Recent evidence has shown that men and women are equally as competent. But women are not as self-assured. Here’s how to boost your confidence and close the gap.
By Frieda K. Edgette (Founder & Principal, Novos Consulting; Founder, Courage to Run)
In The Atlantic’s May cover story, “Closing the Confidence Gap”, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman explore the developmental, biological, social and self-imposed factors contributing to the confidence gap between men and women.
They conclude that, although competence levels are parallel, women are consistently behind in the realm of confidence. Research shows that both competence and confidence are required to achieve peak potential. So how do you get there?
Coaching pioneer Tim Gallwey taught that, “Potential minus interference is equal to performance.” Interferences take the form of self doubt, limiting beliefs and demeaning statements; in other words the “ifs” and “buts” that interrupt us without offering a pathway toward generative action.
How can you arrest such interferences?
Here are five ways female entrepreneurs can close the confidence gap:
1. Connect to Authenticity
Know thyself. Philosophically and psychologically, authenticity is key to self esteem. Authenticity is grounded in self awareness (who am I), self management (how am I) and self care (what I need).
Leaders with high authenticity levels are confident, relationally transparent and practice balanced decision making. They are effective communicators because their actions are anchored by their understanding and acceptance of self. Inauthenticity shows up as micro-managing behavior, perfectionism, isolation, fear, secrecy and self-destruction.
There is no one perfect way to be authentic. Authenticity is a dynamic, iterative response to experience, environment and situation. It involves an ongoing commitment to honesty, openness, learning and courage.
2. Engage Your Beasts
“Beasts” (interferences) are the fodder of low confidence and inaction. Since the 1960s, social psychologists have identified tension points as opportunities for learning.
Martin Bauer of the London School of Economics uses the metaphor of an ankle injury to explain healthy engagement with tension. If you twist your ankle, you experience discomfort. You have a choice between having your ankle examined or continuing to walk on it. One choice leads to an understanding of the cause and a remedy. The other exacerbates the pain and can cause long-term injury.
Rather than enabling or ignoring tension, use tension as an opportunity to engage, question, learn and identify next steps. When you’re aware that your beast is active, you can step back, examine the tension, and try new behavior. The choice is yours to make.
3. Change Your Framing
What messages do you tell yourself? Language shapes perception. When you repeat internal messages such as, “I will do this when…”, “If only…”, “I can’t until…” and “I don’t think I…” it becomes more challenging to try something new. You stagnate. How many hours have you lost, how much energy have you depleted, and how many experiences have you sacrificed because of such self-imposed limitations?
Focused mental exercises and repetition builds your brain’s strength and form. Positive affirmations and solutions-focused thinking are powerful tools. Practicing positive messaging changes shape. Changed shape informs perception. Informed perception defines experience. Defined experience contributes to who you are and what you do.
4. Engage Your Communities
Have you ever been overwhelmed and not asked for help because you were embarrassed? Making “the ask” takes humility and strength, and it opens you to learning rather than closing you off.
Kay and Shipman note that estrogen seems to enable bonding and connection. You can leverage this biologically bestowed strength to collectively help one another. Model by doing. Ask for help. Receive help. Share honestly when engaged. Remember: When you ask for help, you help someone else too.
5. Access Your Courage
Take some time to write honestly about yourself: your interests, expertise, passion, guiding principles, strengths, blind spots, triggers.
Then, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you need to remain effective?
- What inspires you?
- What really excites you?
- What can you control?
- What can’t you control?
Answering these questions leads to certainty of self and certainty of purpose. With certainty of purpose comes a willingness to take risks, be vulnerable, improvise and learn from mistakes. Courage teaches you that there is no failure.
You can do this. You are competent. It’s time to access your confidence — and close the gap. Together.