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Monday, 5 March 2012

Using the Illusion - Confidently Really Matters

Confidently Really Matters - Sally Taylor

Rather bizarrely, my first memory of the notion of confidence takes me back to being eight years old and watching Paul Daniel's magic show on TV. On the particular show in mind, a young girl volunteer was helping him conjure up some elusive object, I forget exactly what, but had failed the first time round. To enable success on a subsequent attempt, the magician made a C shape with his thumb and index finger and asked her to swallow the imaginary confidence it contained. She did, and Abracadabra! the trick worked. Paul Daniels is not someone you would normally associate with useful childhood epiphanies but on this occasion he was making a hugely important point. Confidence is just an illusion, a trick I feel that has often evaded me and generally seems to evade more women than men, a notion backed up by a couple of things I've heard and read over the last week.

On last Tuesday's Woman's hour on Radio 4, the need for more confidence and risk taking in order for women to be successful was a feature. The headteacher of Wimbledon High School was explaining her school's initiative for encouraging girls to understand that having confidence to fail and succeed, is a common factor in achieving success. Women and girls are often held back by the fear of failure rather than grasping it as a useful springboard to future achievement. She put forward the obvious (but not necessarily widely taught) notion that girls need to be encouraged "to stand up and say I am a successful person and I am proud of that and I don't need to be shy or to step back or to feel that I am being conceited or arrogant ... and when I succeed I will be very happy and I won't be afraid to say so." Women are all too often reticent in confidently asserting their ideas or celebrating their successes. Moreover, they are often deterred by fear of attracting criticism for their boldness (an example being the online abuse cited in my last post).

Corroborating this lack of confidence in an interview in Saturday's Times, Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem Equalities Minister, shared an anecdote drawn from her experience of visiting primary schools: "When I go into primary schools and say 'Who wants to be Prime Minister?' all the boys go 'me, me, me' and all the girls sit on their hands knowing they could do a better job." Prior to this she had provided a hilarious but pertinent example of male and female behaviour in meetings: "John will say 'fwa fwa fwa'. Fred will say 'I agree with John, fwa fwa fwa' and Terry will say 'I agree with John and Fred, fwa fwa fwa'. And Jane will open her mouth when she has a point to make. Men always reinforce what someone else has said and women tend to be very thoughtful and make a point." It is this thoughtfulness that needs to be taken more notice of and encouraged into the limelight more often. And, with reference to the primary school scenario, girls and young women must be encouraged to raise their hands and speak rather than sitting on them and imprisioning their ideas in interior dialogue.

The image posted above sums it up for me really, it's a painting by Sally Taylor, a friend of mine, whose paintings and drawings 'affirm a desire to understand more about human relationships and the interaction with others.' It is this human, and more specifically female, relationship with confident interaction with others, which we should all seek to affirm more often.

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