If there’s one thing worth reading on Mother’s Day, this is it.

The confidence gap

I’ll tell you why.

1) It’s really long and involved. So if you are a mother yourself, you can plea Mother’s Day and hole up in the bathroom, or luxuriate in bed even!! and have about 20 minutes to yourself while reading it.

2) It may rattle you, just like this statement rattled me:

The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women don’t act, when we hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back. But when we do act, even if it’s because we’re forced to, we perform just as well as men do.

And the great thing about being rattled is that it can lead to us trying, in small ways every day, to change our habits.

2) If you are a man, you should also know about this, since it affects all of the mothers you’ve ever met, including your own. My hope is that after you read it, you’ll encourage the women in your life to take up more space and to try on crazy statements like “I’m gonna try this and see what happens.”

3) Using this article as a springboard to change our habits can create a world filled with a bunch of self assured women with children. Legions of moms who proudly and unflinchingly answer the question, “Do you work?” with “Are you asking if I have a paid job? Or about the work I do all the time of raising human beings?” Imagine seeing the women in your life champion their expertise on a daily basis and take their mistakes in stride rather than talking themselves down. The thought gives me chills.

If I haven’t convinced you already or if you just don’t have the time or inclination, then you can just read my little cliff notes version here and talk to your friends like you did read it.

If women continue to habitually make self-effacing comments like, “I think so, but I’m really not sure” or “I’m really bad at this,” then our children will learn what we did: It’s most important that women not ruffle feathers and play nice. Fit in. Don’t talk too loud or too much. Before you trot your ideas out into the world, make sure they’re perfect.

I’m shocked at how much more easily and instinctively the men in my life step up and take their place. AJ applies for jobs even when he doesn’t meet and exceed every single requirement. He assumes he is smart and can figure it out. He authoritatively offers his opinions even when he’s not 100% sure. There is just a fundamental way that I see AJ and the men around me taking up space like it’s assumed that they should. The women I know often struggle with this, because we’ve been coached implicitly and explicitly our whole lives to make room for others, be kind, defer.

…the result is that many girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. This is to their detriment: many psychologists now believe that risk taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building. Boys, meanwhile, tend to absorb more scolding and punishment, and in the process, they learn to take failure in stride.

As I was reading this I had to work through my own criticisms. “Not all women want to be CEOs. What’s wrong with wanting to be a stay at home mom?” My answer to myself: nothing. Nothing in the world. My second answer: Women CEOs and stay at home moms would all benefit greatly from a confidence boost–a willingness to turn their ideas into actions even if they’re not 100% sure they’ll succeed. The impact of our children watching us try new things and sometimes fail but not blame ourselves and try again is just as powerful as a woman exec. changing company policy in the direction of more paid maternity and paternity leave.

I’m also resistant to any argument that women need to be more like men in order to succeed. But couldn’t we take the confidence page from the man playbook and make it our own? Couldn’t we turn more of our ideas into action and assert more of our opinions and put our own female spin on it? What would our confidence look like if we internalized it to the point that we didn’t have to look to the example of men to remember how to do it?

Today, on Mother’s Day, I will practice confidence.

It is the factor that turns thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of, and that then transforms those judgments into action.

I will practice thinking that I am capable. And using my capability to try. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll try not to blame myself and to shrug it off and try again. Sigh. This sounds hard. Like any sort of work I’ve ever done in trying to shift my habits.

But they’re just habits, people. We can change ’em.