The Confidence Gap: Why are Girls more likely to be less Confident than Boys?

Belief in one’s self.  These four words are the root of what it means to be confident.  And it appears that sometime around adolescence these words begin gradually slipping from females grasp.  Their self-esteem beings to plummet, they underestimate their abilities and are discouraged by fear.  Girls lose confidence in the face of perfectionism.  They become so concerned with being right that they begin to doubt themselves.  But why is this so common in girls and not so much boys?

During puberty a lot of girls stop playing recreational sports.  It is believed that not being involved in sports, a big component in building self-esteem, is detrimental to one’s confidence.  But it may be that much of it also has to do with biology.  The hormone estrogen encourages bonding and connection and discourages conflict and risk-taking.  Testosterone, on the other hand, increases one’s ability to take risks.  Therefore, it is natural for women to be kind and not stir up conflict. 

Also, fear is a huge confidence blocker in girls.  When they experience a negative situation, they try their hardest not to repeat it for fear of the outcome being the same.  Boys aren’t affected nearly as much by negative stimuli and can go out and try again without fear holding them back.    In studies it shows that in regards to test taking, men are much more likely to admit a test was hard that they did not perform well on, whereas women attribute poor test scores to something they did wrong and poor study skills.  Men reflect outwards whereas women reflect inwards.  This constant internal perspective damages their ability to gain confidence.  They are extremely hard on themselves, much more than they need to be. 

Girls and women constantly underestimate themselves.  In fact, they underestimate themselves so much when it comes to school and work they assume they will do worse on tests than their actual results prove and negotiate income raises less frequently than men.  The Confidence Gap in men and women is undeniable, and has no relation to actual competence.  The disparity stems from the desire to be perfect, which leads unsurprisingly leads to failure.

Women feel they can only progress to the next step, if they are fully deserving and have done everything perfectly.  Confidence stems from perfectionism.  They prescribe to a perfectionist ideal that men do not.  As stated in The Atlantic article on ‘The Confidence Gap, “Perfectionism is another confidence killer. Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required.”  Women have to be 100 percent qualified to believe that it is something they deserve.  Again, always protecting themselves from fear.

Women have never been more powerful than they are currently.  They are making progress in every industry across the country.  They comprise half of the work force and they are receiving more college degrees than men.  But, lack of confidence is holding them back immensely!  They have no fewer capabilities than men, but confidence is a major ingredient in success and without it, they are being held back.  Risk-taking, failure, and perseverance are essential in gaining confidence.   The great news is that this is a trait that can be reversed with action.  If it’s inaction that holds women back, it is action that will propel them forward and give them the confidence to try, try again.

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