Would it surprise you to know that confidence matters to your success, in fact, confidence is more important than competence?
Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are the authors of a 2014 book, The Confidence Code, that set out to determine why women in prominent positions, from head of state to head of industry, express self-doubt as they were being interviewed about their successes.
Examples included the successful investment banker who mentioned she didn’t really deserve the big promotion she’d just got. Or the engineer who had been a pioneer in her industry for decades who offhandedly said she wasn’t sure she was the best choice to run her firm’s new big project.
The authors themselves experienced this phenomenon when one expressed doubt that she was intelligent enough for the prestigious journalism job she held or for the other who had a habit of telling people she was “just lucky” when asked how she came to be a CNN correspondent in Moscow while in her 20’s.
Even Sheryl Sandberg, in an interview before the release of Lean In, said “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”
There is a real gap, confirmed by studies, in how men and women feel about their ability to succeed and that in fact, confidence is more important than competence.
Here are a few examples of how this plays out:
- Women often report “feeling like a fraud”
- Women don’t ask for raises
- Women don’t see themselves as valuable
- Women are more likely to say their success is based on luck
- Women don’t advocate for ideas as quickly or as forcefully
What is Confidence?
The authors describe confidence as “the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” We have a thought and we ask ourselves, “are we capable?” and then we act on that thought. If we act, we are more likely to see ourselves as capable. If we hesitate, we are less likely to see ourselves as capable and these habits are reinforced. More action leads to more confidence, more hesitation and we see ourselves as less capable.
Some confidence traits include being assertive, speaking up, being in control, not backing down. Confidence is the grace or poise you display even when you feel uncomfortable or not fully prepared.
When should we start training for confidence? As early as possible and sports is a great training ground. Kids who play sports learn to survive defeat and to own victory. As kids, boys often benefit from lessons they learn in recess: how to roughhouse, tease one another, point out one another’s limitations. The words lose some of their power and help make boys more resilient.
Studies showing the impact of 1972’s Title IX legislation show girls who play sports are more likely to: graduate college, find a job, be employed in a male dominated industry, and earn a greater salary.
Sports inevitably leads to some failure (and success) and failure helps to build resilience.
What are some other things we can do to build resilience? Here’s a few:
- Find a coach, mentor, or sponsor
- Treat problems as learning opportunities
- Reframe failure
- Celebrate success
- Develop life goals for guidance and a sense of purpose beyond your career
Studies show that confidence is 30% genetic and the rest can be developed. What can we do to increase our confidence?
- Take action
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Practice making decisions
- Embrace failure
- Stop ruminating
Visit www.theconfidencecode.com/confidencequiz to take an online test to assess your confidence. If you find yourself in the low to medium range, practice some of the exercises discussed here, and most importantly, take action. Your success depends on it.
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