Confidence is an elusive attribute. We all feel we have it – or had it – at some point in our careers. But, as we age, some of us have less of it. Why? The authors of The Confidence Code, What Every Woman Should Know, believe it is tied to risk. As we age, our likelihood for risk aversion increases.
Early in our careers, we probably had less at stake when in came to taking chances. It was fine to take a leap off that cliff in order to advance professionally. Long hours on the job, the risk it might have taken to relocate, the risk to start your own business, etc., didn’t seem too much to bear. But, as we grew older, started to have families, and thought about retirement, the more it seemed that taking any sort of risk was, well, too risky.
Last week LinkedIn, Connect: Professional Women’s Network, Powered by Citi hosted an on-line chat with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code. It was a fascinating conversation from women of all ages and professions. I was most interested in how Kay and Shipman answered questions posed by those of us who are 50+ with regard to confidence.
As it turns out, according to the research the authors have done, we become more risk averse and less willing to take on tasks that push us outside of our comfort zone as we age. From the questions asked, women over the age of 50 seemed to want to break the cycle of low confidence. The authors made a few recommendations to get us to take the next step. Here are a few of their comments:
“…attempt to start small and find ways to test the waters and stretch yourself, in the direction of your new goals, and reacquaint yourself with risk-taking a bit. I think you’ll find that you’ll get that sense of possibility back. Just remember–it isn’t just there. That sense of possibility exists when we are out there taking risks, and often failing, but picking ourselves up.”
“Identify a small risk–something you can accomplish in 15 minutes. Maybe it’s sending an email you’ve been putting off, or making an unpleasant phone call. Whatever it is, set your timer, and do it. Notice how you feel, and how you will then be ready to take on something else a bit difficult. That’s a confidence boost.”
When I started my own business 25 years ago, I would not say I had an over abundance of confidence. As time moved on and I took more risks (some wise, some not so wise), I began to trust that inner confident voice. Somehow I knew that I had more experience under my belt, and that I could survive no matter what happened.
In comparing my confidence dips with the advice of the authors, I think they would give myself a B+ in how I handled things:
- I would remind myself that I had the nerve, chutzpah, and naivete, to actual invest, open, and run this business. Others often talked about it, but most never did it.
- I celebrated my successes and recalled that I did it on my own – often with a great team that I assembled.
- I often sought the support of my network of cheerleaders who knew and had CONFIDENCE that I would succeed,
- I allowed myself to fail. Sure, it was a confidence buster, but I also forgave myself and took the lessons learned to move on.
Having the right amount of confidence is an ever-present issue for most female professionals. It’s individual, it needs to be managed, and it is an attribute to care for every day. Confidence can be your best friend and your worst enemy.
Finally, invest in this book – it provides practical advice along with assurances that issues of low confidence takes work and can be overcome.