TheConfidenceCode-Book-Cover-Courtesy-HarperCollins-Canada The Confidence Code
The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know
Katty Kay & Claire Shipman


By Alishia Klein

The third YWE Book Club of 2015 discussed The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know written by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Throughout the book, Kay and Shipman unabashedly admit to confidence issues themselves and use their experiences to fuel countless tête-à-têtes with women from all over the world to understand why many women lack confidence, how we can find it in ourselves and finally, how we can hold onto it.

The Confidence Code, resonated with each woman at the YWE book club in one way or another and reassured us that we were not alone in our journey for self-assurance, making it easier to share our thoughts. We shared our quick and dirty strategies to help give ourselves a confidence boost when needed and answers ranged from high heels and a good push-up bra, to positive self-talk and power posing – little things that make the difference between us speaking up or going home wishing we had contributed to the conversation.

Thankfully, Kay and Shipman got to the heart of the matter quickly, taking us on a journey from the inside out, literally, leading each of us into university labs and research institutes to look at our DNA, right through to the personal experiences of leading ladies in the Women’s National Basketball Association, United States Naval Academy, International Monetary Fund and more.

The chapters included:

  1. It’s not Enough to be Good
  2. Do More, Think Less
  3. Wire for Confidence
  4. “Dumb Ugly Bi*ches” and Other Reasons Women Have Less Confidence
  5. The New Nurture
  6. Failing Fast and Other Confidence Boosting Habits
  7. Now, Pass it On
  8. The Science and the Art

Everyone was asked if they agreed with the overall definition of confidence which elicited mixed reviews. Was confidence, indeed, the stuff that turned thought into action? Was it enough to think less, take action and be authentic, like the book said? The majority of women agreed that it was a great concept, but gaining confidence was much more than just doing it. It has a lot to do with the how and a whole lot more to do with how you feel. The authors pointed out that if you think less, and simply act, you will push yourself outside your comfort zone, get comfortable with failing (as you inevitably will), making it easier to do next time. Kay and Shipman identified this process as the foundation to building confidence.

Going outside of our comfort zones, was something our group of women were all familiar with, and one of the main reasons many of us became involved in YWE – to push ourselves and to help us grow, both personally and professionally. So if we were all familiar with the foundation of confidence building, why did we all still experience Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs), or second guess decisions we made? Why was it so hard to make our thoughts our friends? Those answers unfolded with each chapter, revealing in depth research by top universities and labs around the world establishing that confidence was not just in our head or something we created, it was embedded in our DNA.

The book described fascinating examples demonstrating the relationship between what is innate in each of us and how we can, to some extent, transform the structure of our brains to alter our genes through a process called plasticity – confirming the idea that confidence, in many respects, is a choice each of us can make.

Initially, like Kay and Shipman, we were skeptical of our own ability to change our nature by focusing on our nurture, but after many great case studies in the book and sharing our own personal stories, we began to realize that it is possible! In order to nurture confidence, while still being true to ourselves, it is vital to pay attention to the confidence cousins listed in the book: self-esteem, optimism, self-compassion and self-efficacy. These confidence cousins are often shaped while we are young (nature), through experiences and often determine our initial reactions to current or future situations. If we learn to pay attention to them on an ongoing basis, identify what they look like for us and learn to think positively, we have the ability to change the way we react in situations (nurture) going forward. This transformation through a deeper level of self-awareness is vital to gaining the confidence we need, when we need it most.

In addition to what Kay and Shipman suggested, we wholeheartedly and unanimously agreed that it is vital to lean on other women for support – be that at home or in the workplace. If we took anything from this book, it was that no matter how successful a woman is or how confident she seems – we all have moments where we could use some TLC.

Near the end of our discussion, we examined ways we could increase/initiate feelings of confidence starting today. The Confidence Code reinforced our shared journey as women and reminded us that it is essential to embrace our unique qualities as women, celebrate what we are made of inside and out, and to constantly push ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to be our best selves. More importantly, the book emphasized that we are not imposters in our lives; we deserve what we have and have earned our place in this world. Going forward, when we harbor doubt in ourselves, a great first step like Kay and Shipman identified is to be authentic, think a little less, and do something about it, even when we are afraid. Those lessons combined with a smile and a great pair of heels – will guarantee any woman a confidence boost!