My motivation for reading this book was to find guidance to build up confidence. No surprise there! Out of many self-development books, this one stood out to me as it was aimed at female readers, of all ages and all stages of their career. It wasn’t only for those already ruling the world!
The book promotes itself as a ‘practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence and learning how to achieve it.’ Kay and Shipman delve into combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender and behaviour, while comparing their findings with examples from their own lives (both high-achievers), anecdotes from other go-getting women, and their fight to knock back self-doubt and uncertainty in their abilities.
The book, for me, was very relatable. By encompassing an individual’s own stories, there is someone relatable within every chapter. The book unites various theories, such as, our ability to optimistically engage in new opportunities that come our way, whether we feel that men tend to be more dominant in a workplace than women, or whether we recognize that in some people, their confidence exceeds their actual competence and they are more successful for it. All regular occurrences in everyday life.
For me, the chapter I found most intriguing is research that Kay and Shipman delved into – the discovery that confidence is also, in part, predetermined by our genes. From a young age, my twin brother and I took part in a twins development study right up to our young adult life. The study was developed around the big nature:nurture debate, which the book touches on a lot. The book, thankfully, later goes on to mention that we can teach ourselves to be confident, even though our genes do have a role to play too.
My favourite teaching from the book was how taking action and saying yes to opportunities all help to boost confidence. Research shows that women tend to overthink things more than men and, therefore, don’t act on them; this is as a result of worry about failure. But by failing, one soon learns that it isn’t the end of the world when you do and, therefore, you won’t overthink it as much the next time. Think less, act more!
There are, of course, hidden issues that can influence women’s confidence, and Kay and Shipman only reported on high-achievers. Of course, we must not forget other deeper influences such as discrimination which more often than not has a vital role to play and sadly was not touched on throughout.
Returning to the point that the book promotes itself as a practical guide, I’m not sure it is concise enough to be a ‘guide’. It is slightly too ‘fluffy’ in places, and some of the stories can be a little tenuous when matched up with the research. Arguably, I feel that the research is good and once you have sifted through a lot of the content there are some wonderful teachings hidden within. I would therefore give this book a 3.5/5.
The book summarised in one of its quotes:
Confidence, at least the part that’s not in our genes, requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence, and sometimes bitter failure. Building it demands regular exposure to all of these things.”Katty Kay, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know