As one of the hundreds of thousands of college graduates this year, I’m in a perpetual nail-biting state of worry. I can’t seem to escape my feelings of inadequacy in the job application and interview process. The authors of “The Confidence Gap,” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, that premiered in The Atlantic this April (2014) might attribute this to my female biology and upbringing.
According to the article, my amygdalae has raised my fear level in response to the negative memories of failure in the past. The anterior cingulate center of my brain is responsible for holding me back from taking on any sort of risk and obsessing over the minor details of my self-presentation. Apparently the glass ceiling of this age is more of an illusion than a real obstacle. The key to breaking past it? Self-confidence. Something I wish I could say I had more of; but as of late, the parasite of perfectionism has been kicking my confidence’s ass.
While I find the entire interview process extremely unnerving, the worst part for me is trying to establish the sort of solid identity that employers seem to be looking for. As much as I try not to think of it as “selling myself,” the phrase is all too fitting: we are trained to think of ourselves as products of our educational, professional, and life experiences that we should know inside and out. Seriously though, who really knows themselves inside and out in their early 20s? Although here is where the lessons learned from “The Confidence Gap” weigh in: “success correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.”
In the testosterone-driven workplace, humility too often is shoved aside as a disadvantageous virtue. This is something that’s really bothered me in my experience thus far. Humble, talented women rarely get the credit and appreciation they deserve while, on the flip side, there’s the ‘bitch complex’ which keeps women from asserting themselves too much in fear of having a negative stigma attached to them. I’ve knowingly tried to surf the thin line between these two extremes on my path to making a name for myself. That is, until the thought hit me: Why can’t I be successful just being me as I am today? I don’t need to have it all figured out already. I just need to be confident in myself, taking the good with the bad.
I’ve realized that my worries about misrepresenting myself or not fitting into the mold that a company has in mind for a prospective employee are useless. Confidence in my own abilities will get me farther than any perfect answer or having every requirement under my belt. Likewise, the biological and sociological factors affecting me are of little importance in comparison. In the case of nature versus nurture, it is the latter that is holding me back the most; it seems I have a serious case of self-love malnutrition. I just need to remember that my input is a gift to the world and those around me. If I take myself and my skills for granted, others will too.