How To Ditch The 'Good Girl' Routine

“We often tell girls that they are such a ‘good girl’ but we don’t say that to boys. Pretty soon good girl becomes perfect girl. That is when the issue of confidence comes in because you are never going to develop your confidence if you are trying to be perfect,” says Katty Kay, anchor for BBC World News America.

In 2014, Kay and Claire Shipman, released their book The Confidence Code, which shares the reasons why women struggle with confidence and what they can do to overcome it. Kay says that when it comes to women’s personal lives they have the same confidence as men but as soon as women enter the workforce their professional confidence drops off.

Kay says that this gap in confidence actually starts to develop from a young age. To help address this issue Kay and Shipman are releasing their next book, The Confidence Code for Girls on April 4th, 2018. In this interview, I spoke with Kay about how we can close the confidence gap and support young women to succeed.

Michelle King: Why does confidence matter for women?

Katty Kay: When we interviewed women across industries we would always ask them how they got to where they did. The answer was usually that they got lucky, or they were in the right place at the right time. We didn’t hear men ever say that. Men would take credit for where they got to. So, we started to look at the subject of confidence. As we dug into the research it became clear that there was a significant confidence gap between men and women - when it comes to the workforce. We wanted to understand how we can close that gap.

King: Are we really asking women to behave like men?

Kay: There is a lot of research out there, which shows that when women behave like men they are penalized for it. Both socially and professionally. You know a man is described as a leader whereas a woman is called a b*tch. The most important thing for women is to be authentic. We know that putting on a male suit of armor doesn’t work. It is hard to be confident if you are acting or not being yourself.

Confidence is very simple. It is the stuff that turns thoughts into action. Thoughts without action are pretty useless. Where women fall short in terms of confidence (in relation to men) is that we tend to undervalue our contribution. Our perception of our abilities is skewed low. If we can bring our perception of our ability in line with our actual ability then we have the capacity to be authentic. Then we can accept we are as good as we really are.

King: Why are you now looking to extend this message to young women?

Kay: In researching our first book it became clear that this is an issue that starts at a much younger age than we had been aware of. Our research shows that there is a pretty startling drop off in confidence around the age of about eight, nine and ten - the tween years. As girls enter this age they become much more concerned with failing and preoccupied with perfectionism. They will stop taking risks because of this, which makes it much harder for them to develop their confidence. We want to give them a guidebook on how to maintain their confidence levels at this age.

King: Is there a link between confidence and perfectionism in young women?

Kay: The other day I noticed my 12-year-old daughter was getting stressed about a grade she was due on a science test. The grade came back and it was absolutely fine but she felt it wasn’t good enough. That was my red alert for this issue of perfectionism. It is so hard for girls not to feel they must be good girls or perfect girls. Adults need to be mindful of whether they are putting too much pressure and praise on perfectionism. Let them screw up. Let them fail within the safe environment of their own home.

King: What can we do to build our own confidence?

Kay: Try to internalize the idea that you need to be honest about your achievements and abilities. Don’t downplay them. Don’t sell yourself short in your own mind. As that is when you will stop raising your hand in meetings. Or stop asking for that promotion or risky assignment. If it takes writing it (your abilities) down on a piece of paper, then do that!