The Confidence Myth : A Book Review

The Confidence Myth: Why Women Undervalue Their Skills and How to Get Over It, author Helene Lerner acknowledges both the external prejudices and the internal factors that create challenges for women, many of which I have discussed in previous articles. Lerner also debunks some long-held myths about confidence that are important for us to consider: Myth #1: Being confident means you are fearless. Lerner points out that, actually, most people who are successful sometimes feel fear, nervousness, or doubt. In fact, feeling nervous can keep us sharp and alert so that we are poised to do our best at important moments. Myth #2: Being confident means being self-sufficient and not needing help or support. Once again, not true. We all need people to be thought partners, coaches, and cheerleaders who encourage us to take risks and go for what we want. Myth #3: A confident person is calm and certain. Lerner points out that “confidence is taking action while having conflicting thoughts and sensations,” which doesn’t always mean being comfortable. Myth #4: Leadership presence is something you are born with. Not so, says Lerner. Leadership presence involves skills that we can learn. These skills include being authentic, demonstrating poise during stressful times, listening well, dressing appropriately, and using power language to assert yourself (especially true for women). Myth #5: If I don’t do it, no one else will. Lerner notes that learning to say no, setting limits with people, and identifying and prioritizing our own needs are essential to our own success. As women, we are often so focused on the needs of others that we don’t even know what our own needs are. Lerner suggests that we make time for simple pleasures that replenish us; get rid of time bandits like guilt, people pleasing, and perfectionism; and learn to say no. Myth #6: Being a “nice” person means not bragging and not talking about my abilities. We need to be able to toot our own horns and advocate for ourselves. How will others know what we are good at—or how confident we can be—unless we tell them? Myth #7: Women have to be twice as good, or perfectionists, to get ahead. Even in the face of prejudices and negative stereotypes about women, Lerner argues that we need to give up perfectionism. Being perfect is not attainable and striving for that standard is not sustainable. It’s better in the long run to take risks, reach high, and grow from mistakes—and learn to use a standard of “good enough” to keep from getting paralyzed by perfectionism. Myth #8: Good leaders always make rational decisions. Nonsense, once again. Lerner points out that “research shows a positive correlation between intuition and business success.” Learning to listen to and trust our intuition, or inner voice, is not some feminine magical notion. In fact, both male and female leaders talk about the importance of making rapid decisions that draw upon their experience. Lerner states that we can even reframe intuition as “the rapid processing of everything we already know, everything we’ve learned and experienced.” However you explain it, we each have an inner voice we can learn to trust and that can be an important source of information. Lerner’s book is packed with useful information, real-life stories, and exercises to develop important skills for creating the perception of confidence. I highly recommend this book.]]>

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