Monday, 16 December 2013

faking it until we're making it

Lacking confidence is a problem for everybody from time to time, but it's recognised as being one of the key things that hold women back in the workplace.

Similarly underqualified men and women (I'm making a sweeping statement here, but you will hopefully understand that I mean average men and average women who were involved in studies that looked at this stuff) will look at the same job and think I can learn how to do that and I don't know how to do that yet, respectively.  So the man puts himself forward, and the woman waits.

This is me! This is the only picture of me in anything
approaching a super hero stance.
Must try harder!
Sheryl Sandberg pointed out that it is women, more than men, who suffer from imposter syndrome - they feel like they don't belong in the job they are in, and, any minute now HR are going to come along and confirm that there's been a huge mistake, and would they mind leaving the building?


Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome sometimes, the way to deal with it is to fake it until you make it.  

Have you ever watched really little kids play football?  They are pretty hopeless, but they really mean it.  Their skills at ball control take a fairly long time, and a lot of practice to develop, but they are incredibly good at the social stuff pretty quickly.  If a goal is scored in an Under 5s football game (which is generally down to serious amounts of luck, and the goalie flinching out of the way in time), the scoring team will do circuits of the field, pulling their shirts over their heads.  The team who have let the goal in will fall to their knees in despair.  They may be rubbish at football, but they're awesome at the social side.  They're faking it, until they make it.

It doesn't take long for most people to learn the social stuff, but to be able to fake it well, you need confidence.  Scientists know that too much cortisol (that would be the stress hormone folks) diminishes confidence, as does too little testosterone.  The testosterone thing would suggest that men might be more confident naturally, but all people need, use, and produce testosterone.  Women too.


When I was at University our lecturer, Fiona, had us boost our confidence daily by saying "I can do well, I will do well, and today I'm going to show the lot of them!"  A mantra is a good thing to do to boost your confidence, and I'm sure Fiona would be happy for you to use that one if you want, however, Amy Cuddy has discovered a rather fabulous thing that you can do to help fool your body into being more confident, and all you need is a little bit of privacy (a toilet cubicle will do) and two minutes.  Here's her TED talk.  It's worth watching.  However, if you don't have time to watch it right now, and you're just looking for a quick fix, I'll tell you a bit of the secret...


...standing like a superhero for two minutes boosts your testosterone, and reduces your cortisol.  It makes you more confident.  It might be the thing you should do in the toilet before you go in for your appraisal, or before you ask for a pay rise.  Or even before you ask you children to tidy their rooms.

Have you ever felt like you were faking it?  Have you got any top tips for faking it until you make it?

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