Katty Kay // The Confidence Code

“In the most basic terms, what we need to do is start acting and risking and failing, and stop mumbling and apologizing and prevaricating. It isn’t that women don’t have the ability to succeed; it’s that we don’t seem to believe we can succeed, and that stops us from even trying. ”

“Likewise the two of us spent years attributing our own success to luck, or, like Blanche DuBois, to the kindness of strangers. And we weren’t being deliberately self-deprecating—we actually believed it. After all, how could we possibly have deserved to get to where we’d gotten?”

“Seventeen women in a row spoke during the plenary session, and all seventeen started their remarks with some sort of apology or disclaimer. ‘I just have one point to make,’ or ‘I’ve never thought about this very much’ or ‘I really don’t know whether this is accurate.’ And it was a women’s leadership conference!”

“We found that success correlates more closely with confidence than it does with competence.”

“Fortunately, a substantial part of the confidence code is what psychologists call volitional: our choice. ”

“By refusing to take credit for what I had achieved, I wasn’t nurturing the confidence I needed for my next career steps”

“Do men doubt themselves sometimes? Of course. But they don’t examine those doubts in such excruciating detail, and they certainly don’t let those doubts stop them as often as women do.”

“They aren’t consciously trying to fool anyone. Columbia Business School even has a term for it now. They call it “honest overconfidence” and they have found that men on average rate their performance to be 30 percent better than it is.

“They believe that a lack of confidence is fundamentally holding women back, but they’re worried about saying anything, terrified of sounding sexist. Most don’t experience our lack of assurance, they don’t understand it, and they don’t know how to talk about it.”

When people are confident, when they think they are good at something, regardless of how good they actually are, they display a lot of nonverbal and verbal behavior.

“Overconfidence can also be read as arrogance or bluster, but Anderson thinks the reason the more confident students didn’t alienate the others is that they weren’t faking their confidence. They genuinely believed they were good, and that self-belief was what came across. Fake confidence, he told us, just doesn’t work in the same way because we can see the “tells.”

“Confidence is not, as we once believed, simply feeling good about yourself, saying you’re great, perfect just as you are, and can do whatever you want to do. That way of thinking hasn’t really worked for us, has it? Just saying “I can do that” doesn’t mean that you believe it or will act on it. ”

“Hearing “You are wonderful” from someone else doesn’t help, either.”

“Kepecs, remember, isn’t focused on whether his rats make the right choice. He’s measuring how firmly they believe they’ve made the right choice. That is the confidence.

“It’s a belief that you can accomplish the task you want to accomplish,” Utah State University’s Christy Glass told us. “It’s specific to a domain. I could be a confident public speaker, but not a confident writer, for example.”

“Mastery isn’t about being the best tennis player or the best mom. The resonance of mastery is in the process and progress. It is about work, and learning to develop an appetite for challenge. Mastery inevitably means encountering hurdles; you won’t always overcome them, but you won’t let them stop you from trying. You may never become a world-class swimmer, but you will learn to swim across the lake.”

“Self-esteem is essential for emotional well-being, but it is distinct from confidence because confidence is typically tied to feelings about what we can achieve: “I am confident that I can run this race and get to the end.” Self-esteem tends to be more stable and more pervasive than confidence. If you have an overall good feeling about your position in the universe, chances are you’ll have that for life and it will color much of what you do. It’s an invaluable buffer for withstanding setbacks.”

“Confidence and optimism as closely related but with an important distinction—optimism is a more generalized outlook, and it doesn’t necessarily encourage action. Confidence does. “Optimism is the sense that everything will work out,” she says. “Confidence is, ‘I can make this thing work.’ ”

“Self-compassion dictates that we treat ourselves as we treat our friends. If your friend comes to you and says, “I just failed. I blew it,” what do you do? You’re kind, you’re supportive, you’re understanding, and you give your friend a hug. Or if it’s a guy, you give your friend a slap on the back. You try to pick the other person up. But, Neff told us, all too often we don’t do that for ourselves: “Indeed, often the people who are most compassionate toward others are the least forgiving to themselves.”

“Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”

“Other factors, he explained, will of course play a role. “If the action involves something scary, then what we call courage might also be needed for the action to occur.”

“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 the most important factor. It first turns our thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of, and it then transforms those judgments into actions.”

“Better to believe a bit too much in your capabilities than is called for, because then you lean toward doing things instead of just thinking about doing them.”

“The nimble rhesus monkey is the only primate that shares with us a particular gene variation that researchers are coming to see as essential to personality formation. The gene is called SLC6A4, or the serotonin transporter gene, and it directly affects confidence.”

“The first six months of bonding and nurturing are critical. Just how critical? “We did studies looking at monkeys whose genetic background suggested that they would be naturally anxious and fearful, and we cross-fostered them with mothers who were supportive and there for their kids,” he told us. “And those kids did beautifully when they grew up. They grew highly social. They got used to looking to others for help, and they ended up at the top of their dominant cycle.”

So here’s how it breaks down: Monkeys that were born with the more resilient genes essentially did fine with any type of mother. The monkeys that have the social anxiety gene, raised by anxious or neglectful mothers, grew into anxious adult monkeys. A decent mother produces a somewhat anxious adult, but a great mother can turn a baby genetically programmed to be at risk for anxiety into a healthy adult. With her nurturing, her child can overcome the genetic blueprint.”

“Elliott told us that cognitive behavioral therapy, a technique developed to help individuals create new thought patterns, is the most effective approach to making specific behavioral changes, but some of the most dramatic examples of a change in the brain’s function and structure have involved basic meditation.”

“Soon we learn that we are most valuable, and most in favor, when we do things the right way: neatly and quietly. We begin to crave the approval we get for being good.”

“Research shows that when a boy fails, he takes it in stride, believing it’s due to a lack of effort. When a girl makes a similar mistake she sees herself as sloppy, and comes to believe that it reflects a lack of skill.”

“Girls still don’t play enough competitive sports, where we train them to know what it’s like to compete and win.”

“There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a higher salary in later life. ”

“In the classroom, boys tend to raise their hands before they’ve even heard the question, let alone formulated a reply. Essentially, they turn everything into a competition. All of this behavior may irritate the teacher, but it’s hard not to envy that degree of confidence.”

“We believe that we should wait until we are absolutely sure that we are ready for something before we ask for it.” It took her a decade in the workplace to learn to ask for something boldly, without waiting.”

“Not only do we dislike women who talk a lot, we actively expect men to take the floor and dominate conversations; we punish them if they don’t.”

“My parents definitely taught me everything would work out—if I worked twice as hard as everyone.” She then bursts out in a hearty laugh. “They told me later they didn’t really think that advice would work, but figured they should say it, because it was the best they had.”

“At every age, physical appearance plays a disproportionate role in building a woman’s self-confidence. We are much quicker to criticize our appearance than men are to criticize theirs. The data is devastating. One international study shows 90 percent of all women want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. “And only 2 percent of us actually think we are beautiful.”

“Unlike our male colleagues, women often would rather be liked than respected, which makes it harder for us to shoulder those tough workplace negotiations. ”

“Men tend to let things go, slide off their backs. Women tend to be more self-reflective: ‘What did I do wrong?’ as opposed to thinking it’s just a bad set of circumstances and so let’s move on.”

“What Dunning notices is that the men in the course recognize the hurdle for what it is, and they respond to their lower grades by saying, “Wow, this is a tough course.” That’s what’s known as external attribution, and it’s usually a healthy sign of resilience. The women in the course tend to respond differently. When the course gets hard for them, their reaction is, “You see, I knew I wasn’t good enough.” That’s internal attribution, and with failure, it can be debilitating.”

“Women tend to have the bulk of their brain cell matter in the frontal cortex, the home to reasoning, and some in the limbic cortex, an emotional center. Men have less than half of all their brain cell matter in their frontal cortex. Theirs tends to be spread throughout the brain.”

