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Updated: Aug 11, 2020

By Andrea Seydel

THE CONFIDENCE CODE: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance

Confidence. We want it. We need it. Is confidence hardwired into the DNA of a lucky few, or can anyone learn it? Which is more important: confidence or competence? Why do so many women, even the most successful, struggle with feelings of self-doubt? Is there a secret to channeling our inner confidence?

Let's explore this informative and go through this practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence - and learning how to achieve it!

Working women today are better educated and more well-qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key reason is confidence.

This book goes beyond the advice to lean in. Instead, they offer the inspiration and practical advice we need to close the gap and achieve the careers we want and deserve.

Let's learn from world’s leading psychologists who explain how we can all choose to become more confident simply by taking action and embracing risk, and how those actions change our physical wiring. They examine how a lack of confidence impacts our leadership, success, and fulfillment. Ultimately, they argue, while confidence is partly influenced by genetics, it is not a fixed psychological state. That’s the good news.

Bottom line is you won’t discover confidence by thinking positive thoughts or by telling yourself (or your children) that you are perfect as you are. You also won’t find it by simply standing tall and faking it. But it does require a choice: less people pleasing and perfectionism and more action, risk taking, and fast failure. On all levels, our talents are not being fully realized. We as women are stalling because, all too often, we don’t see, or can’t even envision, what’s possible, strive for perfection fear failure, or people please.

It's Not Enough to Be Good

We see it everywhere: Bright women with ideas to contribute who don’t raise their hands in meetings. Passionate women who would make excellent leaders, but don’t feel comfortable asking for votes or raising campaign money. It isn’t that women don’t have the ability to succeed; it’s that we don’t seem to believe we can succeed, and that stops us from even trying. WHY?

A year before her book Lean In was published, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told us “there are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”

Part of the problem is we can’t make sense of the rules. Women have long believed that if we just work harder and don’t cause any bother, our natural talents will shine through and be rewarded.

The stakes are too high to give up on finding confidence.

We also came to see that confidence isn’t all in your mind, and it isn’t generated by exercises to boost self-esteem, either. Perhaps most striking of all, we found that success correlates more closely with confidence than it does with competence. Yes, there is evidence that confidence is more important than ability when it comes to getting ahead.

Perfectionism was very much on our growing list of confidence killers.

I just get up there and perform- The trick is not to overthink it.- And if things do go wrong, shrug them off.

When we aren’t confident, we don’t succeed as we should. We can’t even envision the work we could be doing, or the levels we could reach, or the satisfaction we could have. We can’t contribute fully to a system that is in great need of female leadership.


Confidence is not, as we once believed, simply feeling good about yourself, saying you’re great, perfect just as you are, and can do whatever you want to do. That way of thinking hasn’t really worked for us, has it? Just saying “I can do that” doesn’t mean that you believe it or will act on it.

With diligent effort, we can all choose to expand our confidence. But we will get there only if we stop trying to be perfect and start being prepared to fail.

What the scientists call plasticity, we call hope. If you work at it, you can indeed make your brain structure more confidence-prone.

Life’s Enabler ACTIVITY 1: Think about it. We are all capable of imagining how great it would be to write that novel, apply for that new position, or just introduce ourselves to that interesting stranger. But how many of us actually do it? WHAT HAVE YOU WANTED TO ACCOMPLISH BUT HAVEN'T DONE IT YET? What has gotten in your way? Worry? Perfectionism? Paralyzed? Procrastination?

Confidence is Life's enabler Confidence comes in the process and progress. It is about work, and learning to develop an appetite for challenge. BUT what it is, exactly, that gets one’s brain in the right frame of mind to act. CONFIDENCE IS FUEL FOR ACTION!

The Confidence Family

Closely linked to confidence is: 1. Self-esteem, 2. Optimism, 3. Self-compassion, and 4. Self-efficacy.

Self-Esteem- Self-esteem is what allows us to believe that we are lovable, that we have value as human beings.

Optimism- An optimistic person is one who expects the most favourable outcome from any given situation. Optimism is the sense that everything will work out. and Confidence is, ‘I can make this thing work.'

