Role Mommy Q & A with the authors of “The Confidence Code” Katty Kay & Claire Shipman
1. Why were you inspired to write ” The Confidence Code”?
It really grew out of our work on our book Womenomics. We’d noticed, in our reporting, that many of the extremely successful women we would interview would often express a certain hesitation about their abilities. They might laughingly confess they didn’t know how they’d achieved what they had – or suggest they weren’t sure they were really qualified. Since we’d often felt that way ourselves we understood it, but when we kept hearing it, we thought it was worth digging into. And, in fact, we found out that what had always seemed to be harmless or “natural” feelings, were in fact a manifestation of a widespread lack of confidence.
2. Does “fake it ’til you make it” work?
No! It sure sounds good though, doesn’t it? Here’s why: First, humans are quite adept at reading non-verbal cues. It turns out we can sniff out frauds quite handily. Second, knowingly “faking it” actually contributes to a sense of underlying insecurity and unworthiness. Authenticity is critical to true confidence. It’s true that the ability to create real confidence can require a jump-start – sometimes you will experience fear, and you need to overcome it. But a façade doesn’t work.
3. Tell us about the research you learned about while writing “The Confidence Code.”
There was more than we imagined about the science and biology of confidence in some ways. We really did not expect to find that confidence, for example, is genetic. But it is – to some extent. Most experts believe it’s a trait that is somewhere between 25 and 50 percent inherited. There isn’t one “confidence gene,” but there are a number of genes that have been identified that play a key role in supporting confident behavior. Some of them are the genes that control Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin in our brains, for example.
We didn’t find a clear gender gap genetically, however. But we also found substantial research that suggests there are some biological, or structural differences in male and female brains that could affect confidence. This is a hugely controversial subject – and we initially hoped to avoid it – but we found we couldn’t in good faith. Research in ongoing, nothing is definitive, and male and female brains are much more alike than different. Still, some scans show different levels of activity, or different sorts of matter, or a different use of parts of our brains when looking at gender-differentiated brain scans. And some researchers believe that could account for the fact that women might operate more cautiously, or might be prone to ruminate. Both of those things can affect confidence.
Hormones play a big role as well. A multitude of studies show that testosterone encourages risk-taking, and sometimes a herd-like mentality. Men have substantially more testosterone, obviously.
4. Is confidence the same as self-esteem?
No, actually. We took a long an tangled journey through the many definitions of confidence and its cousins: self-esteem, optimism, self-efficacy, self-compassion. Confidence means many things to many people, it turns out. But what we filtered out, after all of our research, is that confidence has an element of action about it. Indeed, one academic put it in very clear terms for us. “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action,” according to Dr. Richard Petty of Ohio State University. That action might not be running a marathon, or storming into your boss’s office. It can be the action of making a decision. But it’s the frame of mind that allows us to believe we are able to do what we set out to do. And you can see why that frame of mind would make action of all sorts more likely. You can also see why, therefore, experience matters. The more experience we have taking action, learning, and mastering things – the more we create a frame of mind that says we think we can.
5. Do you have any advice for raising confident daughters?
Yes – let them fail! Let them be messy. Let them make mistakes. We found that our girls are being taught to be too perfect – not always consciously. Who doesn’t want a child who’s helpful and contentious and who does extremely well in school? Our girls today are academic superstars, but they aren’t learning the lessons that will help them in the real world – that failure is ok, and that risks are worthwhile. Sports help enormously, but despite Title lX, girls are dropping out of sports at a much higher rate than boys as they hit puberty.
6. Public speaking is an iconic issue for women’s confidence. Do you have any tips?
Practice helps. But that’s obvious. What we found is that, first of all, it’s important to see making mistakes here and there in public speaking as natural. The audience actually likes that, because the speaker seems more human. Knowing your mistake might help you connect can ease some of your tension.
But we also found that for women, it can be hugely helpful to reframe your remarks. Women feel more confident and more at ease when they are speaking on behalf of others – whether it’s a cause, a company or friends. It shifts the mental spotlight off of us somehow, and allows us to display our passion and knowledge with more ease. So if you can find a way to recast your remarks, or even the way you think about your remarks – it can be a huge boost for speaking with confidence.
7. Studies suggest there are a number of reasons women tend to earn less than comparably educated/experienced male colleagues. Which one (or two) do you feel is most notable, or easiest to address?
We need to ask for more. Straight out of college women don’t negotiate for higher salaries but men do. We need to ask ourselves, “What’s going to happen if I ask for a raise?” The worst is that you don’t get the extra money; you’re not going to die because you ask for something, so give it a go. That’s what men do. And if you don’t get it the first time, don’t give up. One day it will work and that will give you the confidence to ask again the next time. Women should remember they are just as competent as their male colleagues so they are worth as much.
