Those individuals that display confidence on a regular basis get paid more, are promoted more often, and are more likely to be seen as “leaders” in their organizations.  It’s also been shown that men, on average, are seen as more confident overall than most women.  It’s a crazy phenomenon, given the amount of influential and intelligent women in the workplace.

On that same note, it’s also proven that women whom take action, make strong and decisions at work, or speak up when others are quiet are also more likely to be seen as leaders and get promoted for their displays of confidence.  Think of those meetings when you were dying to speak up or battle back on something an overbearing colleague said,… but you didn’t.  I know it might sound like one of the scariest things to consider, but taking the chance to speak up in an authentic way will most likely serve you well in the long run.  Do you think you could give it a shot?

Confidence Comes from a Combination of Nature & Nurture

It was fascinating to me that our genetic code somewhat helpful in determining our confidence levels and hormonal responses to tough situations, but there also is a huge factor in how we are raised that drives our self-assurance as adults.  That means a few things:

  1. If you have a healthy dose of confidence, you might want to thank both your parents (for the genes), as well as all those amazing mentors you had in your life growing up.  Grandparents, teachers, sports coaches, drama teachers, art teachers, music teachers, day care providers, parents, siblings – basically anyone that might have helped you bounce back from mistakes and try harder.
  2. If you don’t feel like you have a healthy dose of confidence, well dangit… call your parents and yell at them!  Just kidding.  It just means that you are might need to have to push a bit harder to get it.. but it IS possible!  On that same note, those that had to push and struggle for confidence often end up with a more useful dose of it than the rest of us.

We Can ALL Become More Confident

You might think it’s not possible, but it is. We all got our current level of confidence from both internal and external forces, and next month’s confidence is completely up in the air.  We could try something new, take a few small steps, or do some scary things that could lead us into the next frontier of our confidence.

Your fate is not determined by how self-assured you are right now.  It is determined by how hard you try to be self-assured moving forward.

A few of the suggestions below are quick (but not easy) ways to boost your confidence as you move forward:

  1. Try something new:  By taking up a new craft or skill, we are actually challenging our brains and bodies to work at something we are NOT good at (yet). When you work at a skill over and over, make mistakes, and start correcting those mistakes, you naturally build your confidence in that area.  Building your confidence in one area spills over to another area, and so on. It keeps going, and you build a snowball of confidence.
  2. Add “yet” to your statements:  It’s such a small step, but valuable.  Although you might not be good at basket-weaving this week, who’s to say you aren’t going to be good at it in the future?  What about that new activity?  You obviously haven’t mastered it the first week, but you might master it eventually! For me, it’s “I am not that great at mid-foot jogging… YET.”  But I might be a marathoner next year- who knows?!
  3. Try something scary or intimidating:  Whether it’s speaking up in that meeting, introducing yourself at a networking event, or publishing an article you have been too scared to submit… DO IT. Taking action, even small bits of action, is one of the best ways to start building momentum when you don’t have any.  When you do something scary or intimidating and make it through, it tells yourself that you ARE capable of doing those things.  When you realize you are capable, you become more confident.
  4. Be kind to yourself:  We are often terrible to ourselves by creating negative self-talk that monopolize our brains. If you can, catch yourself while you are in a mini personal ‘hate session’ and give yourself a break.  I am terrible about beating myself up, and it takes actually talking out loud to myself with self-assurance type instruction to break the cycle.  You might catch me in the car saying something like, “Jamie, you are doing the best you can.  You are human; give yourself a break. You are doing a good job.”  Stopping yourself before it starts to get out of hand is key.

Is there something you might consider doing to flex a bit of your confidence muscle this week?

Practice makes perfect, my friend.