BOOK REVIEW by Delaney Tosh: "The Confidence Code"

The Confidence Code Book Review - Book on Desk with Coffee

"The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know" by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

When I began reading, "The Confidence Code" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, I felt compelled to immediately grab pen and paper to take notes. Then I realized I was essentially taking notes at every turn of the page - there were so many insightful nuggets of information that I knew I was going to use with my coaching clients. So, I put down my pen and just read. But my book is now very dog-eared, tagged with sticky-notes, and the once white cover has faded into a shade of beige. In other words, I reference this book a lot.

In this book, the authors explore the science, the sociology and the personal experiences of confidence. And they both uncover myths about how to become more confident, as well as provide actionable advice on what really supports us in nurturing our confidence.

Get The Confidence Code on Amazon here >> or support small and local and order it from your local bookstore!

About the Authors

The authors of this interesting book set out to investigate what the research really tells us about confidence. They also wanted to discover if confidence is a fixed psychological state or if it is influenced by genetics or gender. Are men more confident than women?

Being investigative journalists, they explore these questions through interviews with a diverse group of scientific researchers - neuroscientists, psychologists, etc. - and also with women leaders from government, military, science, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and sports. This makes it an interesting read because it is a blend of literature review, discussions and first hand stories, so it is conversational in tone rather than a dry science review.

6 Reasons to Read The Confidence Code:

Read this book if you want to:

  1. Ensure you have an evidence-based understanding of how to enhance confidence, so that you are not perpetuating unhelpful myths.
  2. Understand the neurological and psychological factors that either support or hinder confidence.
  3. Discover actionable tools to more effectively support your clients in building confidence - particularly your female clients.
  4. Develop a deeper knowledge of the drivers of human behaviour via what the research tells us (perhaps you're a research geek, like me!).
  5. Support your clients in their self-awareness, helping them better understand their blind spots and biases.
  6. Enhance your own confidence.

Confidence - Hardwired or a Choice?

There are two pervasive myths about confidence:

  1. Confidence is innately hardwired.
  2. Confidence is found simply by squaring your shoulders, thinking positive thoughts about your self-esteem and 'faking it until you make it'.

The Confidence Code dives into the research that dispels these myths, and provides answers as to why some people show up as less confident than others even when they have equal capacity and qualifications.

8 Ingredients for Confidence

Based on the author's discoveries, here is my summary of some of their advice for enhancing confidence:

1) Aim for mastery:

This is the crux of the matter. The authors conclude that confidence is gained through mastery, and mastery is gained through process. Mastery is not an end goal (as many perfectionists would think), but more a concept of learning through process and progress. What's important is how you encounter hurdles, and your mindset towards trying and learning.

So, it's in the process of mastery that you gain confidence, not the mastery itself.

2) Action learning:

You have to be in action. Hesitation or rumination does not serve your confidence. This goes hand-in-hand with the next factor.

3) Learn to fail fast:

You have to be willing to take some risks, be willing to fail, be willing to learn from those failures quickly and then put that learning into action. Bogging down in self-recrimination or hesitation does not serve your confidence. Try, fail, learn, repeat, try, succeed, learn, repeat, try, fail, learn, repeat….

  • Embrace where you did well
  • Be honest and own what you did not do well
  • Acknowledge the external factors that contributed (don't personalize the failure)
  • Assess what you learned and seek feedback
  • Make a plan for how you will improve or do things differently next time
  • Celebrate the learning

4) Choose a mindset of externalizing attribution:

Make an effort to stop self-blaming and over-personalizing challenges, failures and foibles.

The authors talked to many researchers whose findings show that women tend to personalize challenges and failures making it about a personal flaw, whereas men will more often point to an external attribute as playing a role in their failure. The result is that they do not diminish their sense of capacity.

5) Embrace imperfection:

Learn to do things 'well enough'. This helps you be more effective, and gives you time to productively focused on career building opportunities.

6) Ruminate less, focus thoughts towards action more:

Learn to let things go rather than ruminating on them. The authors discovered, much to their chagrin (being women), that the area in the brain responsible for worry and rumination is larger and more active in women's brains than in men's.

This means women do worry and ruminate more. This slows women down and decreases women's sense of confidence.

TIP: I tell my female clients to harness this facet of their brains as a superpower - ruminate for good - and to train that part of the brain to give voice to the inner sage and to focus thoughts towards solutions and positive actions.

7) Become better friends with your inner sage and learn to reframe:

Kay and Shipman call our self-talk NATs – Negative Automatic Thoughts. And they uncovered that those who have killer NATs have low confidence. The trick is to practice reframing, and to build up your firewall to keep toxic thoughts at bay.

8) Speak up and speak more:

This is especially true for women in male dominated spaces. Both the women and the men interviewed for this book, in both leadership and research positions, said that women tend to hesitate. This is likely due to the drive for perfection, and it plays a powerful role in holding them back in their careers. Women have the capacity, but they don't step up - or speak up readily.

There are many more useful and fascinating pieces of information in The Confidence Code on how our brains work and how to harness them to boost confidence.

My Key Takeaways:

My education background includes neuropsychology, but I learned new and intriguing information from this book about how our brains are wired to either support or erode our confidence.

The authors do a good job of teasing out what the research really tells us about confidence, and provide an interesting and informative overview of the neurological, social and emotional factors that impact confidence. And they don't stop there. They then offer a guide on how to rewire our brains and behaviour towards confidence.

I was also surprised to learn how some of the structural differences between male and female brains play a role in our thought patterns and approaches. To be clear, the neurological differences are neither inherently negative or positive for either gender, just different. But when paired with the differences in how men and women are socialized, these differences can play a strong role in how each gender experiences their sense of capacity and confidence.

This is useful information for those who coach both men and women in leadership roles, and it can also help coaches better understand clients of a different gender from themselves.

I frequently use the information from this book in my coaching engagements. When I share some of the facts I've gleaned from this book, it really resonates with my clients and helps them make sense of their experiences and build awareness of how they may be shooting down their confidence.

Other Books You May Also Like:

  • "Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think" by Tasha Eurich Ph.D.
  • "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are" by Brené Brown

Delaney Tosh Headshot

Contributing author: Delaney Tosh, CPCC, PCC, coaches women who want to live and lead wholeheartedly with a courage and power rooted deeply in values and purpose. She helps her clients embrace their signature strengths and lead from inspiration, intuition, inclusion and interrelation. She is the co-creator of the Phoenix-Hearted Woman retreats which help women explore what will have them really thrive as resilient leaders. Connect with Delaney at SquarePeg Leadership or on Linkedin here >>

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