Teaching piano, I find it very interesting to see the difference between my beginner students.

While each and every person has their own unique set of skill, talent and ability, it surprises me time and again to find that boys often tackle the piano with gusto, LOUDLY, no matter how good or bad they are – while girls mostly play timidly, shyly, touching the keys as though apologizing for making any noise at all.

Level of skill rarely comes into play – but gender almost always does.

Most boys display confidence and don’t let mistakes hinder them from finishing the piece, playing it as loudly as they can, and grinning ear to ear when they are done, clearly proud with their efforts.

On the contrary, most girls play quietly and hesitantly, physically cringing at their own mistakes and sometimes stopping entirely. I have to coax them to continue.

I often wonder why it is. Why are boys so much more confident than girls? And if this is so apparent in something as simple as learning to play the piano at a young age, how much more of their lives does it affect?

I read an article that gave me a glimpse into this ‘confidence gap’ that is so apparent between men and women, and is well worth the read. It helped outline a few of the possible reasons – some you would never even think of.  

Being a naturally introspective person, I had to look at myself and ask the same questions.

Why is it that I dream big but haven’t managed to achieve big yet?

As a writer I would love to pen the great South African novel, or a delightful little one at the very least. But submitting my book to publishers is terrifying, and instead of keeping at it, I just sit with my manuscript and tell the world (and myself) that it isn’t finished yet.

It needs more editing, another tweak. A nip and tuck and then it will be perfect and accepted and loved.

Funny how the very same thing applies when looking in the mirror. Inner dialogue, for many women, often goes something like this:

“If I could just loose that bit of weight, or lighten that or darken there – if I had a better fitting pair of skinny jeans/smaller feet/stronger nails/longer legs…”

I am constantly criticizing and tweaking, looking to improve myself.

The physical battle is one I have thankfully got a hold on recently, but what about my relationships? What about my work life? What about all those hopes and dreams?

These are hard questions and can keep anyone awake at night for weeks at a time!

I think that perhaps women often don’t achieve as much as we would like to because we don’t even try.

We make wonderful students because we are willing to put all the time and effort in the world in, suffer for the sake of perfection, but when it comes to stepping away from the books and actually doing something, we fall short.

We feel that we need to get a perfect set of circumstances / experience / qualifications / approvals in place before we go for the goal.

Not doing something because you don’t think you are good enough at it yet is a poisonous disposition to have. It limits our lives and cuts us off before we get the chance to blossom and bloom.

Richard Branson said: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

I would take that one step further and say go out there and ASK for that amazing opportunity that you want. Take the leap – get in the ring and throw the first punch. (Not literally of course…violence is never a good idea.)

Put yourself forward for that promotion at work. A friend of mine made me so proud recently. She loves her job and the company she works for, so never wanted to rock the boat or jeopardize her position by letting on that she was unhappy with her remuneration.

However, because she finally had had enough working for a salary much less than market value, when it came to this year’s annual increase time, she worked up the courage and rejected their first ‘offer’, telling them what she wanted. She stood up for what she was worth.

It must have been extremely difficult for her as she is not confrontational in any way whatsoever, but after a few of those sleepless nights I was talking about, she got a response. They gave her the increase she asked for.

That made me giddily happy for her!

I think we women need to find a way to overcome our fear of failure and boldly go where our former selves wouldn’t dare go before. We need to get over this belief that we don’t deserve things, stop valuing ourselves so poorly and fight our own timidity.

So what if western society is so obsessed with unrealistic standards of beauty that we doubt our value from the outside in? Start valuing yourself again from the inside out. Be a phoenix, not a farthing.

And so what if men are paid much more to do the same jobs as us? Keep doing your job to the best of your ability, and then ask for more money when the time comes for increases. Be a warrior maiden, like my friend.

We don’t have to do it by becoming an overnight nuisance, tearing our clothes off and marching down the streets demanding free Gucci or parliamentary positions (though both of those things would be great!) – but we can make the world a different place in ourselves by simply asking for the things we want.

For every ‘No’ we get, there will be a ‘Yes’ out there waiting. We just need to be proactive and find it.

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