“What Amen found is that female brains are more active, in almost all areas, than male brains—and especially in those two areas we mentioned, the prefrontal cortex and the limbic cortex. One study suggests that women have 30 percent more neurons firing at any given time than men. “The activity in these regions probably indicates female strengths, including empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate worry,” Amen told us, “but women are also more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, and being unable to turn off their thoughts.”

“Dr. Amen believes his study is evidence that women are often thinking more than men. That can be a plus. It’s why we are better at multitasking, he says. But it can also lead to that snowballing of negative thinking and anxiety. “It’s useful in small doses,” says Amen, “but then it becomes worry and stress to the point where you can’t rest.” A confidence killer.”

“Add to that a new study from McGill University in Montreal, which shows that women produce 52 percent less serotonin in their brains than men do—remember that’s the critical hormone that helps keep our anxiety and amygdala under control. We started digging into women and serotonin levels and we learned a lot we weren’t eager to hear. While girls aren’t born with the short strand serotonin variation any more often than boys are, it turns out that girls and women respond differently to that variant. When women get the short straw, or the short strands, they are more likely to be prone to anxious behavior than men are. Likewise, some studies show the same result for women and the COMT variant that controls dopamine. When we get the “worrier” variety, we are more likely to be truly anxious.”

“There’s a little part of our brains called the cingulate gyrus. It helps us weigh options and recognize errors—some people call it the worrywart center. And, of course, it’s larger in women.”

“A crucial difference we have that is a clear advantage in our modern lives—women tend to use both hemispheres of our brain more regularly than do men, combining the left side, home of mathematical and logical skills, and the right side, where the artistic and emotional skills reside. That’s the science of female multitasking abilities. Laura-Ann Petitto told us that bilateral use of the brain is more effective, and, actually, more cognitively advanced.”

“In the largest ongoing study of brain development in children, the National Institutes of Health has documented that, by age eleven, there’s a large gulf not just between the way boys and girls think but also in their actual capabilities. Essentially, young boys are well behind their female peers in both language ability and emotional processing, but girls are almost as far behind the boys in spatial ability. The anatomical difference in capabilities is usually resolved by age eighteen, but that gap, if misunderstood, can easily reinforce stereotypes at a critical learning age. You can imagine why, at sixteen, a girl may conclude she’s bad at math, or a boy may declare that he will never get Shakespeare. And yet, if they just waited for their hormones to settle by their late teens or early twenties, the necessary brain functioning for both math and Shakespeare would be online in both boys and girls.”

“There’s a downside to testosterone, to be sure. This egocentric hormone is also associated with an inability to see others’ points of view. When you have a lot of testosterone coursing through your body, you’re less interested in connecting and cooperating. That’s not great for business in a modern world, which relies so heavily on communicating with others. ”

“We uncovered one startling study that found testosterone levels in men decline when they spend more time with their children.”

“Children have been rewarded for anything and everything, instead of for genuine accomplishment. Girls and women express more self-doubt than boys and men do, but modern parenting has created hollow confidence for both genders, as it often gives kids little responsibility, matched with a lot of praise and prizes.”

“Confidence, at least the part that’s not in our genes, requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence, and sometimes bitter failure. ”

“They should be introduced to risk taking, but carefully. Don’t just drop them in the middle of the lake. Teach them how to do things, and then give them opportunities, and be there when they need guidance. When they succeed, celebrate together, and talk about what worked. And if they fail, talk about what they did well, and the action should be the emphasis, but also what they can learn, and how to make it better the next time.”
“Most women think their abilities are fixed, Dweck told us. They’re either good at math or bad at math. ”

“Confidence comes from stepping out of your comfort zone and working toward goals that come from your own values and needs, goals that aren’t determined by society.”

