Remember a few months ago, when The Confidence Code, a book about women’s confidence, was released to lots of press? When big studies were waved around, unearthed that proved what we already know? When all the talk turned into more of a murmur? Maybe there’s not so much to say.
Yes, there are groups discussing strategy and sharing stories, but when a study shows, for instance, that women are perceived as having less expertise (presumably by other women – not just men) and that what we say is easy to disregard – especially when a man can say the same thing a few minutes later and impress everyone all to hell – what is to say?
What’s to say about management’s endless crush on the charming? The swaggering bullshitters? The very pretty liars?
(I should probably define my terms, what I think confidence is. What self confidence is: serious, real trust in yourself. Myself. Ourselves. Confidence isn’t arrogance or conceit. Confidence isn’t sarcastic or snobbish. Confidence is a good, good thing that lets us create and work and be and love and do it all in a healthy way.)
Please. Until the burden for setting it all right goes straight to the decision makers, I don’t think we’re really talking about it honestly. It’s not really about confidence, is it, when management is secretly operating from a high school psyche.
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Problems with confidence – repairing those problems – is a hard topic. It’s a can of worms. The live and slimy kind. We can pick through them, finding the first issue we want to fix and over there, wiggling its way to freedom, is another worm that wants to counteract the first worm’s fix.
Add to that the women who play along (not because they’re awful or jerks. They were raised in this culture, too. They were taught techniques for getting power and their voices heard and some of those techniques involve squashing another woman’s confidence. That’s how it is.) and it’s a mess. Fuck.
Maybe confidence wouldn’t be so important if a lack of confidence wasn’t so debilitating. In confidence’s absence, there’s not a hollow space. Oh, no. A hollow space, you could probably fill with … I don’t know. Movies. No, no. Where confidence should be, there are driblets of poisonous doubts and suspicions and acute sensitivity and loneliness.
It would be way more convenient if we could just give people confidence – but we can’t. Not even to ourselves. We try, but there are a lot of psychological fingers in all of us and mostly what they want to do is pick at wounds and poke where anyone with any sense at all wouldn’t go. That doesn’t mean we’re powerless. Maybe we could start by making an effort to not take someone’s confidence away.
It doesn’t need sacrifice. No one has to take care of anyone’s emotions or dance around fragile egos or listen to hours on hours of complaining. No one has to save anyone. Look someone right in the eyes. Listen. Ask. Have space in our minds for them (and heart, if you can swing it). It’s not kindness, so don’t start polishing your halo. It’s a necessity.
Even doing that seems hard when someone’s snapping, trying to be in control or pointedly ignoring you or taking little insulting stabs to put you in your place. It’s tempting to smack them down. More than tempting.
But they’re battling stuff and mean tricks are what they have in their arsenal. Demonstrate something else. Clear space for all those worms to get to work. We might end up with a garden.