Article by Jamie Friedlander
Although the confidence gap primarily affects to women, people who feel marginalized in any way often experience it, too. Say, for example, you’re the youngest or oldest person at your office, an introvert, or the only minority. You might feel insecure and begin second-guessing your every action.
Follow these tips to boost your confidence so it falls in line with your competence:
1. Make the Choice
It’s likely that you’re more than qualified for the job you’re doing. Instead of improving your skills, focus on increasing your confidence.
A significant part of confidence is what psychologists call “volitional” — that is, it’s our choice.
“With diligent effort, we can all choose to expand our confidence,” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write in The Confidence Code. “But we will get there only if we stop trying to be perfect and start being prepared to fail.”
Even if you’re terrified of asking your boss for a raise or your yoga instructor to dinner, ignore your negative thoughts and go for it. Over time, coping with failure will get easier. This, in turn, will help your confidence grow.
2. Avoid the Perfectionism Trap
Failure and risk-taking are key components of confidence-building. Cara Maksimow, a clinical social worker, says women can start overcoming their perfectionist tendencies by accepting that not everything in life is certain. She tells clients struggling with perfectionism to picture their task or challenge as the bottom of a staircase.
“A lot of us think we need to see what it looks like at the top, but you don’t need to see the top in order to take one step,” Maksimow says. “Just say ‘Okay, how can I just take that one step and what does that step look like?’ You can always go back.”
3. Leverage Your Inherent Confidence
You’re more confident than you think. Consider this: Making everyday decisions, such as what to eat for lunch or what to text your mom, requires a low level of confidence.
“Every day we make hundreds of decisions, almost unconsciously, that require basic confidence,” Kay and Shipman write in The Confidence Code.
Boost your confidence by reminding yourself of all the successful small decisions you make on a daily basis.
4. Ignore the Negative Soundtrack in Your Mind
It might sound counterintuitive, but being slightly out of touch with reality might be an integral step in developing confidence. Shipman says she is still in the nascent stages of exploring this idea: “You almost need to suspend disbelief a little bit to have agency in the world. If you operated almost like a computer and you put in all of the inputs, things that could go wrong and all of the odds, you probably would never do anything. Utter accuracy is probably an impediment in one’s life to getting things done, which is odd to think about.”
5. Start Early
Teach children the benefits of confidence at a young age. Encourage them to take risks. Teach them that failure is acceptable. Reinforce that pleasing others and being “good” all of the time isn’t always the most important thing.
Shipman was initially concerned about one of her daughters, whom she describes as rebellious and not a girly girl.
“Until I was writing this book, I think I was trying to shoehorn her a little bit more into a mold,” she says. “I think I’m more comfortable now just saying, ‘You know what? This is going to be great for her. Let her try things and fail and struggle. She’s building a lot of resilience and confidence this way.’”
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Guidance.
Sharon Anderson Wright, the CEO and president of Half Price Books, says she never lacked confidence because of her gender, in part because she began working in the family business at a young age and her mother was the co-CEO. She did, however, feel insecure about her age at times because she managed people older than she.
“Because I was younger, I didn’t feel as smart as some of the people around me,” Wright says. “We’d bring in professionals from the outside, and I realized they knew a lot more than I did. I tried to rely on the people who I thought had the right answers.”
Don’t be afraid to ask others around you for advice.
7. Be a Public Defender in Your Brain
Shipman gives this advice to women striving to become more confident. She cites this example: Let’s say you received a performance review at work, and your boss gave 80 percent positive feedback and 20 percent negative feedback. Instead of dwelling on the negative 20 percent (as many women do), reframe your thoughts. Realize that most people receive similar reviews. Remind yourself that the feedback was mainly positive.
“It’s important to try to use some of these tools to get through the dwelling and overthinking, and just be able to move on,” she says.
Jamie Friedlander is the associate editor for SUCCESS magazine. She recently received her master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism and relocated from Chicago, her hometown, to Dallas. When she’s not working or traveling, she can usually be found drinking coffee in excess, reading a novel, or surfing Etsy late into the night.