Unpacking the Confidence Code, Part 5 – Growing in Confidence

In the sixth chapter of The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman discuss some tactics anyone can use to build their confidence.

Fail Fast

This chapter begins with Kay and Shipman introducing the idea of failing fast–an idea that even they seemed uncertain of at first:

One of our good friends […] threw two words our way when we asked what he thought women should do to build confidence: Fail fast. We laughed. As if! This was early in our pilgrimage, so failing still seemed exactly the opposite of what women do easily and naturally. Failure, it went without saying, we abhorred. And to do it quickly? That would mean we hadn’t made a full effort or done our work perfectly. I think we may have actually shuddered as we listened.

Their reaction to possible failure isn’t foreign to many of us, either. I’m certainly not alone in admitting that I’ve been upset with myself for doing something at an average or poor level–even a completely new task that no one would fault me for not doing perfectly on the first attempt. The authors are quick to point out the flaws in this mindset, however, and they dig into the reasons it would serve us well to adopt a “fail fast” methodology.

We’ve come to see the theory of failing fast as the ideal paradigm for building female confidence. […] Our quick failures will let us be choosy about how we spend our time. No longer will we need to try to get everything right. A lot will land in the garbage heap. We would do well to remember that it’s not the strongest species that survives in the long run—it’s the one that is the most adaptable.

Other Strategies for Confidence

In addition to practicing fast failing, the authors offer plenty of other ways to help build confidence. These include things such as avoiding ruminating on pessimistic ideas by silencing your negative automatic thoughts (referred to as NATs). In response to all of these suggestions, we asked our book club members about their own confidence strategies.

When I’m in a challenging situation like a big presentation or a tense meeting, I pay attention to my breathing and body language. I take deep, slow breaths, or sometimes I use box breathing, and I make sure to sit or stand with an open, relaxed posture—even though I may be feeling the exact opposite of open and relaxed! Being “in my body” and making these unconscious things conscious will actually make me feel more confident and collected.
– Brittany Hunter

Being surrounded by supportive people helps me on a daily basis to be more confident in myself. On days when I feel like I’ve accomplished something awesome or overcome a challenge I had been struggling with and am particularly proud of, I like to share my feelings of excitement and pride with my significant other.
– Molly Alger

I go out of my way to try new things, as well as continue to work hard at specific hobbies. Outside of work, I spend my time doing aerial sports, practicing dressage, and riding motorcycles. These are all hobbies I have picked up in the past year or so. Seeing my progress in each of them has been a massive confidence-booster.
– Sarah Brockett

Pushing Our Confidence

Another piece of advice for building confidence is to leave your comfort zone. This advice isn’t unique to this book, and most people accept it as something they can do to learn new skills or improve their relationships. What are some ways in which the ladies of the book club push themselves?

I think that jumping headfirst into things is a great strategy for getting over confidence humps. It’s kind of a trick—I’ll work up the nerve to do something scary for just long enough that I can lock myself in and commit to doing the thing, and that forces me to follow through. For example, I do acrobatics. I’m scared of moves that require me to do a controlled fall. When I’m having a hard time with one, I’ll take a deep breath, say “123GO,” and I’ll let go. That forces me to follow through with the rest of the move. I only have to overcome my fear for the split second that it takes me to commit.
– Rachael McQuater

I recently joined a Masters swim team, as swimming was something I was very involved in growing up. I missed being part of a team like that, and I missed the thrill of competing in meets. On the flip side, I hadn’t swum competitively (or even much for recreation) in almost four years. All kinds of thoughts went through my head before committing to joining: Was I going to be any good anymore? Did I still retain proper technique? Did I even remember how to swim? Despite some negative thoughts about it all, I went for it anyway. As it turns out, I did still know how to swim and I wasn’t as out of shape for it as I thought. Being able to drop back in and swim again boosted my confidence and showed me the importance of not letting negative thoughts cloud what could turn out to be a positive experience.
– Molly Alger

I utilize a “just do it” mentality often, probably even on a daily basis. Being someone with high anxiety, it is very easy for me to question every little thing and end up in a state of paralysis. Because of this, I try my best to just do things right away. This saves me a ton of time, and typically outputs good results, since I acted on the task before anxiety got a strong grip on me.
– Sarah Brockett

Of course, as with most things, there are many different ways of acting on these ideas. What are some ways you’ve found to help increase your confidence? How have you pushed yourself to leave your comfort zone? We’d love to hear your tips and stories in the comments, or you can use the #confidencecode hashtag to join in the conversation via your own blog or social media platform. We look forward to hearing from you!

This series explores The Confidence Code through reflections and stories from women at Atomic Object.

  1. Developing Confidence Together
  2. Exploring the Confdence Gap
  3. Defining Confidence
  4. Instilling Confidence in Others
  5. Growing in Confidence

We hope you’ll join us for the whole series.