Underconfidence in Women


I had puzzled for many years why the majority of women I interviewed for jobs and training courses were under confident for their very obvious abilities. I had interviewed over 2,000 people, with approximately a 50/50 gender split. Out of the women, those whose confidence matched or equalled their abilities were less than I could count on one hand. The men I interviewed had the reverse issue and seemed over confident for their abilities with only a handful demonstrating a more balanced view. From this experience I formulated a corrective balance when interviewing people for jobs that I felt gave a more equal footing of gender. Whatever a man told me I deducted 20% and whatever a woman told me I added 20%. This I found gave me a somewhat representative view of their true ability and potential and it did work out in their employment that the adjusted view better reflected their true value and ability as employees. I was astute enough and had enough experience to spot people where the adjustment needed to be varied to suit the individual.

This, however, did not answer my question of why women have a tendency to be under confident of their obvious abilities! And so for over 20 years I have puzzled over this. More recently I posed the question on Facebook and Twitter but received little response. In the main the women I asked put it down to social conditioning, an explanation I could agree must impact on how women are, but I felt was not the root cause because if it was I felt there would be substantially greater amounts of confident women from reacting adversely to it.

My recent studies into the mind/body connection have led me down many areas of study including our origins from single cell creatures up to modern day, where our evolution cannot keeping pace with our environmental changes. Within this research I came across my Eureka moment!

Survival of the fittest. Please note it is survival of the “fittest” not the “strongest”. Fittest means the fit within its environment. From many sources of research it would appear our earliest ancestors lived in small groups for protection and would have exhibited pack behaviour. The males were dominant and aggressive, which they needed to be to survive. And of course to pass on genes you have to live long enough to reproduce and beat rivals off in order to mate. The weakest ones would not! The dominant male would have more offspring therefore increasing the prevalence of the strong protector gene. This may explain somewhat why women can seek out the “bad guy” whilst consciously knowing it will lead to grief, whereas the unconscious finds it incredibly irresistible! But I digress….

To pass on their genes the females within the group would have to live long enough not only to mate but also to raise the children to a point of independent survival without her. The female’s role was to bear and raise her offspring within the group and the external protection was being provided by the male. For survival needs we were designed to conserve as much energy as possible at that time when a sufficient food supply could not be relied upon. So the female would be strong enough to protect her child within the group and herself but not to the detriment of developing so large and powerful that it would use up valuable energy resources, or protect her so much from the male that mating did not occur. Within the group her confidence lay not inside her, but in the confidence of the males to protect her and her offspring from external sources while she got on with her valuable part.

So what does this have to do with explaining why women are under confident of their own abilities I hear you say?

An over confident female back then could have alienated herself from mating. And if she felt strong could have led to her leaving the protective circle of males, almost certainly leading to either death or injury therefore decreasing her chances of passing on her genes by raising a child. Therefore a very confident female would not pass on the genes that you are built from. Your genes come from thousands of generations of females who did not express their true confidence and their inner confidence was repressed in order to survive.

So why does this affect you now? It doesn’t need to! That background voice that keeps you being the true you can be overridden now that you know it is just an old program put there for your protection hundreds of thousands of years ago. It no longer applies so whenever it pops up its ugly head, tell it, it is irrelevant and to go away, and remind yourself what a wonderful human being you are with so much to offer.

Give gratitude every day for what you do have and remember to conserve your strength for what you want, not what you don’t want. You really can have it all!

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