Self-compassion- According to Kristin Neff's work: Self-compassion dictates that we treat ourselves as we treat our friends. If your friend comes to you and says, “I just failed. I blew it,” what do you do? You’re kind, you’re supportive, you’re understanding, and you give your friend a hug. It takes our imperfections and sufferings and puts them in the context of simply being human. Self-compassion drives confidence— “Most people believe that they need to criticize themselves in order to find motivation to reach their goals. In fact, when you constantly criticize yourself, you become depressed, and depression is not a motivational mind-set,” Krtistin Neff said.

Self- Efficacy-If self-compassion is the kind, gentle cousin, self-efficacy is the tough, just-get-it-done member of the family. Self-efficacy’s goal-oriented nature is the key to actually putting those aspirations into action. If you have a strong sense of self-efficacy, you will look at challenges as tasks to be conquered; you will be more deeply involved in the activities you take on, and you will recover faster from setbacks.

Bottom line with Confidence- you have to get out of your head to create it and to use it. The most astonishing science, with profound promise for cracking the confidence code, proves that all of us can rewire our brains, even as adults. When we change our thinking and develop new mental habits, that support confidence we gain even more confidence.

Reasons Women Have Less Confidence

Our genetics, our schooling, our upbringing, our society, our looks—these are all factors that affect our confidence.

It would be easy to simply shrug our shoulders and blame all those obstacles when we stop short and don’t reach for the goals we want. Easy, but misguided. Because we are getting in our own way, too. A focus on being liked can kill confidence, overthinking, rumination, taking blame, perfection, self-imposed obstacles, stress response emotional brain, anxiety,

Many of the reasons women have less confidence is actually due to factors we can control.

Confident Killer ACTIVITY: There are things we do to ourselves, as adults, that kill our confidence. What are some things you do that might be killing your confidence?

Confidence-Boosting Habits

Confidence, at least the part that’s not in our genes, requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence, and sometimes bitter failure.

Gaining confidence means getting outside your comfort zone, experiencing setbacks, and, with determination, picking yourself up again.

1. Failure. There it is. It’s the most frightening, and yet most critical partner to confidence. Failure is an inevitable result of risk taking, and it’s essential for building resilience.

2. Mistakes and failure: Okay, you made a mistake. You didn’t succeed. Here’s why. Maybe you can try a different strategy.’ That’s where confidence comes from.” Failure builds self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-compassion.

Confidence Boosting ACTIVITY: Part of risk and failure means pushing ourselves and our children in areas in which we’re not comfortable. Honestly, what have you been putting off because you're not comfortable with it? What are you willing to try? What is the worse that could happen?

3. Adopt a growth mindset- The starting point for risk, failure, perseverance, and, ultimately, confidence, is a way of thinking, one brilliantly defined by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck as a “growth mind-set.” She’s found that the most successful and fulfilled people in life always believe they can improve, that they can still learn things. Growth mindset builds self-compassion, self-efficacy, self-esteem and optimism.

Confidence requires a growth mind-set because believing that skills can be learned leads to doing new things. It encourages risk, and it supports resilience when we fail. Making a distinction between talent and effort is critical. Growth Mindset ACTIVITY: Think about where you might have had a fixed mindset and how you can change it into a growth mindset. Curious questions, how can you learn and grow?

SUMMARY: Adopt a willingness to be different (authentic) is critical to confidence. Choose confidence. Be adaptive. Practice quick failures. Make repeated attempts. Try something you've been meaning to try. When in doubt- ACT. Step out of comfort zone. What's the worse that could happen? That's right you could fail. Practice self-compassion. “Yes, sometimes I do fail, we all fail, and that’s okay.”Don't ruminate. Kill NAT's Negative automatic thoughts. Turn focus on others. Become purpose driven. Don't take it personal. Find ways to take in compliments. Repeat repeat repeat. Speak up. Praise progress not perfection. Be honest Kind and firm.


Women are so keen to get everything just right that we are terrified of getting something wrong. But, if we don’t take risks, we’ll never reach the next level.

The thoroughly accomplished twenty-first-century woman should spend less time worrying about whether she’s competent enough and more time focused on self-belief and action.

Life on confidence can be a remarkable thing.

The biggest and perhaps most encouraging discovery has been that confidence is something we can, to a significant extent, control. We can all make a decision, at any point in our lives, to create more of it.

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