What is it about that moment? You know, that instant when you get off the phone with someone important and realize you’d said something wrong. You missed opportunities to come across the way you’d planned; strong, confident, experienced, knowledgeable... Instead you clamored clumsily for a response, rambled for too long, and your voice came out a tad too hyper. Immediately, your heart sinks, you want to climb back through the phone and tell the person “No!! That’s not what I wanted to say! I’m smart! I’m poised! I’m talented!” But alas, what’s done is done. And you’re left with the worst feeling until enough time passes that it’s just a lesson you’re glad you learned. Regret, followed by frustration, followed by unshakable self-doubt.
Usually accompanied by a tangible feeling of your heart sinking ever downwards, self-doubt is probably one of the most common feelings entrepreneurs- female entrepreneurs- experience. In reality, that phone conversation was probably 90% great and 10% slip-ups. But as self-conscious creatures, we focus in on that 10% and criticize ourselves until we’re convinced that the whole event was butchered.
What is it about that moment? We hang up the phone and for a brief couple of seconds we feel fine, ...but then our self-criticism comes crashing down on us, flashing back to each point in the conversation that was weak or downright embarrassing. What happens in those two seconds that causes us to completely lose our perspective?
Maybe it’s our drive to always improve and do better. Maybe we subconsciously think that the worse we make ourselves feel, the less likely we are to let those slip-ups happen in the future, our “self-correct” mechanism. But let’s examine a little further...
Let’s say this important phone call was an interview for an amazing job.
What are the reasons that we might feel self-doubt?
Fear of judgment. We're afraid of the way we might be judged by the snapshot image we've given to the interviewer.
Fear of failure. We're afraid of the "thousands of reasons" we think we deserve to have our application thrown out.
Fear of success.
Wait..Fear of success?? Isn’t success the goal? It’s a logical question. But think about it. Fear of success is that moment when you think, “Oh shit. If I succeed, then I’ll have to actually DO this.” It’s that subconscious fear that if you do get the job, you won’t be able to meet their expectations. What happens if I get it? Will I be able to carry out that long list of demands? Will I survive the long hours and the pressure? Will the compensation be enough to motivate me? Will I be fired and fail miserably?
So, what is it about that moment? Why do we (women, in particular) battle that incredibly debilitating self-doubt? Just google “self-doubt” and you’ll come up with lists of articles comparing how women answer interview questions and how men answer them. It’s clear, women underestimate their abilities while men overestimate them.
It’s a really interesting topic, one that I wasn’t even aware of until a few months ago. By talking about it and bringing it to the attention of the public, we can start to change it.
Knowing that I will statistically come off as slightly insecure, hesitant, and less confident motivates me to make a conscious effort to emphasize my abilities and top achievements in a strong, matter-of-fact manner. The difference, as Katty Kay and Claire Shipman point out in their article The Confidence Gap in The Atlantic, is that men aren’t trying to emphasize anything, they just believe that they are already awesome. “If anything, men tilt toward overconfidence—and we were surprised to learn that they come by that state quite naturally. They aren’t consciously trying to fool anyone.”
Could this be our primordial disadvantage? Is it possible that the historical sexism, inequality, and continued disadvantages today stem from something as simple as our lack of testosterone? It seems so unfair when put in such simple terms, seeing our fate twisted by mother nature. But it’s good to note that increased testosterone doesn’t always mean better decisions.
There’s something in the female make-up, too that is invaluable: empathy, humility, bonding, connection, and compassion. Typically seen as lesser qualities than testosterone-induced confidence and power, it isn’t hard to see that being able to truly connect with your interviewer will substantially increase your chances.
So yes, women often lack confidence when compared to men. But we shouldn’t see that as a disadvantage, especially when we have so many bonus traits that men typically lack. Instead, let’s see it as a challenge! Let it make us more aware of how others perceive us and let it motivate us to train ourselves to step up to the plate with unwavering confidence, even if we don’t meet 100% of the job requirements. Kay and Shipman point out that by “shifting [our] thought patterns and behavior, …we can make our brains more confidence prone.”
So, what is it about that moment? It’s likely a missing chemical that doesn’t come to our rescue before we fall into the depths of self-doubt and criticism. But we can rescue ourselves by being more aware of our tendencies, not overpreparing, and realizing that perfection isn’t necessary. Check out the intriguing conversation in the video below with authors of The Confidence Code,
Sierra is an artist and avid traveler, setting out to carve her own path to success and inspire others along the way. She is based in NYC and is currently working on a creative and culturally-immersive travel company.