Is Women's Confidence at an All-Time Low?

Sadly, all my loud, rah-rah feminist beliefs about how we have every right to feel awesome about ourselves sort of ... mainly applies to other women.
Publish date:
March 30, 2014
self esteem, women, confidence, self confidence

Confidence! Urghhhh; I've never really had any. To be fair, though, it's kind of waxed and waned throughout my life, depending on what was happening at the time -- looks-wise, I was by far the most confident in college, when I was getting a ton of male attention and generally feeling like hot shit for all the wrong reasons (sexual approval and external validation forevs, yeaaah!).But I've never been one of those enviable people who have, like, a bottomless inner reserve of confidence, or an unflagging sense of fortitude or self-esteem that wasn't somehow conditional or dependent on outside things. (In fact, I've always been envious of those enviable people.)

So this article about modern women's seriously lacking levels of self-confidence made me really, really sad, because it felt really, really familiar. The story claims that female confidence is at an all-time low. It quotes a bunch of miserable statistics, like how one in 10 women "admit to feeling judged for their appearance when they drop their children off at school;" 34 percent of women "feel like they are being judged when they walk into an expensive or designer shop;" and 85 percent "find it hard to believe that other women admire their look."The piece goes on to discuss a new self-esteem initiative called Breakfree by Braun, spearheaded by Jessica Alba. Alba says she relates to feelings of self-doubt and being judged; she encourages women to "think of a woman you admire and tell her today." The campaign sounds cool, and good on Alba for being its public face. But what the whole thing really stirs up for me is the depressing irony of how many strong, smart, feminist women can feel like such shit about themselves (me included).

I may not feel "judged" when I drop my non-existent kids off at their non-existent school, but sure, I feel judged in lots of other places -- in fancy stores or restaurants, when I walk the dog in my House Clothes and no makeup, when I go to an exercise class at the barre studio up the street from my house, when I get on an elevator in downtown DC with messy hair or a crazy leopard coat. AM I being judged? I'm a straight, able-bodied, 30-something white lady, so probably not so much. But do I FEEL like I'm being judged? Yes. And that feeling -- or fear -- of being judged has been with me at least since adolescence, when all the gross media messages started officially sinking in and I started unconsciously associating my worth with my appearance.

And sadly, in my experience, all my loud, rah-rah feminist beliefs about how we have every right to feel awesome about ourselves sort of ... mainly applies to other women. Sure, I can half-assedly vow to include myself in there when I remind girlfriends that they "ARE good enough" to land that new job or they "totally deserve better" than the asshat who's dicking them around or they "have every right to ask for more money" at work or whatever. But the fact remains that deep down, I believe it for them, no problem; but for myself, I may logically KNOW it, but I don't fully BELIEVE it. And that's a pretty critical difference.

It's an issue I've been addressing in therapy for years, and reading books about, and trying to remedy with this, that, and the other thing. It's just so deep-seated, it can feel unbearably hard to address in a lasting, meaningful way. Affirmations sound good on paper, but I've never been able to stick with them, and they make me feel embarrassed for myself. What helps you? When do you feel judged? How self-confident are you, and how'd you get that way? Plz discuss.

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