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Confidence Fake It 'Til You Make It?

Posted by Stephen Hager

We'd like to introduce guest blogger, Dale Furtwengler, and share his recent blog post on living a life free of fear, anxiety, and frustration. The original post can be found at Confidence: Fake It 'Til You Make It?


Confidence: Fake It 'Til You Make It? 

During a recent conference on confidence the primarily female audience bemoaned the fact that men are better at “faking it until they make it.”

Based on my experience in working with both female and male clients for more than 25 years, I believe that the difference in confidence between men and women lies in where they place their confidence.  Women tend to rely on their experiences for their confidence whereas men tend to draw confidence from their ability to learn and adapt.


Before we delve more deeply into this idea, I want to emphasize the danger of generalizations.  You and I both know men who won’t take on a task unless they’ve had experience performing that task.  We also know women who readily embrace any opportunity that comes their way.

While there are some natural tendencies that differ between genders, there are always exceptions to the rule that make the use of generalizations somewhat risky.  What doesn’t differ between the genders is the ability of the person to retrain their minds to overcome natural tendencies that get in their way.  Women and men alike possess this ability.

Experience vs. Adaptability

When presented with an opportunity, the question that women seem to ask themselves most often is “Do I have the experience to be successful?”  And even when they do have experience, they tend to discount the value of that experience.

Men, when faced with the same opportunity are likely to think “I didn’t have any experience doing ‘x,’ yet I was successful doing that.  I didn’t have experience with ‘y,’ but I was able to produce good results doing that, so why wouldn’t I be able to be successful in this endeavor?”

The difference between the two genders lies in where they place their confidence.  Women tend to place theirs in their experiences whereas men tend to place theirs in their ability to learn and adapt.  The implications are huge.


The first implication is that men are more progressive than women.  That’s not true, it’s just that women tend to be more deliberate in their decision-making process which is a great counter-balance to men’s tendency to decide quickly and suffer the consequences.  When blended, these two differing styles provide better and quicker results.

Another implication lies in the way men and women are evaluated for promotions.  In a 2011 McKinsey study, researchers found that men are judged on potential, women on performance.  That raises the proverbial chicken and egg question.  Are men and women judged differently because they are of different genders or because they express their confidence differently?  I can’t help but think it’s the latter.

If I’m correct in my observations and women tend to admit that they don’t have experience in a given area or discount the experience they have, they’re sending a message that is framed within the context of their past performance.

If, as I suggest, men are more inclined to point to situations in which they’ve been successful even though they possessed no prior experience, they’re sending a message that highlights their potential.

This difference in presentation could easily account for the results in the McKinsey study.  It’s not much of a stretch to see how that difference influences managers’ decisions.

As a manager considering a person for a job or an employee for promotion which would you prefer, someone with potential or someone with experience?  Someone who has demonstrated success in areas in which they had no prior experience or someone who needs prior experience to feel comfortable taking on new responsibilities?

Good news

The good news is that regardless of whether you’re a woman or man who feels that a lack of experience is holding you back in your career pursuits, you can retrain your mind to focus on your success in situations in which you had no prior experience.

It doesn’t matter whether that success was a personal development achievement, career success or business success.  The key is that whenever the doubt which inevitably accompanies a new opportunity arises, you’re able to quickly remind yourself of the successes you’ve enjoyed in situations in which you had no prior experience.

When you’re able to make this transition from experience-based thinking to confidence in your ability to learn, you’ll be judged on your potential rather than your experience.


Dale Furtwengler is a coach, speaker, and internationally-acclaimed author who helps people lead a life of confidence.  He helps them free themselves of the fear, anxiety, and frustration that stand in the way of living their dreams.  You can find more of Dale’s tips, books and services at


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