Monday, July 27, 2015

The Confidence Gap

In an issue of “The Atlantic,” the article, “The Confidence Gap,” written by Katie Kay and Claire Shipman, emphasizes how the woeful state of confidence exists in the female gender. Here are some disturbing discoveries:

“In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality.”

“Women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the listed qualifications. Men would apply when they met 60%.”

“What doomed the women was not their actual ability to do well on the tests. They were as able as the men were. What held them back was the choice not to try.”

Yep, discouraging, isn’t it?

This is not about bashing men. However, it is about addressing the existence of confidence in women. Is it there? Where is it? How much exists? What is it dependent upon?

Reading the article, I couldn’t help but view my own situation, especially in the eating disorder context. I was notorious for believing in and striving for perfection. I couldn’t get on with my life unless and until I achieved this impossible standard.

 “I desperately wanted my dad to notice me. I learned very quickly that one surefire way to do that was by winning awards. When I won something, I wasn’t completely worthless or useless. I was productive; I was ‘earning my keep.’ I set impossible standards for myself. Try as I might with award after award, I’d eventually disappoint everyone, including myself, proving that I wasn’t worth anything after all.

            My perfect attendance record in school is an excellent example. For three years in a row, I did not missed one day of school, knowing that I would win a perfect attendance certificate, tangible proof on paper that I was worthwhile. It became a standard I had to maintain because my dad seemed pleased in my performance. Of course, he never said that he was proud of me, but he did lay off the criticisms briefly. So for the next few years, I went to school with colds, sore throats and influenza. I remember going to school once with a temperature of over 101, sitting at my desk, on the verge of throwing up, yet only thinking of that certificate.

            When I reached junior high, I became so sick once I had to stay home. I felt defeated and anxious. My dad, who had never really been sick with so much as a cold, was unsympathetic to my condition. With each passing day I stayed home from school, the tension mounted. Three days at home, according to my dad, was enough. He became upset at my mom for being ‘such a terrible mother.’ After three days home, he had enough. He decided he would take me into school to make sure I got there.

            On the way to school, he was fuming and I was scared to death, but my fourteen-year-old mind wanted to know something. We’d never had any father/daughter talks about anything, much less about the existence of a loving relationship, but I got up the nerve to ask him, ‘Do you still love me?’ His answer? ‘If you do this again, I won’t.’

            His answer proved it. It was my fault. I had to prove myself in order to be loved. I wasn’t the cute, good little daughter he should have had. If I could just look right and act right, he’d love me. All I have to do, I decided, is be perfect. That’s all.”

Through the eating disorder filter, that perfection, indeed, took the shape of emaciation, constant dieting, punishing exercise and overwhelming self-loathing.

It has only been within the last ten years I’ve come to see it’s not about perfection, but excellence in life. We can do well; we can do excellently. And that reality is not predicated upon perfection.

What is stopping us, right now, as women, from pursuing our dreams, desires and goals? Are we paralyzed by fear of not being perfect? Do we have confidence in ourselves- and in our God, even, in spite of our human imperfection?

After all, what about this scripture?

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

Luke 1:37

Let that, be we male or female, be our confidence!

Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse



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