In my short year of working in offices, I have noticed a bit of a pattern. And not a good one. I have worked with male and female supervisors, managers, directors and CEO’s. And one thing that stands out to me is the significant difference in self-confidence and need for external validation. All of them have worked their way up in good companies, or have successfully started their own.
Then why is it that men seem to be so much more confident and comfortable in their positions? While they go around life as if they can’t possibly make a wrong decision, it seems like their female counterparts need to have every tiny decision validated by someone else. I have seen all of them lead teams or even entire companies, but if someone says anything about something they’re doing, they shift their position like a 13-year old girl trying to fit in with the ‘cool kids’.
We do this with everything. Not just work decisions, but daily decisions. It’s not for no reason that I sometimes tell my friends (and mom) to “do it with the confidence of a white man”. Those guys seem to think everything they touch or say will turn to gold and is the most profound thing ever to be spoken out loud. It’s fascinating to observe.
Now let me be real and say that I too suffer from this. I ask my friends what they think about this shirt or that dress. I ask my mom whether I should spend money on something. To a certain extent, external validation is natural and normal. But how much easier would our lives be if we stopped wondering what other people would think of it. If we started living our lives the way we want? A lot. Indeed.
The main reason we like to have our decisions externally validated is because of evolution. In the time when we still lived in caves and had to hunt for our food, there was safety and protection in numbers. Once you fell out with your tribe, you had to go out and hunt for your own food, take care of yourself and protect yourself. Obviously it was a lot safer to stay with them, and in order for that to happen, you’d have to fit in. You’d agree with the majority and do things that were socially acceptable for your own safety. Fitting in is an instinct of our lizard brain, and we have to train our modern brain to overwrite this. This is absolutely possible, but I will go over that some other time.
The biggest problem with external validation is that we are giving our power away. We are putting our self-confidence and our self-worth in the hands of someone else. Maybe even to several someones. By having your decisions and/or self-worth depend on others’ approval, you are inconveniencing yourself to try and get that approval. Essentially, you are giving them the power to make you feel good or bad about yourself and your decisions based on whether they agree with them. You will bend this way and that in order to make them validate your decisions, but does that lead to a version of your life that you are happy with, or one that would be considered socially acceptable? How is it any of their business what dress you wear, when you schedule the meeting or if you spend $15 on that box of delicious chocolates? Right. It’s not.
By asking others to approve of our decisions, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We don’t have enough faith in ourselves to make a decision, so we need someone else to verify that we are indeed making the right one. We are doing a disservice to our parents, our education, our intuition. We are even doing a disservice to the world, as it needs us to be ourselves. Because you really do know which decision to make, but sometimes you want that confirmation. It’s exhausting, really.
So from now on, you can decide whether that skirt is too short or just right, whether you want potatoes or pasta for dinner, and if that meeting should be at 9 or 10. At the end of the day, you are the only one who should approve of your decisions because you are creating your life. If you take someone else’s opinion into account, do it consciously. Be aware of your own influence on your decisions, what you think is right, and your gut feeling. Don’t let too many decisions be influenced by others. Conquer that need for external validation, own your power and own your life. You’re doing great.
Now go out and conquer the world with the confidence of a white man!