Today I would like to talk about self confidence. Only I’m not here to inspire you. Nope. I’m here to complain. Specifically, I’m here to complain about something I’ve heard too often for a long time.
“As women, I think we hold ourselves back.”
“Us women have low self confidence because we don’t go for the big opportunities. We hold ourselves back.”
And many, many, many variants on those two statements.
PSA: Just stop it!! Stop assuming that women have low self confidence!
I heard it on a podcast recently and it was the last straw. It wasn’t even related to the topic of that podcast, it was just slipped in as something to talk about. I took to Twitter & vented a little.
— Vanessa Smith (@normal_ness) December 9, 2015
and I love this reply I received:
@normal_ness pure nonsense to suggest that half the people on earth just can’t be fucked/are scared to progress in their job.
— Sarah Coates (@TheSarahCoates) December 9, 2015
Why is there this assumption that if a woman make a choice that someone else doesn’t agree with, that it’s because we’re holding ourselves back?
Decision making and motivation, two key elements to success in any specific endeavour, are comprised of many more factors than only self confidence.
What makes me sad is that I can’t ever recall any men saying this to me. It seems, at least in my experience, to be said only by women, to women.
Maybe it’s true for you, I don’t know. Maybe you recognise it’s a barrier for you and to that I say kudos for knowing that about yourself & working on it. Heck, kudos for knowing it, even if you’re not working on it. Sometimes knowing things about ourselves is the biggest obstacle.
Personally, I don’t think it’s true for me. I do find it offensive when it’s said to me. I find myself incredibly sick of hearing it all the time.
We all have a lot of things we do in our lives and these things all sit on a spectrum of enjoyment, competence, confidence and relevance.
What really concerned me about this was earlier this year when even a psychologist spouted this to me. I was told that, like all women, I was holding myself back if I didn’t apply for a job. Well, excuse me, but these are the reasons I replied with “I don’t know” when you asked if I was applying for it:
- I knew it had been advertised but I hadn’t read the full ad and position description yet.
- I knew the pay rate and hadn’t done a budget to see how I would fare financially on that salary.
- I vaguely knew the duties and responsibilities and thought it may bore me.
- It was quite a few steps backwards for me (but with the advantage being permanency of the position).
In fairness, this was in a social and not a clinical setting, but it still concerned me that such a huge assumption like that came out of their mouth.
At what point do these seemingly innocent comments become a self perpetuating myth? At what point does “awareness” (by people with no actual qualifications in a relevant area) start to imply to people that they should feel a lack of confidence in activities? A dialogue on topics is useful. Asking a friend (for example) why they didn’t want to apply for a job has some merit. Forcing your opinion on them that if they had just been more self confident they could have gone for it achieves nothing.
Where do you stand on this? Are you sick of hearing about low self confidence in women? And the assumption that it applies to everyone and is the reason for decisions?