Last month’s Atlantic Magazine featured a cover page story on the “Confidence Gap” between men and women. For a variety of reasons both biological and environmental, women drastically underestimate their own competence. This, the article tells us, is a big obstacle to women accomplishing the success they are due.
While it was interesting to me that womankind as a whole seems to value themselves more meanly than mankind, it was all the more interesting to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling anywhere from out of my depth to outright fraudulent in many situations. Apparently many other ladies in the room were likely feeling just the same.
But more than anything else, the article left me examining a gap within myself. The gap between where I feel my confidence ought to be and where is actually is. And where it is, quite frankly, is way….way behind. Let’s say…1994 behind.
When I moved from the U.K. to the U.S. at age twelve, I am sure I was an insufferable little know-it-all…with an English accent to boot. And perhaps I had a small take down coming to me. But the torture of that first year as the new girl led to a crushing middle school career, followed by an ostracizing high school tenure. And now here I am at 31. Even an adoring and wonderful husband and my many other privileges have yet to succeed in erasing the damage done over those years.
And its not just the memory of that damage…but the harm that the consequent lack of confidence has done and continues to do to me both, personally and professionally. The inability to believe that any idea I have, anything I produce can ever really be worthy of praise. Have I really allowed a 12 year old bully to still matter in the life of a 31 year old me?
I think one of the things I look the least forward to with my son growing up is seeing him come to the realization that all children do…that the rest of the world does not think so well of them as their parents do. As a highly precocious oldest child with an enormous chip on her shoulder…this was a crushing lesson to learn. And one that I am not sure I have recovered from yet.
The ability to master my middle school demons is important. Not just for me to become my own best advocate and defender, but to contribute to closing the confidence gap between men and women by demonstrating a healthy confidence to the young man I am raising. It is important to add a male to the population who is at ease with a powerful woman, a woman in command of herself and her job…and before even that, a 12 year old boy that might find a bossy little girl with an accent a prime candidate for a friend, rather than for ridicule.
Do you underestimate your own confidence? Does this affect your choice to participate in, or do, certain things? How can we contribute to closing the confidence gap between men and women?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Natalia Rankine-Galloway who writes at The Culture Mum Chronicles.
Photo credit to Jason Pratt. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.