For many of us I think it'd be fair to say that we're our own worst critic. I can be unduly harsh on myself for all manner of reasons, but I'm beginning to wonder it's the lurking self-doubt which is most damaging.
After all, the voice which tells me I look like crap when I wake up can be pushed down upon application of make up. The devil on my shoulder frowning as I even consider having a hot chocolate is punished with a gruelling spin session. I've given two time-specific examples, but in reality these voices are ever-present and they shout. The other week I tried to keep a tally of how many times throughout the day I had any negative thoughts pertaining to food or my weight and I simply couldn't keep up.
But loud as they may be....I don't *think* they affect me too deeply.
It's the thoughts that I'm not good enough which are most detrimental. I'm not focusing on body image here - I'm thinking career, specifically. Where there's the suspicion that I'm not competent enough, that I'm an imposter waiting to be found out, that I'm not up to the job. These are the thoughts I'm most worried about.
I know this idea isn't something specific to me, and in fact research shows that women as a whole suffer from a lack of confidence in a way that their male counterparts don't. It's known as The Confidence Gap and is a concern because it often overshadows female competence and sees us underachieving compared to male colleagues.
I've noticed it a few times at work recently. I work in a team of three support staff and if there's even a hint of a mistake being made, I'm having an instant cold sweat and owning up to it. Even if it's not me. And when it is, I respond with a clear apology, offer to make things better and mental butt-kicking. My male colleague? A quick nod and "ok" with none of the longlasting dents to his self-esteem.
Let's look at some statistics:
// 65% of women lack the confidence to pursue a promotion;
// 61% lack the confidence to request a payrise;
// 56% won't ask for a new role or position; and
// 73% won't go after a job which is outside of their experience
Admittedly I don't have any male statistics to reflect on, but regardless these figures speak for themselves. I'll certainly hold my hand up and say I'd put myself in with the majority on the numbers above.
And sadly there's no quick fix. No magic formula to spirit away all thoughts of self-doubt and replace it with assurance and sass.
Baby steps of course, but I think a lack of confidence needs to be dealt with much like facing a fear head on. Ignoring the sweaty palms and stepping up. I was part of the 61% until I swallowed down the shake in my voice and asked for a payrise. It was scary and my stomach was flipping, but I did it. And I got my payrise and a little bit of confidence to boot.
We need to work on not doubting ourselves. On building our own hype and believing in it so that we're empowered to go forth and achieve. To speak out, chase dreams and be recognised for our capabilities.
Step one? Beyonce of course. Run The World (Girls). On repeat.