8. Women tend to be underrepresented in leadership positions, from the C Suite to Capitol Hill. What gives? What can we do about it?
There are lots of reasons. We still don’t have as many role models at the top as men do, so we tend not to see ourselves so easily in those leadership positions. As one woman put it to us, men look in the mirror and see a senator; a woman would never be so presumptuous. It’s certainly not lack of competence. Women are better educated than men. But we also hold ourselves back, somehow doubting our right to rule at the top. That’s where the confidence gap between men and women really shows itself. Confidence is the missing link to our success.
9. What advice might you offer women who want to climb the corporate ladder or negotiate their salaries/benefits? What about new college graduates ready to launch their careers?
Know that you are valuable and don’t assume that just by keeping your head down and working hard, your natural talents will be recognized. You need to ask for what you want – whether it’s more money or a promotion or better benefits. Often your bosses are so busy, they haven’t even thought about your situation. It’s up to you to let them know what you need and up to you to believe that you deserve it.
10. Is there anything you would like to add?
Everyone can choose confidence. It’s hard, deliberative work building self-assurance – but it is a choice. You can choose to walk across the room and introduce yourself to that interesting looking stranger – or choose not to. You can choose to raise your hand in that meeting – or choose not to. It’s not easy but confidence is a decision. But the two most inspiring things we uncovered are that – as you choose to take action here and there, as you choose to take risks, and learn, and master situations, you are not only building confidence – you are changing your brain. You are building a new way of thinking. The research on brain plasticity is extraordinary.
And a cornerstone of confidence, we found, is authenticity. We don’t have to try to emulate a male style of confidence – that might look just too macho for us. It doesn’t always have to be about speaking up first, or being the loudest, most aggressive person at the table. True confidence comes from knowing and expressing our values.
For more information, please visit www.theconfidencecode.com.
The Deeper Meaning of Mac and Cheese
By Yvette Manessis Corporon
I was 29 years old the first time I tried mac and cheese.
It happened in the cafeteria at CBS News headquarters in New York where I was a producer in the local newsroom. The salad bar was typically more my speed, but that day, as I gave a passing glanced at the breadcrumb crusted lunch special, I mentioned to a colleague that I had never tried the all American staple. She nearly dropped her tray. And you call yourself American? She shook her head and waved a forkful of the orange hued elbows towards me.
Yes, I am proudly American, and who, despite my colleague’s disbelief, was raised neither under a rock nor in a cave, but in the New York City suburbs. It was however a Greek immigrant suburban home, dominated by very Greek values on life, culture, heritage, morality and of course, food. Did I mention that I’m Greek?
Ours was not a home where you would find boxed mac and cheese or boxed anything for that matter. In my mother’s kitchen we feasted on her meticulously made Pastichio. Much like its American cousin, mac and cheese, Pastichio is considered the ultimate in Greek comfort food. It’s a trifecta of flavors; buttery noodles topped with savory tomato meat sauce infused with cinnamon topped by a crowning layer of cloudlike béchamel cheese sauce hidden beneath a crispy brown crust of baked cheesy goodness.
You can’t get that in a box.
Growing up in that My Big Fat Greek Wedding kind of way, my mother couldn’t pronounce fluffernutter, let alone make one, a bowl of soup never required a can opener and I was never treated to rice crispy treats. In our home we made baklava, buttering and layering each delicate sheet of filo one by one and getting down on our knees to smash the hand cracked walnuts in a dishtowel against the floor with our hands , the way my mother’s mother, and her mother had done back in their mountain top Greek village home.
As a kid, I never had any interest in these dishes, making them, learning about them and for the most part even eating them. But even so, I was made to sit and watch, and despite my protests, occasionally to help. I wanted to be anywhere but in that kitchen. I wanted my food to be as crust-less wonder bread white and homogenized as I so desperately wanted to be as I clipped a clothes pin to my nose night after willing it to transform to the enviable all American button nose of my best friend. But living under my parent’s roof that was impossibility, because after all – we, my nose, and our food, were Greek.
I was 21 when I first began to cook for myself.
I was saving money for a trip to Paris with my best girlfriends and cooking, instead of ordering take out seemed the perfect way to fund the trip. As I shopped for groceries and prepared my meals, I surprisingly gravitated not to the boxes and cans that I had coveted in my youth, but to the fresh ingredients and flavors that my own mother had favored.
