Overcoming a new crisis of confidence

Sydney Dybing, Opinion Editor

Anyone who is aware of history or current events knows that women have made a lot of progress in advancing equality in the last century; however, there is still visible evidence of prejudice against women in payment for jobs, positions of authority in companies, and even in our government.

Currently, women comprise less than 20% of the U.S. Congressional representatives and only 4.8% of Fortune 500 company CEO positions. So what’s holding us back? Prejudice still, sure. But an even bigger underlying problem might, in fact, be a crisis of confidence.

Take a recent study by Hewlett-Packard in an attempt to get more women into top management positions in the company. When they reviewed their staff records, they found that women working at HP only applied for a promotion once they felt they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job…and men applied when they felt they only met only 60% of the qualifications.

Women tend to be more likely to hold themselves back, only feeling confident when they are practically perfect. And sometimes, even that isn’t enough.

I notice this trend a lot within my own life. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a high-achieving student, but I share a certain characteristic with successful female technology entrepreneur and CEO Clara Shih: the imposter syndrome. She says that “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”

I often experience the same uncertainty, whether in school, sports, clubs, or work: if something goes wrong, I blame myself. There are days when I sometimes can’t believe that I still get good grades or do well on a test because I just don’t feel that I’ve worked hard enough to earn it — that I don’t deserve it. I think this is a version of an issue that most girls can relate to in one way or another.

What dooms women in making advances in school, their lives, or their careers is not a lack of ability to do well – it’s a choice not to try because they don’t have the confidence to believe that they will succeed.

How to get over this mental roadblock is a complicated issue. There is a lot of advice available for women who want to build their confidence levels, but surprisingly, the most effective way seems to be the most backward.

My advice is taken directly from a fantastic TEDTalk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy: fake it until you make it. If you pretend that you belong where you are, and if you convince yourself that you are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to, it will be easier to accomplish. Eventually, you won’t have to fake it at all. Nothing holds you back besides your mentality.

Women aren’t any less capable of succeeding than men. If we all can find a way to make ourselves believe that, everything becomes more possible.