Generally, women are raised to have lower self-esteem and confidence (Photo: iStock)

Confidence is the feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgement. To walk out of the door sure of your appearance. To engage in a conversation without the fear that you will say something dumb or to avoid shaking during an interview.

We did not ask to be this way; we were socialised to be this way.

AFRICAN SOCIALISATION

The African gender socialisation has played a major role in thrashing a woman’s confidence. The enforced adherence to the stereotypical roles: where young girls are raised to be passive, modest, submissive, timid, shy and nice.

Generally, women are raised to have lower self-esteem and confidence. She must never be sure of herself, aggressive, assertive, outspoken or even dare to lead. Those are masculine traits and she must stick to her lane.

The modern woman trying to break free and live in the fullness of her talents and intellect will be throttled by society through criticism, witch-hunting, trolling, glares, murmurs, shaming and putdowns. This is the story of most women who dare.

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PSYCHOLOGY OF CONFIDENCE

Apart from socialisation, early childhood programming is equally effectual. Since a parent’s opinion is paramount, it determines the child’s view of the ‘self’. A parent’s “you are” becomes your “I am’. When a parent says, “you are foolish” you grow up telling yourself, “I am foolish.” This voice is called the Inner Critic. Do you find yourself rebuking yourself?

A toddler who is praised for the little milestones gets the message that she is doing the right thing and does even better to prompt more. She will grow up to be confident. Conversely, a child who is always criticised gets a message that she is not good enough, and the effect on self-confidence is detrimental.

According to Aaron Beck, 1921, an American Psychiatrist, thinking is connected to emotions and behaviour. When a person’s thinking is positive, she will experience positive emotions and, consequently, behave in a positive way. And vice-versa.

Beck also suggested that most negative thoughts are not reliable, objective or empirical. He called them Cognitive Distortions; thinking errors. This may explain why a beautiful and educated woman grapples with feelings of self-doubt.

Self-confidence, nonetheless, does not solely rely on achievements and abilities; it is also a question of perspective. How do you view yourself?

BUILDING CONFIDENCE

It is all in the mind; it is time to ask yourself what goes on in your mind when you are shaking in that interview room or holding back. Are you telling yourself, “I cannot do this”, “I am dumb” or “I am not good enough”? challenge these thoughts.

Take a piece of paper and divide it into two, on one side, write down all the negative messages from your childhood, Inner Critic and society. And the other side, challenge them. Do this as often as possible and with time you will come to believe in yourself.

PRACTICE POSITIVE SELF-TALK AT ALL TIMES.

Your body language: practice proper posture, your shoulders back and your head held up high, avoid slouching. Maintain an open centre, and avoid crossing arms and feet. Always maintain eye contact, if this is difficult, look at the other person’s brow but never their shoes. You will appear more confident and in control.

Look your best; put on a beautiful dress, fix that messy hair and nails, put on some make-up and get a pair of heels. I cannot emphasise this enough, get yourself a mirror and compliment the woman looking back at you.

We make snap judgements on first impressions, and we are pretty sure others do the same to us. Taking control of your appearance and putting your best foot forward is the most immediate change we can effect on ourselves.

Read more; this is how you improve your marketability, engage in meaningful conversations, communicate more effectively, and improve your emotional intelligence, proactivity, appeal and even sexiness. Stay aligned with current affairs, read history, poetry, philosophy, everything.

Reward yourself; give yourself incentives for your achievements. Be patient with yourself when you blunder, and always remember that no one is perfect.