“Hudson says she’s never been interested in being liked. She wants to be respected. She thanks her parents for that, too. Her parents were teachers; they didn’t have much money, but instilled in their willing daughter the value of learning and the confidence to dream big. More important, when she faced a setback, they were the ones who would send her back into the world.”

“They are who they are, warts and all, and if you don’t like it, or think it is weak to show vulnerability, too bad for you.”

“Think about how terrific it feels when you get a compliment on your work, your clothes, your hair. Often, there’s an immediate lift, and then we relive those moments later to rekindle that buzz. It turns out that flattery and praise are as lethal as sugar. A little bit is fine, but much more than that and we’re unhealthily addicted. Ohio State University psychologist Jennifer Crocker has discovered that people who base their self-worth and self-confidence on what others think of them don’t just pay a mental price; they pay a physical price, too. Crocker’s study of six hundred college students showed that those who depended on others for approval—of their appearance, grades, choices, you name it—reported more stress and had higher levels of drug abuse and eating disorders.

“Other studies suggest that men rely less on praise than women do to feel confident.”

“Confidence that is dependent on other people’s praise is a lot more vulnerable than confidence built from our own achievements.”

“Raising our children to constantly seek our approval, instead of helping them to develop their own code, will be debilitating for them later.”

“The temptation to say “I’m not good enough; I can’t do it,” exists for everyone at some point, in some circumstance. We’ve all heard “My mother didn’t praise me enough,” or “No one in my family is very confident.” But when we write off confidence as purely a twist of genetic or environmental fate, we’re shutting off possibilities that could change our lives. We don’t need to be stuck in that pattern of self-doubt. It’s a matter of pushing yourself to action over inaction, even in a man’s world.”

Fail fast.

“These days, the world won’t wait for perfection, and spending the time endlessly refining your product is just too expensive. ”

“If we can embrace failure as forward progress, then we can spend time on the other critical confidence skill: mastery.”

“Confidence, as we’ve said (at least fifty times by now, and there are a few more repetitions to come), is about action.”

“What’s the worst that can happen, in all of these scenarios, when you leave your comfort zone? That’s right. We’re back there again. You could fail.”

“Simply put, a woman’s brain is not her friend when it comes to confidence. We think too much and we think about the wrong things. Thinking harder and harder and harder won’t solve our issues, though, it won’t make us more confident, and it most certainly freezes decision making, not to mention action. Remember, the female brain works differently from the male brain; we really do have more going on, we are more keenly aware of everything happening around us, and that all becomes part of our cognitive stew. Ruminating drains the confidence from us. Those negative thoughts, and nightmare scenarios masquerading as problem solving, spin on an endless loop. We render ourselves unable to be in the moment or to trust our instincts because we are captive to those distracting, destructive thoughts”

To break this negative pattern, Petitto decided to react to it by reminding herself of three things she’d done well. Now, when the negative ruminations start, she consciously goes through her list of achievements and successes: “That was a good paper I finished,” the interior monologue might now go. “I got that lab report done quicker than I expected. I had a good conversation with my new grad student.”

NAT (negative automatic thoughts) “Keep a journal and write them down.”

“The best way to kill a NAT isn’t to beat yourself up for having it. That simply leads to more anxiety. The most effective and surprisingly easy fix is to look for an alternative point of view. Just one different interpretation, perhaps a positive, or even neutral, reframing, can open the door for confidence.

“If your daughters play a sport, don’t let them quit when it gets hard—no one in sports is perfect.

Start them young if you can. It’s easier to get used to knocking into other people when you are four than it is at ten and, for girls, that can be even harder to get used to.”

“Pointing out role models in all of these fields, encourage our daughters to push themselves to reach a tangible goal represented by a human, female face, rather than aspire to a dubious fantasy.”

“So, rather than repeatedly telling your friend she’s great, try encouraging her to take action instead.”

“Doing, working, deciding, and mastering are gender neutral.”

“Think Less. Take Action. Be Authentic.”

Maminka. Přítelkyně. Lékařka. Ráda kreslím, píšu a směju se. Nejvíc sama sobě.

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