My Review of “The Confidence Code: 
The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – 
What Women Should Know
by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Being a confident woman, the title of this book enthralled me. Also, because I am surrounded by several women: 2 daughters, 2 sisters, 2 mothers, 2 nieces and several friends and other relations who are female. I was curious about how women viewed confidence and how the world viewed them in light of their confidence or ‘lack-of’.

I must say that I was slightly disappointed by the book and felt that it went round in circles quite a bit; it would have been better as a Paper or a 3-Part article. That said, I did garner some great take-outs from the book.

The book is aimed at the woman, but I took it as a general course in confidence as the tips shared can be useful to men and women alike. What then is the Confidence Code; how does one crack it? Ultimately, the authors break it down into 3 phrases: 

Think Less. Take Action. Be Authentic.

Think Less

This is not a call for thoughtlessness, but rather, a warning not to overthink things as this generally ends up looking like hesitation or not being sure … loosely translating into perceived lack of confidence.  Overthinking also leads us to rehash our past failures and make us doubt our future performance.

Take Action

Nike’s catch phrase, Just Do It, seems to capture the sentiment here. When you “Just Do It”, several things happen: If you succeed, you now know you can; if you fail, you either know where your limitations lie and how to improve or where you cannot go and therefore can authoritatively decline to go in that direction in the future.

I like to ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Usually, failure. If you can live with failure, then you can try almost anything. The authors put it this way, “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”

This also supports the general management maxim that a bad decision is better than no decision.

Be Authentic

Authenticity is all about being true to yourself.  However, we are sometimes asked to fake it till we make it. Where then, does the balance lie? 

I take great issue with one of the sentiments expressed in the book, that confidence matters more than competence. Possibly because I believe that competence should trump confidence. However, I cannot deny that confidence does get you the opportunity to showcase your competence. The ability to sit straight, walk with purpose and speak clearly will get you the spotlight; your competence will thereafter determine if it shines on you for only 5 seconds or a lifetime.

When a person is authentic, “…they are brave enough to be not only different, but to be themselves.” To be confident, you therefore must be authentic.

Parting Shot

As we bring up our children and mentor those around us, we must provide opportunity and support for them to make decisions and take action. Let them make mistakes and learn from them so that they can be more confident. The book urges us to let go of perfection … “If perfection is your standard, of course you will never be fully confident, because the bar is always impossibly high, and you will inevitably and routinely feel inadequate.

The authors spoke to one lady who had this to say, that “…she took risks, she was persistent, she worked hard, and even failed. And it worked. Whatever she hadn’t inherited, or soaked up as a child, she created.” We must therefore let those around us know that confidence can be learnt and built.

In doing so, we must be aware of the different personalities we are dealing with. The book terms them as ‘orchids and dandelions’ (exotic flowers versus wild flowers). Some will be able to show their confidence in almost any situation (the dandelion) while others need to be encouraged and supported a lot more (the orchids), but when they bloom their confidence is beautiful to behold.

Ultimately it looks like confidence is a snowball of actions and decisions, the more decisions you make, the more action you take, the more your confidence grows; the more your confidence grows, the more decisions you make and actions you take and so on.

So, go ahead! Do something! Build your confidence!