Here Are Your Weekly Horoscopes For October 23rd-29th

Halloween might be more than a week away, but that doesn’t mean things are about to get spooky scary in your horoscope this week. Yikes. The Sun moves into Scorpio meaning changes, because, well, every time the Sun enters a new sign, it kinda shakes shit up. Opportunities that arise this week might open even more doors for you in 2018. Let’s just hope there’s not some sort of fucked-up creepy clown behind that same door, though.



The Sun is on the mothafuckin’ move, and it’s teaming up with Jupiter in the house that controls your finances. In the coming months, your credit will get a boost, so it’s a lucky time for you to apply for a loan for some major shit like a car or a house. Likewise, it can also affect how much money is coming in around you. Has your boyf been funemployed or, like, IDK in grad school working his ass off to become rich later on? Well, your ability to stand by you man will be rewarded in the next month. Finally, he can start paying for fancy dinners again. Nice.


If it feels like your Seasonal Affective Disorder is in high gear in the next four weeks, well, it probs is. It kinda sucks that when the Sun is opposite your sign in the zodiac, it coincides with Daylight Saving Time, doubling the affects of being tired and super down about the loss of summer. The upside is that you have a chance to take a step back and evaluate your life and friendships. Since you might not feel like going out, you can curl up at home and see who texts you first. Like, if someone doesn’t want to be in your life when you’re not at 100%, then that person shouldn’t be in your life at all. It’s time for realizing things, ya know?


You’re on some sort of organizational/figuring-your-life-out kick in the next four weeks. Your big goals involve being productive, efficient and maybe even a little bit physical. If you can’t seem to focus and get your shit together, sorry to say, it’s probably a sign that you aren’t getting off your ass enough to build that mind-body connection of being high-functioning af. For you, there’s a lot that connects how you feel physically and how you feel mentally. So if you feel like your mental game isn’t up to par, maybe like, eat a vegetable or something.


Cancer betches are lucky AF in the next four weeks, because it’s time to get out and play. You’re really living your best life and being your best self as long as you’re getting out there and not letting the change of seasons ruin your mood. Sporting events are somehow more appealing to you. Like, no, not playing. Ew. I’m just saying, if you’ve been looking to take the title of Queen of the Tailgate, the next month is really when you’ll come into your own when it comes to being the life of the party at seasonal festivities.


Normally, a Leo betch is the open about her life with her friends. Like, does everyone need to hear about your last trip to the gyno? Um, no… but you have no problem telling them anyway. But, if you find yourself being a little bit more private when it comes to basically everything in the next four weeks, don’t freak out. Your focus for the next month is shifting to personal matters and shit other people just don’t need to hear about. Things are really in the works for you, so don’t jinx them by running your fat mouth.


It feels like time is speeding up for you over the next month. Like, seriously, who hit the fast-forward button? You’ll be busy with whatever usually dominates your time, plus, there’s an opportunity for short weekend trips. Underneath it all *cue Shakira* there’s something you want to get off your chest, though. Carve out time to have that deep discussion you’ve been meaning to have, and make clear communication your goal. This doesn’t mean you need to have a wine-induced heart-to-heart. Actually, you might want to be totes sober for this one. As freaky as that sounds.


You’re on the mission for greater control over your life in the next four weeks, like, especially when it comes to money. Do you own your shit or does your shit own you? It’s time to take a better look at where you’re spending and what that says about your life. While you’ve got your mind on your money and money on your mind, it’s still okay to throw it around a little bit. I mean, it is fall, so the change in season does call for a few new pieces in the closet. It may also be time to do some fall cleaning so you have room for the new shit in your life.


The Sun has made its way into your sign and is hanging out for a bit. Fucking finally. You might have a spring in your step this week and feel just generally perkier. No, nothing is deeply wrong with you, you’re just in a good mood. Bask in the glow that is your life rn. Others are taking note, too. You’ll be open to more attention in every part of your world—especially the parts that need some TLC. Feeling lonely? Your dating life is about to rev up. Feeling poor? It’s time for your boss to notice your efforts at work. Remember, even if you don’t get exactly what you want, sometimes, it’s about getting what you need.


Get out the crystals, you’re about to get meta. The Sun enters a hidden part of your chart this week, forcing you to look inward. If meditation and yoga aren’t your thing, just do whatever is most cathartic to you. Just because you’re examining your own soul doesn’t mean you have to be a weird loner recluse. It’s actually a really good time for you to be more social, because you’ll get a better perspective on where you stand in your friendships.


You’ll be feeling a little more jazzed up when it comes to social interactions over the next four weeks. Normally, small talk in the office elevator would make you want to stab everyone and rip your hair out. First of all, don’t do that. Second of all, chill our for a minute and work on listening to what people are saying. You might catch on to something important. It’s a time of opportunity for you and giving that higher-up a sounding board just might give you an upper hand in the game later on. As our hottest president ever, JFK, once said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Remember that this week.


