Men have it in buckets.
Apparently we don’t.
In fact, we are told it is critical to build up our self esteem as women.
Smacks us in the face every time we pick up a magazine or browse self-help shelves. It’s the new ‘why’ for almost everything that we don’t do as well as men.
Culling best practices and current thinking for last month’s Roundtable on Self Esteem, I found plenty of research and opinion. In fact, over 35,000 studies and papers on the subject of self esteem seem to point fingers in the same direction. To us.
WE. LACK. SELF. ESTEEM.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman devote an entire book to addressing this ‘gender confidence gap’ in The Confidence Code. They wrote it because they, “…kept bumping up against a dark spot… a force holding them (us) back.”
They cite a successful investment banker who ‘mentioned’ that she didn’t really deserve the big promotion she just got, and an engineer, pioneer in her field, who ‘offhandedly’ told them she wasn’t sure she was the best choice to run the firm’s new project. Then there were the women who didn’t speak up in meetings or when asked how they got up the ladder shrugged and said, “Luck and timing.”
Furiously making notes on the topic, I stumbled across Dr. Weibke Bleidorn’s research on self esteem. Read every page of her eight-year study which analyzed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, rating this key phrase on a scale of 1 to 5:
“I see myself as someone who has high self esteem,”
Surprised by the results they concluded: “In nearly all cultures, men have higher self esteem.” Graphs show the magnitude of the gap in industrialized Western countries between how little women think of themselves compared to how men think of themselves.
Late that night I shared with my daughter-in-love Lex my discoveries on our woeful state of lack of self-esteem – backed by mounds of research and passionate ploys for fixing ourselves.
Lex (bless her) had the unmitigated grace to challenge me—and in fact, she challenges everything. “I don’t think women have issues of low self-esteem,” Lex said, “we just don’t want to play the game.”
Her naked truth sucked my head inside-out.
I started asking women to rate themselves 1 to 5 on the statement: “I see myself as someone who has high self esteem.” You know what every one of them said? “Well, in some areas I have huge self-esteem, in some things not as much… so… I’d give myself a 3 or maybe a 4.”
Maybe we don’t lack self esteem at all. Maybe we are just more honest.
When we are asked how we made it to the top, of course we are bright, of course we worked hard… duhhhh… but there is also a measure of luck, or people helping us… or timing.
And maybe someone else was better for the job.
It’s not lack of esteem to say something when it is our truth.
Women answer things differently. We see things with more complexity. It’s almost never black and white.
Then it hit me. We’re being asked the wrong questions. And we’re being measured against the wrong stick. Our self-confidence is being framed in a male context.
Maybe we don’t lean in to lift our voice in discussion at the table when we know it isn’t going to make a hill of beans of difference.
But trust me, we will lift our voice when it counts.
Here’s the bottom line– if we hear something repeated enough times, we believe it.
So lift your voice and repeat after me…
I have all the self-esteem I need… the rest I’ll muster… so don’t mess with me.