A recent article highlights the 'confidence gap' that often prevents women from competing for recognition (with each other as well as men). For myself, I never thought it was a problem. When I took the StrengthsFinder exam in 2000, "Self-Assurance" came out as one of my top five strengths. And yet, as I was reading this article I realized that a raw talent for believing in myself does not necessarily lead to success.
Confidence is like a muscle. You have to excercise it correctly. First, tell others you can do it, then show them, running the risk of disappointing them. Then realize failure doesn't mean you're not competent, and get up and do it all over again. Announce/do/fail-succeed, then repeat over and over. Whether you fail or succeed at a cycle is not irrelevant, but it is much, much less relevant than you think. In and of itself, failure is never a reason to stop. And you can't strengthen your confidence if you don't risk failure.
The Atlantic: The Confidence Gap, 2014-Apr-14 by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Even as our understanding of confidence expanded, however, we found that our original suspicion was dead-on: there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.
A growing body of evidence shows just how devastating this lack of confidence can be. Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence....
Richard Petty, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, who has spent decades focused on the subject. “Confidence,” he told us, “is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” Of course, other factors also contribute to action. “If the action involves something scary, then what we call courage might also be needed,” Petty explained. “Or if it’s difficult, a strong will to persist might also be needed. Anger, intelligence, creativity can play a role.” But confidence, he told us, is essential, because it applies in more situations than these other traits do. It is the factor that turns thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of, and that then transforms those judgments into action.
The simplicity is compelling, and the notion that confidence and action are interrelated suggests a virtuous circle. Confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed, a belief that stimulates action. In turn, taking action bolsters one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed. So confidence accumulates—through hard work, through success, and even through failure.