My favorite definition of confidence is, “belief in your skills”. In my book Headstrong, I define confidence as a player’s belief in their ability to reach a set result or established goal. In both of these definitions, belief is the key word. Nothing is going to change in your performance on the court until you believe that you can do the things you want to do. Improvement, starts with belief.
To be the best passer, you need to believe that you can become the best passer. To be the best setter, you need to believe that can become the best setter. And to win the match, you and your teammates need to believe you can win the match! We all perform differently when we are sure we can win, instead of just hoping that maybe we can win but maybe not.
In sports, and in society, “masculinity” is often associated with being tough, strong, aggressive, competitive and arrogant. Where as, “femininity” is often associated with being graceful, thin, goal-oriented or being a perfectionist, and being confident, but not overly confident. Oftentimes women who display these “masculine characteristics are accused of being angry, emotional, out of control, or feminists. Many women also confuse confidence with arrogance and are afraid to be labeled as cocky or arrogant. Confidence in particular is often rewarded in men and punished in women.
Brenda Major, a social psychologist and professor at UC at Santa Barbara has studied how gender impacts self-perception for decades. In her social experiments, she consistently found that men overestimate their abilities and subsequent performance, while women regularly underestimate both. Meaning that women, in the workplace and in sports, are better than we think we are.
This is such a common finding and phenomenon that there’s a term for it. It’s called the Gender Confidence Gap.
The term Gender Confidence Gap explains why the gender pay gap that exists in the workplace is partially attributed to men having higher confidence than women – and as a result, asking for raises or taking on roles their not necessarily qualified for because they believe in their own ability.
The confidence gap doesn’t just reflect the amount of confidence that men and women have in themselves. It reflects how much confidence men and women have in each other.
Here’s the takeaway: if you let your confidence get shaped by the world around you, then you’ll never have enough of it.
You have the ability to build your confidence up. And you need to actively, consciously guard your confidence or it will get torn down by your opponents, coaches, teammates, fans, referees, social media, friends, family and the world around you.
I wish somebody had told me this when I was in college.
Here’s 3 questions to reflect upon with your team:
- How can you build your own confidence?
- How can you build up each other’s confidence?
- How can you, as a team, build a culture of confidence that counter acts what society tells women about confidence?