The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know

by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

The Confidence Code is a book that examines the power of confidence and how it can help women reach their goals. Through the captivating stories of two empowering women, Susan B. Anthony and Malala Yousafzai, the book highlights how confidence can be a powerful tool in accomplishing great feats despite formidable challenges. By reading this book, you'll have all it takes to build your own confidence and take on the world.

Summary Notes

Confidence: A Key to Success

Confidence is a crucial component of success, but it's often a challenging one for many people, especially women, who tend to experience a confidence gap due to gender-based biases. This gap implies that women tend to doubt and underestimate their abilities, especially when it comes to tasks such as taking tests or pursuing goals. However, this shouldn't deter us from achieving our aspirations.

Interestingly, confidence is linked to a specific part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, which plays a role in decision-making processes. It helps us decide on even the most trivial things, like how quickly to hit the snooze button on our alarm clock. But building confidence requires more than just an understanding of brain function. Self-compassion and self-efficacy are also essential components of confidence-building.

Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, even when we experience setbacks or disappointments. By putting these experiences in context, they can help increase our motivation and assist us in taking risks that build confidence.

On the other hand, self-efficacy is about believing in our ability to succeed at something. This belief helps us view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats to our self-worth.

Ultimately, confidence is the key to moving from inaction to action. It is associated with a range of positive outcomes, including hard work, mastery, resilience, and optimism. Having an appropriate level of confidence is crucial to making the right decisions in life.

Actions to take

The Role of Genetics and Environment in Building Confidence

Confidence is a complex trait that can be influenced by both our genetic makeup and our environment. Research has shown that certain genes can play a role in the development of confidence.

One such gene that's been linked to confidence is the serotonin transporter gene, which has been associated with feelings of happiness and optimism. In addition to this, there are a couple of other genes that are known to affect confidence. These include DRD47R, which is also known as the "adventure gene," and COMT, which is sometimes called the "warrior/worrier" gene. Both of these genes control dopamine.

The DRD47R gene is associated with dramatic risk-taking, which can be a crucial component of building confidence. On the other hand, the COMT gene has three different variations, with each one affecting how quickly dopamine is cleared from the frontal cortex of our brains. The variation that clears dopamine rapidly is associated with a "warrior" mindset, while the one that clears it slowly is associated with being more of a "worrier." The third variation is somewhere in between.

When dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are combined, it can make it much easier for us to feel confident. Dopamine helps us get moving, serotonin induces calm thinking, and oxytocin promotes positive attitudes toward others. However, having too much dopamine in our brains can cause a "stress shutdown" and lead to overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety.

It's worth noting that the nature vs. nurture debate is no longer seen as particularly relevant when it comes to understanding the development of confidence. Nowadays, scientists tend to focus on the interaction between our genetic makeup and our environment. Certain genes can make people more sensitive to environmental influences, and the way we habitually think can also create physical changes in the brain that can override genetics and alter brain chemistry.

Actions to take

Building Confidence Through Risk-Taking and Making Mistakes

Despite the progress women have made in education and the workplace, they still experience a confidence gap compared to men. This is largely due to societal and cultural factors that have been in place for centuries, such as the expectation that women should be compliant and not take risks.

The confidence gap is also affected by what's known as the "stereotype threat." This is when someone feels like they are at risk of confirming a negative stereotype about their identity group. For example, if a woman believes that women are naturally not as good at math as men, she may feel extra pressure to perform well on a math test because she doesn't want to confirm that stereotype. This can lead to increased anxiety and a decrease in performance.

One way to combat the stereotype threat is for women to be aware of it and use it as a motivator to fight against it. By acknowledging the existence of the stereotype and recognizing that it doesn't define their abilities, women can take steps to overcome it.

Another factor that can contribute to the confidence gap is perfectionism. Women often feel like they need to be perfect in order to succeed, which can be a major barrier to taking risks and trying new things. By accepting that failure is a natural part of the learning process and that it's okay for them to make mistakes, women can build confidence and take on new challenges with more ease.

Actions to take

Possessing Grit and a Growth Mindset

Confidence is a skill that can be developed and honed over time, similar to how an immigrant adjusts to life in a new country. It requires taking risks, learning from mistakes, and persisting through difficult situations.

To build up our confidence, we also need to have grit. This means we need to be able to keep going when things get tough and not give up. Failing is also important because it helps us become more resilient and better equipped to handle challenges in the future.

When building our confidence, adopting a growth mindset is also crucial. This means believing that we have the ability to learn and improve, even when faced with setbacks. It encourages us to take risks and bounce back from failures with increased determination.

Furthermore, it is critical to recognize that confidence should come from within rather than relying on external factors such as the validation of others. Research has shown that when we base our self-worth on external factors, like our grades or appearance, we can become more stressed and susceptible to developing eating disorders or substance abuse issues.

Actions to take

Reframing Negative Thoughts

To develop confidence, women should adopt a "fail fast" approach. This involves taking risks and quickly testing new ideas to determine what works and what doesn't. When we fail fast, we can rapidly adjust our approach and make progress towards what will be successful, rather than wasting time on ideas that won't work.

It's also essential to be kind to ourselves and reframe negative thoughts to build confidence. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a helpful tool to achieve this, as it emphasizes the connection between our thoughts and emotions. By changing our thoughts, we also can change our emotions and behavior.

Actions to take

Raising Confident Kids

If you want to help your children become independent and self-sufficient, start by making a list of twenty small tasks they can learn to do on their own. These tasks could include things like calling a friend instead of texting them, doing their own laundry, taking the bus, frying an egg, and so on. The key is to make the learning experience fun and not get angry or jump in to fix things when mistakes happen.

According to the Department of Health and Children in Ireland, positive mental health is about being confident in who you are and being able to cope with life's challenges. To help your children develop this kind of mental resilience, it's important to encourage them to try new things and take risks but also to master the basic skills they'll need to navigate life successfully. And if you're raising girls, you also need to encourage them to break the stereotype and show them they can be engineers, tech whizzes, and financial geniuses, too.

One thing to keep in mind is that positive self-statements can actually be counterproductive. Instead of telling your children how great they are, it's more helpful to encourage them to take action and try new things. This helps build confidence and self-efficacy, which are essential for success in life.

Actions to take

Daring to be Authentic and Unique

To achieve success and feel self-assured, women need not conform to the traditionally male version of confidence. Rather, they can take a distinct approach, wherein they need not always speak first. They can listen, integrate the perspectives of others, acknowledge their contributions, and deliver a composed yet impactful message.

Moreover, women can also reveal their vulnerability, which, when shared appropriately, can foster stronger connections with others. Research conducted by the Stanford Business School reveals that women who adopt a blend of male and female qualities perform better than their male counterparts.

In essence, true confidence stems from a person's authentic self. Women need not feel compelled to alter who they are to succeed. Rather, they can celebrate and leverage their individuality and use it to make meaningful contributions in their personal and professional lives.

Actions to take

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