In study after study, women are found to think themselves less competent, intelligent, and capable than their peers, regardless of experience or expertise. This is true even when the facts are quite counter to their perception of reality. Why do we lack such confidence in ourselves? Why is it that we constantly doubt ourselves? Acceptance of who we are includes those parts of ourselves we might not like very much, such as feelings of sadness and anger. That means we can accept that we feel badly about our lack of self-confidence without resigning ourselves to remaining this way forever. Acceptance, after all, is usually the first step to forgiveness, and forgiveness opens the door to allow for change.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“People have said that the women’s movement is the only revolution where the outpost of the enemy is in our own minds (not that we need to think in terms of enemies). We like to think that women have overcome their negative programming and that we really do feel good about ourselves. Then we read a study like the one done by Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, and we feel a lingering sadness for a group of intelligent women who do not believe in themselves or their abilities.
We are aware that these women who mistrust themselves and their intellect are, down deep, not so different from us.
We may put up a good front, and yet we know there are still those little hidden niggling fears that maybe we just are not good enough.”
The quote from Carol Tomlinson-Keasey to which Anne refers states, “One startling finding, given that these women had an average IQ of one hundred forty three, was their lack of confidence in their abilities and the belief that their intellectual selves were ephemeral or were not developed.” I often think about, and am saddened by, a fact I once read which states that both women and men are more likely to think of a woman as less capable than a man in the same role, regardless of education level and experience. In fact, even when a man is LESS educated or experienced than his female counterpart, he is still thought of as more competent by both sexes. It seems self-doubt is simply part of being human, and this is especially true for women. It’s important that we acknowledge not only this fact, but how it makes us feel.
Confidence comes from accepting who we are, and it would seem that for most of us, part of who we are includes self-doubt sometimes. A common thread that runs through each meditation I have read so far, including this one, is that it is far better and more productive to accept our own nature than it is to fight against it. Rather than view acceptance as resignation, we should view it as a starting point from which we can move forward. It is a beginning, a starting point. From here, we have the ability to write a new story that is true to who we are. It starts with accepting that person, flaws and doubt and all.