Confidence alone won’t get you there, but self-doubt will stop you from even trying.
Sad but true, my friend!
I’ve been doing a whole lot of research into confidence lately, especially as it relates to women, and there are some eye-opening conclusions out there that I’m sure many of you were not even aware of… but you should be. Knowledge is power, after all.
I know, you’re busy, but thank goodness it’s my job to do this for you!
But this stuff is real, it’s scientifically proven time and time again, and it affects us every day, even if we’re not aware of it.
Many of us career women think we’re pretty confident – we didn’t get where we are on looks and charm alone! And we do indeed have a whole lot of Moxie within us, a real get-up-and-go, a determination, and a desire to achieve.
But imagine where you could be if you were fearless? And I’m not talking the kind of “feel the fear and do it anyway” kind of courage, I’m talking completely free of fear. Can you think of something that you would have done, that previously you avoided because of fear? Not because it was just a bad idea, or just not your jam, but because you were afraid of failure, or embarrassment, or even success?
A favourite study of mine on women and confidence came out of the US in 2003, where Ehrlinger and Dunning (of Dunning Kruger fame, researching the inverse relationship between confidence and competence – a fun read!) studied 119 of their students in relation to how confident they were about their science abilities. Interestingly, they came to the depressing conclusion that women almost across the board rated themselves lower than men in their scientific abilities, despite scoring the same as them in an actual science quiz. And to top it off, because of this perception, they also declined far more often than men to participate in a follow-up science competition for prizes.
In short, they found a cascade effect for women underestimating themselves, and consequently holding themselves back from other related areas, for no good reason. Indeed, other studies have also shown that even if women are forced into participating they will do just as well as the men!
You may have also heard of the study at Hewlett Packard, where the powers that be were questioning why there were so few females in the senior ranks. A detailed internal report showed that it was because women looked at job descriptions and wouldn’t even apply to the role unless they filled 100% of the requirements… men, only 60%.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this many many times over with female friends and colleagues, and have even caught myself doing it once or twice. None of us are immune to a bout of imposter syndrome now and then!
But what’s with the self-rejection?
Serious question, ladies. What gives?
How about letting someone else reject your application, instead of doing it for them from the get-go? What have you got to lose, seriously? You may even be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. But you’ll never know if you don’t even try.
So it seems, sometimes it is indeed ourselves holding ourselves back. So often this can look like logic, or “I don’t want to waste my valuable time”.
But next time you say this to yourself, how about following up with the thought: What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?
You may be surprised at your own response.
 Ehrlinger, J., & Dunning, D. (2003). How chronic self-views influence (and potentially mislead) estimates of performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 5.