I’m reading a very interesting book right now called The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. It’s written from a female perspective and is incredibly enlightening, aside from being very well written and easy to lose yourself within.
There was a quote from a basketball coach that I found to be true for myself. He said, “The propensity to dwell on failures and mistakes, and an inability to shut out the outside world are the biggest psychological impediments for his female players, and they directly affect performance and confidence on the court.”
Dwelling on failures – that’s the curse of perfectionism – guilty as charged.
Inability to shut out the outside world – that’s building boundaries for yourself, so that you have the internal strength to listen to yourself and filter out the noise from all the haters. It’s also squashing that people-pleasing gene.
I personally find this book and its perspective fascinating because this is the lens through which I live every day of my work life. The people that I work with and compare myself to (even though I wish I didn’t) are virtually all men. And the reality is that they do not think the same way as I do. For years I saw this as a negative. For years I thought I needed to just shut up, stop whining and get to work, regardless of how I feel. For years I thought it best to hide the fact that I think differently from my colleagues. Only now, in my 30s have I realized that being different, an outlier even, can offer more perspective and diversity, which is actually positive for the bottom line.
Women don’t tend to (yes, I do know I’m overgeneralizing) brag about how smart they are, or how great they are, or even how successful they are. We tend to have some nagging voice inside telling us to make sure we are being polite and kind, and to not annoy anyone else by making yourself sound arrogant, or even confident.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it?
If was don’t speak as though we are confident, how will we ever act as though we are confident and deserving of our success?
For me, I don’t think walking around telling everyone I meet how great I am is going to work. In other words, trying to play the game as though I fit into the traditional engineer/executive role, may not suit my personality. Instead I want to exude confidence by knowing that within myself I am so in tune with who I am and what I value, that I act and speak in accordance with that life blood.
I am certain that there is a way to be a confident woman in any industry, setting or community. And I am certain that it will look different for every woman. But wouldn’t it be amazing if more of that authenticity was brought to the boardroom tables every day? Wouldn’t we all benefit from greater diversity?
Rather than denying that I struggle with perfectionism and people-pleasing tendencies, I want to embrace that I have that as a current struggle and I am working every day to find my own voice, let go of not doing everything perfectly, and be ok making myself happy first, before trying to help everyone else. This is called grace. Accepting that we are all working through something, and we could all be a little easier on ourselves while we figure it out. I am learning to be feminine and confident as a compliment to one another, rather than having to decide to be one or the other. That is my challenge.