This article. If you have two X chromosomes, take the time to read it. It's important.
Just in case: The Confidence Gap via the Atlantic Magazine
One of my smartest and prettiest girlfriends sent it to me this morning, and we had a frank discussion about the way it made us feel. Reading it brought up a variety of emotions: feeling vindicated, disappointed, hopeful, bleak, and confused, yet in the company of many amazing women trying to manage the same thoughts and feelings I am.
I really identify with almost all of the issues this article talks about-- feeling "lucky" and somewhat guilty instead of soaking in the benefits of my hard work; struggling with self-worth, fighting to master the "meek" aspects of my body language to "take up more space" and seem more confident when I'm really shaking in my boots on the inside. I fight to be seen as more intimidating and less intimidating at the same time. I constantly wonder if I sound "bitchy" when telling people what to do or when asking serious questions. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm a girl.
I think it is important to recognize that there are inherent differences between the construction of men and women's brains. This does, in fact, have an impact on the way we think and handle situations. It doesn't mean that one is better than the other; it just means that given a task, men and women are likely to figure out different ways of approaching it. This isn't a bad thing!
What IS a bad thing is women letting our worries and insecurities get in the way. Letting them shake us. And what is even worse? When we, as women, constantly tear other strong women down because they are confident, career driven, decisive, or assertive. When women display these traits, we label them as bitches. They eat alone or in their offices. When they can't find a compatible mate, other women say, "tsk tsk, maybe she shouldn't have been such a bitch around the office." Seeing the fate of these other women makes us fear our own shame. We don't want to be "that woman." "That woman" is alone, she is an island. Yeah, maybe she gets the corner office and the title, but no one else likes her.
Baby Steps to Confidence
There are two ways we need to work on our confidence issues as a gender. First, we need to STOP labeling other women because of their career choices. Recognize that an assertive woman is a confident woman. And recognize that she is, in the long run, probably helping your paycheck reach the same level of a man's.
Second, we need to boost our own confidence. Do things that make us believe in ourselves. Stop judging and overanalyzing, and start doing. The article says that
"The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren't sure, we hold ourselves back."
THIS IS SO TRUE!
Think about a guy your age in your office. I bet he takes risks that you don't-- walking into superior's offices to pitch wild ideas, asking for "more" of something, be it a title, office, salary, or vacation days, or even approaching partners to ask for a cup of coffee and a chat. I myself would be MORTIFIED to ask an executive for coffee or a meeting, but I know lots of guys who would do it. What am I scared of? The rejection. Even if it was just me and the executive, I would be scared they would continuously judge me for the rest of my days. But WHY should I care?! The are one person-- and do you honestly think they would say no?
I'm definitely a more confident person than I was years ago. I used to really struggle with being assertive. I still struggle. That is something that law school pushed me towards: feeling much more confident and self assured. It's the one thing I will never regret. But even still, I struggle some days. On those days, I've adapted a "fake-it-til-you-make-it" mentality-- if you ACT like you know what you're doing, people will believe you. I've actually picked this up from a lot of my guy friends. They just DO it, and don't freak themselves out by overanalyzing.
|Photo of Miss Maya Van Wagenen,|
aka the girl who grew her own confidence
and now has a book and movie deal.
This is the way I've built confidence in my own life: tackling seemingly stupid small things that frighten me. For example, I am a phone-o-phobic. I hate them. I hate calling in orders, I hate answering them, I even hate calling friends. I would literally let the phone go to voicemail so I could check it instead of answering. Phones make me nervous because I don't have time to think! I much prefer texting and emailing. However, being a professional means-- gasp-- using a phone. Being an assistant means using the phone a LOT, and having 12 DIFFERENT LINES at your disposal.
So what did I do to cure myself?
|I am NOT Carly Rae Jepson; please do NOT |
call me maybe! Just text me!
I've also used this method on the Subway. I pick a different route every few days and go to a new
part of town. Not only do I get to "master" a new skill, but I get to see all the neighborhoods of New York in the process. It feels pretty rockin to know where you're going when no one else does.
Another thing: moving to another city is a huge confidence booster; I've been able to do it a few times. Not everyone can just uproot themselves and move across the country/ up the coast/ down south/ etc. But if you get the chance, sometimes it works wonders to move to a new place where all you have is yourself. I recently told one of my girlfriends here in NYC that I have noticed a HUGE change in her since she moved here, and I couldn't even really express how proud I was. It was one of those moments where you internally beam, "That's MY FRIEND!!"
The bottom line is this: we have a long way to go, gals. But hang in there, keep believing in yourself, and keep taking risks. Don't get scared. Support the women around you.
And keep telling yourself how truly awesome you are.