Do you have a little voice in your head saying “you’re not good enough” or “you need to know more – you don’t know enough”? Maybe you don’t hear a voice. Maybe you can tell by your behavior that something is holding you back? Is doubt your closest companion?
Recently two newscasters I was watching played a clip from a Hilary Clinton speech. Hilary was saying how she wasn’t a good campaigner or public speaker – not nearly as good as her husband or president Obama. She said she had to work at it. The male newscaster commented that she was obviously trying to humanize herself after all the criticism of coming across as removed or rehearsed. The woman newscaster said “oh she is showing her lack of confidence. Women just lack the self-confidence that men have”. I was struck with the comment and the irony of her surety in saying it. It was time to dig deeper.
There have been a myriad of studies on women’s self-confidence finding that:
- Compared to men women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions and they underestimate their abilities.
- Women doubt themselves more and think they have to be perfect before they apply themselves to a challenging task or the next step in their career.
- Women blame themselves when something goes wrong and give others credit when something goes right as opposed to men who tend to blame others when something goes wrong and take credit for the successful result.
You can see some of these study findings at work in Hilary’s comments. Working harder to overcome her imperfection is one. Needing to be as good as or better than the men in her life is another. Note she is running for president of the United States after a more rigorous career than most men.
Then there are the two newscasters. The man was viewing it as a good turn of events and the woman as another example of women’s imperfection. She may not have realized that she perpetuated one of the reasons women strive for perfection. The just not good enough message!
Granted we all need to be competent at our jobs. There is no point in expecting to be self-confident when we really don’t know what we are doing. Also being realistic, there are some areas of work that do need degrees or certifications we may need to achieve. Those are facts. The little voice in the head isn’t dealing with facts. It is dealing with all the times when we were young that we didn’t get what we wanted and didn’t really know why. All the times we were told implicitly or explicitly to be good when we just wanted to be ourselves.
Try to pay attention to the little voice or track back to the start of the holding back behavior and ask if it is true in the present moment! If it isn’t, tell yourself it isn’t. Celebrate your successes no matter how small! Enjoy all you do know!