Reaction To “The Confidence Gap”

Blog Author, Karen Tallon
By Karen Tallon
Vice President of Corporate Taxes
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Karen Tallon & her brother, BretAm I forever doomed to be a teacher’s pet?

As I type this blog, how many times will I check it for correct grammar and punctuation before submitting it? How many times will I re-read an email before sending it? How will I feel if I hit “send” and later find that it contained a mistake? One of my most common mistakes is substituting the second letter in any two-letter word beginning with the letter “i” for another one. So if I mean “in”, it could end up as “it”, “is” or “if”.

These mistakes are tough to spot, so I’ll check ONE MORE TIME to find that elusive error. And why will I do this? Because the idea of making a simple mistake can seem downright reproachable to me. I mean, I KNOW better, right? So I should take the time to find the error and fix it, right?

So how did I get this way? Well, I blame my brother, Bret. Although he is four years older, we had some of the same teachers. Apparently, he was the hyperactive boy always getting into a little trouble. So it wasn’t unusual for teachers, on my first day of class, to ask if I was his little sister. When I admitted it, their next statement was invariably something in the nature of, “Well, I hope you are better behaved than he was.” So is it any surprise that I learned at an early age that I felt more valued when I did things the “right” way: neatly and quietly?

When you get praise for being perfect, you quickly learn what behavior is acceptable and this sticks with you. It certainly did for me. “The Confidence Gap” article tells us that “School is where many girls are first rewarded for being good, instead of energetic, rambunctious, or even pushy.”

I quickly learned how to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. When I was growing up, girls didn’t participate in organized sports in school until 7th grade (we called that junior high school way back then). By then, I was a risk-avoider. If I couldn’t win (i.e., achieve perfection), then why would I want to participate? If the basketball wouldn’t go in the hoop most of the time, then it wasn’t worth the effort to try. It wasn’t worth risking failure. Yes, I’m 6’1’’ and did NOT play basketball in school. I applaud the current practice of getting young girls involved in sports at a very early age.

Karen Tallon & her brother, Bret“When You Get Praise For Being Perfect, You Quickly Learn What Behavior Is Acceptable And This Sticks With You”

As another indication of my inherent risk-avoidance nature, just ask my brother how many times I quit while playing Monopoly when it became evident that I would not win. I am embarrassed to think about that now, but it certainly happened at least once or twice (probably more by his count and I’m still convinced he was cheating).

It comes as no surprise that my brother’s favorite game was called “Risk” and I absolutely hated that game. It was all strategy and no luck, and I needed luck on my side. To this day, I will rarely make a bet unless I’m assured of the outcome.

Psychologists now believe that risk taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building. I absolutely agree. Many women feel confident only when they are perfect in their competence. Or practically perfect. To succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. That concept is tough for me to swallow.

So let me say it again:


And overconfidence can get you far in life. We women are going to have to get over our need for perfection. Striving to be perfect actually keeps us from getting much of anything done. My favorite catch phrase from Susan Brady’s presentation at our WiN kickoff meeting in May was to strive to be perfectly imperfect. That is my goal. Perfect imperfection.

Quoting from the article, “If life were one long grade school, women would be the undisputed rulers of the world.” But grade school ended a long time ago for me and it is time to stop trying to be the teacher’s pet. It is time to put aside perfection, take more risks and gain more confidence.

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