Decoded Confidence

You cannot simultaneously think like a man and think like a woman.

Choices must be made.

That’s probably the biggest barrier to understanding between the genders.  Men try to understand why women don’t just think like men when it would serve them and women try to explain how they experience the world to men who just can’t understand the thinking.

For transwomen who worked hard to pass in the world as men, this component of gendershift can be hard, almost as hard as desireshift.   Transvestism is about changing your clothes, transsexualism is about changing your body, but transgender is about changing your mind.  Taking apart the thinking you were drilled in, the thinking you were expected to deliver, then replacing it with a new and different way of thinking is just hard work, but it is the only way to transcend compulsory gender training.

Two experienced reporters, Katty Kay & Claire Shipman have come out with a book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know.  In their explorations, they found that women just don’t have confidence in their abilities and strengths, often playing small, which denies their power, grace and professionalism to the world.

Confidence is the purity of action produced by a mind free of doubt,” says one of their experts.   Self into pure action without being hobbled by doubt is difficult for women. The propensity to dwell on failure and mistakes, and an inability to shut out the outside world are, in [WNBA coach Mike Thibault‘s] mind, the biggest psychological impediments for his [woman] players.

I remember when I was in business and passing as a guy.   I made snap decisions all the time, fast and focused, coming from if not  personal confidence, then at least from a lack of second guessing.  Right or wrong, I made choices, and if wrong, I chose again.  Was I as ballsy as the real guys in the company?  No way.   I needed to stay in my competence, work for excellence, and after work, a cry was often required.  But I was in the zone, and could pass, at least as long as I didn’t have to drop my pants.

Today, though, my actions are constantly inhibited by deep doubts.  That confidence is not present, for a group of reasons including my questioning & theological nature, my thinking like a woman, and my feeling unsafe as a transperson.    All the bear in my closet has to do to sap my confidence is to remind me of what Ms. Kay & Ms. Shipman wrote about: in this culture, a lack of confidence and a prevalence of self-doubt is just a very womanly thing.

If I use the old tricks to invoke confidence, do I end up channelling the “male energy” that might just get me dismissed as “really a guy?”   If I don’t channel confidence, though, I end up just being lost, because, as Kay & Shipman note, for leadership, high confidence is often more important than high competence.

I very much recommend the book to all women who find themselves struggling with confidence.  I also recommend it to men who want to work with or coach women in this area, though I suspect they will find it a bit baffling; why are these women talking so much about something that isn’t that hard?

Kay & Shipman don’t seem to have any easy answers, but doing the consciousness raising that they offer is a start, even if they admit even after knowing the traps they still tend to fall into them.

“Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I will show you a man,” said Erica Jong.  As women, all the voices play in our heads as we try and juggle all the demands put on us and know that we will always fail in satisfying all of them.

Confidence is at the core of standing up, taking risks and gaining an audience.

And as a woman, as a trans woman, and as a theologian, it’s not surprising that confidence is a struggle for me.