The Confidence Code Review

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One of my goals this December was to finish reading The Confidence Code. The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman.

Number of pages: 203

We’ve all had feelings of self-doubt. Whether we’re too embarrassed to ask for more money at our job, nervous when giving a speech or holding conversations with people, or ruminating on all the things we did wrong instead of right. Why can’t we be more confident and take more risks? Is it simply wired in our DNA or is confidence something we can learn?

I’ll tell you straight up that this book is not one of those “self-help” advice kind. It’s more factually based with interviews and research from behavioral therapists, neurologists and psychologists.

It first starts off by interviewing women in different environments– sports, law, business. Anyone would think that these women in their professional settings would have sky-high confidence, but would you be surprised to hear that they, too, struggle with feelings of self-doubt? The book also talks about how confidence impacts us as children and the importance of letting our girls make mistakes instead of always praising them for being quiet, well-behaved and reliable.

Below are some key take-aways:

  • “A number of studies conducted with MRIs, before and after a short period of meditation, showed less activity in the amygdala (the fear center of the brain) after an average of 8 weeks of meditation.”
  • “It’s in school that girls are expected to keep their head’s down, study quietly, and do as they’re told. We didn’t charge down the halls like wild animals, and we didn’t get into fights during recess…” “The result is that making mistakes, and taking risks, behavior critical for confidence building, is also behavior girls are trying to avoid, to their detriment.”
  • “Research shows that when a boy fails, he takes it in stride, believing it’s due to lack of effort. When a girl makes a similar mistake she sees herself as sloppy, and comes to believe that it reflects lack of skill.”
  • “The fear center of our brain is the amygdalae. We all have two of them. One is associated with taking external action as a result of negative emotions, and the other with using thought processes and memory in response to stress. Men rely more on the amygdala that deals with action, while women tend to activate the memory/emotion amygdala more easily.”
  • “The key to creating a growth mind-set is to start small. Think about what you praise in yourself or your kids. If you praise ability by saying, “You’re so smart” or “You’re so good at tennis; you’re a natural athlete,” you are instilling a fixed mind-set. If, however, you say, “You’ve worked so hard at tennis, especially your backhand,” you are encouraging a growth mind-set.”
  • “Making a distinction between talent and effort is critical. If we believe that somehow we’re given talents at birth that we can’t control, then we’re unlikely to believe that we can really improve on areas in which we’re weak. But when success is measured by effort and improvement, then it becomes something we can control, something we can choose to improve on.”
  • “Claiming a top position always seems daunting, but coasting at the same level doesn’t increase our confidence. The trick is to recognize that the next level up might be hard, that you might be nervous, but to not let those nerves stop you from acting.”
  • “Confidence is a choice we can make to act, or to do, or decide.”
  • “Is failure really worse than doing nothing? And how often might we have triumphed if we had just decided to give it a try?”
  • “Failing fast. Do it, learn and move on.”
  • “Instead of saying, “I am not a failure,” it’s more useful to say, “Yes, sometimes I do fail, we all fail, and that’s okay.” It’s extending the same kindness and tolerance – the very same qualities we find so much easier to afford our friends – to ourselves, while coming to terms with our own imperfections.”
  • “The people who succeed aren’t always naturals. They are doers.”
  • “Upspeak when answering questions. Upspeak: Raising the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence in a way that suggests what you are really doing is asking a question, not making a declaration.”
  • “Praise progress not perfection.”
  • “Think less. Take action. Be authentic. Confidence is within reach. The experience of it can be addictive. And it’s greatest rewards go well beyond workplace achievements or outward success.”

Overall, this book was very informative and compelling. I recommend it to all the women out there who want to understand how confidence differs in men and women; those who think they are alone in this self-doubt struggle – even professional basketball players, law-makers and CEO’s face daily mind-set battles, and the importance of raising confident daughters by encouraging mistakes and risk taking.

So how to we improve our confidence? Focus on less people pleasing. More action, risk-taking, and fast failure.

One of my goals this 2018 is to work on my confidence. Teaching BJJ to a group of students, mostly men, as a mere blue-belt takes courage and confidence, but I know that I pertain the skills to do so and that it’s my mind-set I have to convince.

Ultimately, confidence takes action and if that leads to mistakes and failure then so be it. I (and you) will eventually learn how to deal with it, accept our imperfections and adopt a growth mind-set.

Do you struggle with confidence? What is one thing you would do if your confidence wasn’t an issue? Leave an answer in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!
-Jules

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