When I wanted soup, I bypassed the Campbell’s and instead bought a fresh chicken which simmered for hours with onions, carrots, and celery and bay leaves, like my mother had done.
When I wanted roasted chicken, I bypassed the rotisserie birds. Instead I marinated and broiled the meat in oil, lemon, fresh garlic, salt and fragrant oregano, which I had picked and shredded myself at my grandmother’s home when I visited each summer, like my mother had done.
As much as I had tried to escape my mother’s kitchen, claiming I could care less about her cooking lessons, a culinary osmosis had been taking place all along.
I saved $500 that month, enough for a week’s worth of wine and baguettes in Paris. But I also saved something else that as I cooked every meal in that tiny kitchen of my first apartment; my cultural identity.
I finally realized then what my mother had done with her insistence of the ingredients, foods and recipes of her own childhood. Those flavors, those smells, dishes and yes, even technique (just try telling your friends to smash walnuts on the floor when a perfectly good Cuisinart sits on the counter) transported her, and eventually me, back to that beautiful mountain village and to her own mother’s kitchen. These foods and flavors were not meant to separate me from my American life, they were a simply conduit to my Greek life. They were a reminder of the selfless women, like my grandmother, who had encouraged my mother to leave their tiny village and seek a better life in America so that I, as an “Amerikanida” could have opportunities she could never even dream of. These meals were a reminder of the women, like my grandmother, who has no material possessions to speak of, but poured everything they had, every dream, every prayer, every ounce of love, into cooking for the ones they loved – no matter how meager the pantry.
Today, I’m 45 years old. I am my mother’s daughter.
At the first sniffle or cough from my children, I’ll make a steaming pot of soup from scratch. I season pretty much everything with the large jar of oregano that my children shredded one summer afternoon under the watchful eye of my grandmother right after she taught them how to smash walnuts on the floor of her Greek village home.
My own daughter, Christiana, is now 12. Her favorite food is mac and cheese, which she is constantly asking me to make. Sometimes I give in, usually I don’t. I prefer Pastichio.
Yvette Manessis Corporon is a producer for EXTRA TV. She is the author of the novel “When the Cypress Whispers” (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers)
When the Cypress Whispers is the story of a young woman named Daphne and the deep and magical bond she shares with her Greek grandmother, her Yia-yia. It’s based on Yvette’s family and takes place on the magical Greek island that they still call home. She grew up listening to her own Yia-yia’s stories of life on the island and how as a young mother she befriended a Jewish Girl named Rosa whose family was hiding from the Nazis. Despite the risk to themselves and their families, not one person on their island gave up the secret of Rosa’s family – and they were saved. Even though the Nazis had said that anyone found hiding Jews would be killed, along with their entire families, night after night her grandmother would throw open the doors to our home to welcome Rosa inside. It is their stories which resonate in Yvette’s heart and on the pages of this book. You can purchase your own copy of the book from Amazon here and click here to watch the trailer.
Enjoy an Excerpt from Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir
Now that the weather is finally getting warmer, we are shedding our winter coats and heavy sweaters and some of us are trying to shed a few pounds. I am always doing whatever I can to lose some weight and I love to hear that I’m not alone. The following is an excerpt from Tracy Beckerman’s new book, Lost in Suburbia: A Memoir, and as you will see, she has also tried her share of diets. Go ahead and laugh, it burns calories, right?
Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir
Having been down this diet road a couple hundred times before, I was familiar with just about every weight-loss gimmick out there. Although my sensible husband suggested I make changes that I could stick with for life, I instead preferred to try one of the Hollywood diets that the celebs do after they have a baby so they can drop the baby weight a week after giving birth. While it occurred to me that living on a concoction of maple syrup and lemon juice for two weeks might not be the healthiest way to lose a few pounds, I was pretty much willing to do anything that would allow me to get thin quick in the hope that I would lose too much weight and be able to eat my way back up. Unfortunately this diet worked about as well for me as the condom my husband wore when I got pregnant. I would only be on the diet for a day or two before I got massive cravings from the smell of the maple syrup and gorged myself on pancakes and waffles.
After failing the maple syrup diet, I decided to give one of the high-protein diets a try. A lot of my friends had done these and the weight seemed to melt right off. Having existed on large quantities of sloppy joes and cheeseburgers when I was pregnant and in the throes of massive meat cravings, I thought this might be the perfect diet for me. I did actually manage to lose six pounds the first month and was prepared to ride the bacon wave all the way to the skinny beach until I checked back in with my doctor and found out that my cholesterol had skyrocketed one hundred points in four weeks.
“You need to do a different diet,” he told me over the phone when the results came back.
