Thursday, August 7, 2014

Confidence Gap

When I received my most recent Title Nine catalog a few days ago, I really connected with this image and text, which was just on the inside cover:

I had never heard of this "Confidence Gap" before, but yet I knew exactly what it was. I am definitely someone who falls victim to that very thing. I think about it a lot, actually, and especially after moving here where even after three years a lot is still foreign to me, so when I saw that image on the catalog cover, it really clicked. Now I know what to call it.

I didn't realize it was an actual "thing" in today's culture, however, and did a bit of research. As with many hot button topics, there are many and varied viewpoints on the subject of the Confidence Gap.  Here's a link to one article I found that was kind of interesting.  I don't think I take the extreme view that this author has, but she does raise some interesting points.

Now, let me relate being on the farm to this Confidence Gap.

Just yesterday, my friend Stephanie (who is staying with us now through the month of September) and I were out for a walk and noticed that some of the fence on the pasture the bulls were currently residing in was broken.  We mentioned it to Jeff and Tom (Remember, Carol is still out of town) and after some discussion reached the conclusion that we were capable of fixing the fence ourselves. We loaded up ourselves and all the appropriate fencing gear we thought we'd need in the Ranger and set out to fix it.

A little background. I have been along with Jeff many times fixing fence and feel fairly competent when it comes to simple things like stapling or clipping wires back on to fence posts. Jeff has shown me how to pound a steel post into the ground and how to use a stretcher to splice wires, etc. but I have never done it on my own. Until yesterday. Sort of.

When we arrived at the spot of fence in need of mending, we assessed the damage and began working. Right away, simply using some of the equipment presented challenges. I often find that equipment used on the farm are not sized such that I can operate them with ease. Case in point- the fencing tools. The pliers barely fit in my hand. I actually had to use two hands to close them, which is problematic if you need to use one hand to hold a fence wire or clip. The stretcher is a similar story-- too big and too heavy for me to use easily. Stephanie and I had to hold it up together to try to get the wires set in the right spots.

Another case of tools constructed only with men in mind to use them?
I can open it with one hand just fine, but need two hands to close them. 
That thing is heavier and more awkward than it looks!
I was on the verge of being extremely frustrated at my inability to do what should have been -- in my mind-- a 5 minute fencing repair. I felt like I knew what I should be doing, but I couldn't even use the tools! 

Eventually, Stephanie and I did fumble around long enough with the wire stretcher to get the two sections of broken wire somewhat close to each other. That's when I realized that we would need some additional wire to splice in... I called Jeff to confirm, which he did. Then I was really hard on myself for something I felt like I should have known. When fence lines are actually broken, you will most definitely need some additional wire to splice in. So that made me feel even more inadequate. 

About this time, Tom arrived to assess the damage. We told him that we needed some additional wire and he went back to the yard to get it. When he returned, he spliced the broken wires with new sections of wire in approximately 2 minutes and 37 seconds, then headed back to the yard. 

Part of me felt like I had failed my mission to fix this small section of fence I had set out on. But, luckily, Stephanie was along to remind me not to be too hard on myself. What we did do was focus on exactly what technique Tom used when using the fencing pliers and the stretcher- noting the way he held the pliers and used their differing functions without even thinking about it, or how he placed the stretcher on his hip so he could use both hands to grab the wire and place it where it needed to be. Both were techniques we could never have known without experience.

At first, I felt bad that I hadn't finished a project myself that I had set out to do. But once I saw how quickly Tom fixed the fence, I realized that I was far behind in terms of efficiency-- and it wasn't because the tools were "built for a man." Even Stephanie pointed out that Tom's hands weren't always "man-sized," and he must have learned as a child or a younger person anyway how to use these very tools. It was simply a case of not knowing the proper technique. Sometimes I take for granted that Jeff and Tom have had 30 and 60 years of experience with tasks I am still learning. I will be working on perfecting my skills for years to come. 

Stephanie, adding a clip to this post.
After splicing the wires back together, Tom headed back to the yard and Stephanie and I clipped and stapled the wires back to the posts. I reminded myself that Stephanie also has limited experience with barbed wire fence, let alone repairing them. 

So, now relating this all back to Confidence Gap idea. I am definitely someone who falls victim to "taking myself out of the game" if I am not 100% sure of my viewpoint, my skills, or my capabilities. I'm afraid of failing or looking like an idiot. Maybe that's why I am so passionate about encouraging others to be confident and strong, especially other young women and girls. This is something I need to work on. I can't get better at anything if my mind is clouded with even an inkling of self-doubt. That's why I love and needed to see that page from the Title Nine catalog. I need to work on filling my own Confidence Gap, being more assertive, proud of my list of accomplishments, and looking for ways to add to it. Ask questions. Learn from others. People are always willing to help. The tools may not always be the right fit for the job, but with the right technique and attitude, they'll work just fine. 

*Note: In no way am I being compensated by Title Nine, I just happen to love their mission and their products. 


  1. Katie--I believe you speak for the majority of us and our chronic self-doubt and that is why I always feel encouraged and empowered by your well written articles. Keep doing what you do!

    1. Thanks, Lynn-- I really appreciate your kind words. :)

  2. I think we tend to underestimate the value of experience. It takes time to develop- that's why it's called experience!

    I definitely have a HUGE confidence gap when it comes to farm work. My dad is a big inspiration this way. He even has a disability but has spent a lifetime "figuring it out" with persistence and imagination.

    1. Great points, Joellyn! I am definitely my own worst critic. I think it's so important -- as we learned in Bayfield-- to continue to reframe negative thoughts. :)


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