Reading List: The Confidence Code

UPDATED: April 12, 2014
PUBLISHED: April 12, 2014

Two years ago journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman set out to investigate confidence—what it is, where it comes from, how it develops and why women in particular seem to struggle with it.

Kay and Shipman, authors of the best-selling Womenomics, researched the genetic code of confidence and how life experiences enhance or mitigate human DNA. By combining advanced research in genetics, gender and behavior with the personal insights of successful women and scientists studying the subject, the authors have written an enlightening, fascinating book that explains the relationship between confidence, resilience, risk and reward. Along the way, they surfaced intriguing studies on gender and achievement. For example, in 1970, only 5 percent of the musicians in top symphony orchestras were women. By the 1990s, 25 percent were female. The gains came after orchestras introduced blind auditions. When they didn’t know who was playing, the judges decided solely on the quality of the sound, not on the gender of the candidate. As a result, women were hired in greater numbers, proving that “when women are given a fair shot at success, they do well,” the authors write.

Sustaining confidence, “at least the part that’s not in our genes,” requires persistence and practice. So Kay and Shipman compiled 15 confidence-building exercises. Among them: Don’t Ruminate—Rewire, which warns against giving in to those negative thought patterns, and advises replacing them with positive thoughts that reinforce what you do well. There’s also Kill NATs: Like their “phonetic twin,” these Negative Automatic Thoughts (I’ll never finish this project. Why did I take it on?) are just as annoying and hard to kill. Kay and Shipman recommend writing your NATs in a journal. When you review them, look for an alternative positive interpretation.

One of the most reassuring findings comes from the science of neuroplasticity, which says that the brain’s ability to learn continues throughout life. It turns out that the most successful, fulfilled and ultimately confident people believe they can always improve and learn. The Confidence Code can definitely help you learn to boost your confidence.

by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Harper Business, $27.99

Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.