“But this one is working for me,” I protested. “I just bought new skinny jeans!”
“That’s great,” he responded. “But no one will see you in them if you have a stroke.”
“I could wear them in rehab,” I murmured. “Go do Weight Watchers,” he suggested. “Ugh. I hate that,” I said. “It’s like AA for fat people. Everyone sits around and talks about their dysfunctional food relationships. Then they all join hands, sing ‘Kumbaya,’ and count how many points they have left to eat that day. No, thanks. I’d rather have a stroke.”
“I think you need some support.” “That’s why I wear Spanx,” I commented. “No, I mean people support. Like a group or a friend.” Although his plan was good in theory, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be welcomed to any group. The one time I did do a group diet class and they asked us to picture ourselves thin, I nearly started a riot when I said that the only thing I could picture right then was digging into a warm chocolate lava cake.
“I don’t really need the support. What I need is someone just to tell me what to eat so I don’t have to think about it,” I said to my doctor. “Left to my own devices, I will eat a pepperoni pizza and justify it by saying it was a healthy choice because it featured the four major food groups.”
“It is a good choice . . . if you eat one slice,” he responded. “Not if you eat the whole pie.”
Having been my physician since we got to the burbs, my doctor knew my MO. He had seen me at my thinnest and my heaviest, from mom jeans to skinny jeans and back again. He didn’t care if I looked cool or frumpy, as long as I was healthy. And twenty-five pounds overweight with a cholesterol level of 315 was definitely not healthy.
“Okay, fine,” I conceded. “I’ll call Jenny Craig.”
“Good. Give her my regards.”
Tracy began writing after she moved with two young children from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs as a way to find herself and share a few laughs about the endless sea of “mom bob” haircuts, minivans, and coordinated tennis outfits. What started out as a single column for a local NJ paper a few years ago turned into a hit and is now nationally syndicated to over 400 newspapers, 250 websites and reaches nearly 10 million readers in 25 states. Check out more here.
My New Year’s Predictions for 2012
While I’m not a psychic, I do know a little bit about entertainment, trends, moms, politics (well not really) and tweens. So here’s my top 10 predictions for 2012 – see if you agree.
1. Ryan Seacrest will be named co-host of Live with Kelly. It’s inevitable – he just has to sell his mansion and figure out how he’s going to host “American Idol” from L.A. but Ryan Seacrest is totally Big Apple bound. Besides, “Live with Ryan and Kelly” has a way better ring to it than “Live with Kelly and Andy.”
2. Pinterest is poised to become the hottest new site in 2012. Forget Foursquare and Stumble Upon. Now that you can create a bulletin board with videos, links, photos and more, Pinterest has the ability to attract all ages and drive traffic to websites and blogs in an organic way.
3. Goodbye Nate and Oprah, hello Katie and Ricki. Looking forward to seeing the daytime talk shows that will be hitting the airwaves next Fall. My money is on Ricki since new moms, tween moms and moms to be can relate to her realism. And I love that she nearly grabbed the mirror ball trophy this year on “Dancing with the Stars.” Go Ricki and welcome back to talk!
4. The Road to the Presidency – my gut tells me that Mitt Romney will get the nod and his running mate could be Chris Christie. Either way, I don’t think that’ll be a strong enough match for the Obama camp. While the economy has yet to rebound, the health care situation is still a bit of a mess and he doesn’t have the support of Congress, he did find Osama Bin Laden and finally get rid of him; he captured Moammar Khadafi and got rid of him too and finally started bringing troops home. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at least we’re headed in the right direction.
5. The Rise of the Ezine – Sure, I have a personal interest in this one, but trust me when I tell you, people like to read publications online. I happen to live for my New York Post and People Magazine apps so here’s hoping that Project You Magazine becomes an app in the New Year and reaches millions of parents worldwide! Incidentally, I’m also loving the brand new Editions App from AOL where you select the sections you want to read and a magazine miraculous is created just for you.
6. Another Trash TV Reality Star will Emerge – While I don’t know who it is just yet, I’m sure that 2012 will launch the career of another talentless person who doesn’t deserve the spotlight but will get it due to their awful behavior. Will they come from MTV, Bravo or TLC? That is the question
7. Meryl Streep will win another Oscar. Put Meryl Streep in a movie about Margaret Thatcher and trust me when I tell you, she will win the Academy Award for best actress this year. Here’s hoping that Octavia Spencer nabs the supporting actress category for “The Help,” but my money on the top prize is Streep. And best movie…I say “The Help” but something tells me it’ll be something I haven’t actually seen in theaters.
