Book Review: The Confidence Code

What says:

Confidence. We want it. We need it. But it can be maddeningly enigmatic and out of reach. The authors of the New York Times bestsellerWomenomics deconstruct this essential, elusive, and misunderstood quality and offer a blueprint for bringing more of it into our lives.

Is confidence hardwired into the DNA of a lucky few—or can anyone learn it? Is it best expressed by bravado, or is there another way to show confidence? Which is more important: confidence or competence? Why do so many women, even the most successful, struggle with feelings of self-doubt? Is there a secret to channeling our inner confidence?

In The Confidence Code, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman travel to the frontiers of neuroscience on a hunt for the confidence gene and reveal surprising new research on its roots in our brains. They visit the world’s leading psychologists who explain how we can all choose to become more confident simply by taking action and courting risk, and how those actions change our physical wiring. They interview women leaders from the worlds of politics, sports, the military, and the arts to learn how they have tapped into this elemental resource. They examine how a lack of confidence impacts our leadership, success, and fulfillment.

Ultimately, they argue, while confidence is partly influenced by genetics, it is not a fixed psychological state. That’s the good news. You won’t discover it by thinking positive thoughts or by telling yourself (or your children) that you are perfect as you are. You also won’t find it by simply squaring your shoulders and faking it. But it does require a choice: fewer people pleasing and perfectionism and more action, risk-taking, and fast failure.

Inspiring, insightful, and persuasive, The Confidence Code shows that by acting on our best instincts and by daring to be authentic, women can feel the transformative power of a life of confidence.

The Confidence Code

What I say: One of my fitness friends recommended this book to me after reading my post about Mingling with Elites and my confession that my inner critic is a jerk at times. I was curious to dive into this book and to see where the authors would take their study of confidence from a science and art perspective. Is confidence genetic or is confidence created in individuals based on nurture from their family & environment?

I loved reading about the genetic study of confidence in Chapter 3: Wired for Confidence. The primate study makes perfect sense and explains why some individuals are born with personalities that are more risk-averse than others and therefore show more confidence in tackling life. The following chapter delves into how men & women are raised in most traditional societies and how they are nurtured. It shows how letting little boys are allowed to be rambunctious and wild and how that can affect the growth of confidence in an individual. While many girls are taught to be prim and proper and perfect and how that can inhibit the skills it takes to survive in the corporate world or in athletic endeavors. I can draw potential conclusions on why I’m not as confident in my athletic endeavors to my childhood. I didn’t want to play ball sports or participate in gym class and I wanted to spend all my days in the dance studio or pool. I wonder if I was forced to stick it out a little longer in little league or soccer would my confidence in athletic sports be much higher than it is today? I learned confidence standing in the spotlight on stage so I can adapt in a public speaking world but I didn’t push through athletic struggles that scared me or frustrated me as a kid. I was allowed to quit and do only the things I wanted to. I’m not blaming my parents but I can see why I question my abilities as I learn to tackle obstacle races now in my adult life.

Chapter 6 on failing fast explains why I’ve been able to develop confidence in the workplace. I delved into a breakthrough moment on being fired in this blog post that explains why I was able to teach myself to be more assertive and confident in the boardroom. I watch how I talk to coworkers and always act with confidence and self-assuredness because of past failures. I sit at the table when I need to be heard and I lean into my career. I even noticed recently something I can work on when my boss told me that my coworkers respond to me better when I use a calm, cool, and collected voice vs an excited one (the authors talk about how women use high-pitched intonation to make statements sound like questions vs facts and how it doesn’t go over well in a male corporate world). I thought I was using a positive tone to show my motivation towards a project but I realize that in a male-dominated world a lower calm voice is better received. Just simple little things one can do to be successful in this crazy concrete jungle.

Overall this is a great book that gives a new perspective on confidence. It can be a great tool for parents looking for tips in raising confident daughters (& sons) and adults learning to nurture confidence within themselves.

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