There are numerous articles and studies that show that women, in general, are less self-assured than men. OK, but the problems is this: to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.
I attended a panel discussion this past week on this topic. The room was filled with over 90 women from many different professions, ages and educational backgrounds. The panel consisted of a high tech director, the CIO of a major healthcare conglomerate, the recruiting manager of a large sales company and a very successful young entrepreneur. Three were women and one was a man. The moderator was a man. It was fascinating. What I got from the discussion and the questions asked and discussions with other attendees after the discussion was a message. The message was how to cope with the current standard which favors men and for women to basically stop being full of self-doubt. Examples were shared which were inspiring. It was not what was said that I found disturbing, but what was not said at all.
What was not addressed is what I think is critical to the future for women’s success, closing the gender gap and having the brilliance of women’s contribution being recognized in the world. What we must talk about is how to change the conversation in the world such that the gender gap is a thing of the past. I don’t know how to do this myself, but I am clear that when women get together and inquire into how to close the gender gap and then begin to take action, it will be done. I do think one of the keys is to have women, as individuals, take on elevating their own confidence.
In working with thousands of women, I do know that many suffer from diminished self-confidence. Self-confidence and the assault on our individual self-confidence is a complex conversation. Almost always, there are a number of times throughout our lives when we tried something, failed, and someone said something that we turned into a ‘life sentence’ about who we are or our relationship to failing. Whatever we decided and sentenced ourselves to has a long-term impact on our self-confidence. This seems logical to most people- but often you can’t see it. It is like water is to fish – when you are swimming in it, you don’t know you are in water. Same for us, when we lack confidence.
I want to give you a couple of quick steps to see if you can see your own “self-doubt water”:
1. Keep a notebook or app with you and as you notice yourself hesitating or second guessing yourself, see if you can see what you say to yourself or to others.
2. After you do this for 3 days, see if you can find the theme or common thing you say.
3. See if you can remember when you started saying that. (like one time something happened and you made a decision and you started saying whatever it is you say when self-doubt is there).
4. Ask yourself, who said that or who decided that?
5. Since you decided or said whatever you said, ask yourself if it is empowering yourself. And of course, it is not.
6. Make up something else.