8. Young Adult Books will surpass traditional best sellers First there was “Harry Potter,” then there was “Twilight” and then came the “Hunger Games.” And now, I’ve seen a commercial for a new book geared towards tweens and teens written by James Patterson. Who needs the boomers or GenXers when you’ve got socially savvy kids who are actually reading a lot! Thank goodness for little things.
9. Mediterranean Cuisine is the New It Food – Now that we know that fish, olive oil, hummus and other delicacies from the mediterranean are good for us, look for plenty more Greek restaurants to pop up in your area. We went to one restaurant that actually delivers! So long Chinese, you’ve been replaced by Greek food!
10. Apple will come out with a new iPad, a bigger MacBook Air and yet another iPhone: The year would not be complete without me buying the previous year’s model of an Apple product only to find out the latest version is available in the New Year.
A Few Good Book Picks of 2009
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of vlogging and all I have to say is that I never anticipated that video editing would be consuming most of time. Last night, I was busy editing together a reel for more than five hours. Then, the following morning, I continued editing throughout the day and finished the project at 5 pm!
Unfortunately, all this video stuff has prevented me from writing about all the things I’ve done this past week. Hmmm…you’ve seen the videos from our Moms Night Out and Moms Night In so I don’t need to write about that but – I have been out and about with my family – we saw Pink Panther 2 – which we agreed that while it was cute, it wasn’t as good as Paul Blart: Mall Cop. I know, my taste in films has something to be desired.
I’ve also been hitting the gym a lot – haven’t shed any weight but at least I’ve settled into a routine and I’ve managed to read a few books while I’ve hit the elliptical machines. I’m reading “What Would Google Do?” by Jeff Jarvis and I just got an advanced copy of The Difference by Jean Chatzky and I have to say…I am loving that book. I saw Jean Chatzky speak at a More Magazine event a few months ago and her advice motivated me to fine tune my business and focus in on the things I love doing. And as a result, things are really starting to fall into place. So thank you Jean Chatzky! My payback to you is to highly recommend your new book – which hits stores on March 10 to as many people as I know. If you’d like to pre-order The Difference, then click here.
In the mom book category, I have two great picks for you. Though both don’t hit stores until April, you definitely should pre-order them so you can devour them once they arrive. The first is Because I Said So, by one of my favorite mom writers, Dawn Meehan – a mom of six from Chicago who is one of the funniest and sweetest moms I know. Dawn and I became BFF’s at the Glamour Reel Moments red carpet event and as soon as I received it, I read it cover to cover and laughed out loud at how this mom of six has masterfully captured her chaotic life. My second book pick which hasn’t hit stores yet but I’m sure will be amazing is Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress by Lee Woodruff. Lee is a NY Times bestselling author of In An Instant and is one of the most personable, funny and genuine women I know. I’m sure her second book is destined for bestseller status and I am always happy to spread the word about people who make the world a better place.
And yours truly contributed to True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real
which will be released this April and was edited by the fabulous Romi Lasally. Finally, on the Role Mommy news front, I’m going to be spearheading a humor anthology for parents called C Mom Run which will be released by Plain White Press in November…check back for updates on some of the incredible writers/bloggers/authors who will be featured in this destined to have you ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing for all you web novices – thanks to Creole Princess for teaching me that one).
Anyway, I have to say, I am happy to be reading again – there’s something to be said about cracking open a book and learning something new or just laughing until your sides hurt.
Let the Holiday Giveaways Begin!
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Obama’s Favorite Book…
My daughter was working on a harmless homework assignment about the presidential campaign and showed me a page that I thought had to be mentioned on my blog. The page featured favorite things of each of the candidates and at first, I really wasn’t surprised. John McCain’s favorite food is chocolate while Obama’s is chili. McCain’s favorite TV show is “24” (who knew?) and Obama’s? Sportscenter – typical male.
McCain: Teddy Roosevelt
Obama: Martin Luther King Jr.
But then, I came upon their favorite book and that’s what disturbed me.
McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)
Obama: The Biography of Malcolm X
What the? I mean, I saw the Denzel Washington movie (aka Spike Lee) and maybe Malcolm X had good intentions and all, but his movement did lead to a lot of radical stuff. Should I be concerned that this is Obama’s favorite book of all time? Or just leave it at that? I don’t know but a person’s favorite books, favorite ministers, and friends all having questionable connections doesn’t sit well with me.
I refuse to sit out of this election but I have to say between Obama and McCain, they are making it very hard for me to make a decision that I feel comfortable with. Memo to Hillary: time to dust off the pant suits and run on the Independent ticket!!!