As the Sun is at the top of your chart right now, it’s acting like a spotlight on you and all the shit you do. You’re not a show-off-y sign, (I’m looking at you, Leo) but you’ll be getting some more positive attention over the next four weeks, and it’s best you don’t just shrug it off. Use whatever good graces come your way to advance your position in life. Work on your pitch for what you really want, and then just fucking go for it. If you’ve been waiting for a sign, this is it, betch.


You’re, like, sooooo bored with the status quo lately. You’re really eager to get out and do new shit and meet new people. If that’s like, really how you feel deep down, then you need to stop making excuses as to while you’re being so boring all the time. Is something really holding you back? Then work on getting rid of that obstacle. Are you just being a lazy/whiny-ass bitch about stuff? That’s probably closer to the truth. You need to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and make fun a priority over the next four weeks.


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PhoneSoap 2.0 is a sanitizing smartphone case

Your phone is dirtier than you think. But it doesn’t have to be.

Image: PhoneSoap

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

We’ve written about this smartphone sanitizer before — and about how your phone carries 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Well get excited because this super smart case is currently on sale for 17% off on Amazon.

The Phonesoap 2.0 uses UV rays to eliminate bacteria that accumulates on your screen surface. It’ll even charge your phone for you as it cleans, so that’s two birds with one stone. This device can also fit nearly any phone, including the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

The Phonesoap 2.0 normally costs $59.95, but you can get it now for $49.99 and save $9.96.

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Trump goes to Senate to talk taxes, health care

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump travels to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with Senate Republicans at their weekly policy lunch as he pushes forward on tax cuts.

On taxes, passing a formal budget is a key step to clearing the way for the Senate to pass an eventual tax deal on a simple majority vote, meaning without Democratic support. The Senate passed its version last week and House and Senate negotiators were expected to spend this week hammering out differences between the two chambers’ budgets.
Instead, the House is expected to speed up the process by simply adopting the Senate budget with a vote sometime this week.
House GOP leaders struggled for months to get the votes for their own proposal as conservatives demanded details on tax reform and millions of dollars in required spending cuts. That process stalled progress on the budget and tax reform. But it appears many House Republicans now are willing to set aside items they had fought so hard to preserve in order to ensure tax reform gets on a faster track.
Meantime, tax negotiations continue behind the scenes over the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT), a popular tax break that’s expected to be scrapped from the plan. Some Republicans from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois have been pushing to either preserve the deduction or find some sort of compromise. But nixing SALT would bring in needed revenue to help pay for the plan. So it’s unclear what will happen on SALT, if anything.
On health care, Republican senators attending the lunch with Trump will be anxious to know what he wants to do about the bipartisan Alexander-Murray legislation, which would restore the cost sharing reductions for Obamacare that Trump cut off earlier this month.
Trump has given mixed signals on the legislation to legalize the payments to insurance companies, which were struck down in court.
The bill would continue CSR for another two years — a win for Democrats — and provide states with greater say about how the law is implemented in their states — a win for Republicans.
Even if the bipartisan compromise gets through the Senate — a tall order — House Speaker Paul Ryan has already publicly raised problems with the proposal. Top House conservatives don’t want to sign onto any legislation they feel helps sustain the health care law they’ve been working to undo since 2009. But with leaders of both sides recognizing Congress will have to deal with the issue, it’s likely it could be punted and incorporated into a year-end funding deal.
On disaster aid, the Senate is scheduled to break a filibuster of a $36.5 billion emergency supplemental spending bill to respond to the multiple hurricanes that hit the United States in recent months and the ongoing wildfires that are burning out West. More emergency aid is likely to be approved in November, according to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

McConnell’s full ‘State of the Union’ interview

Niger, Russia

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and others have raised questions about the military operation in Niger that resulted in the deaths of four US soldiers. Congress will continue to track the Pentagon’s investigation of the incident, and McCain’s panel as well as others could demand more briefings and information.
The congressional Russia probes will continue to bring in a stream of witnesses with both chambers back this week. But one high-profile event is no longer on the calendar: The Senate intelligence committee postponed a public hearing with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that was scheduled for Wednesday.
The committee said the hearing, which was added in place a closed-door interview last month, would be rescheduled for a later date.
The House is also voting on Iran sanctions legislation that would target the country’s ballistic missile program. It will also take up a bill that imposes penalties on Iran for its support of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

Hearings of note

Border issues — On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Kevin K. McAleenan to be commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. He is likely to be questioned about the President’s plan for border security and intention to build a wall between the US and Mexico.
Puerto Rico recovery — The House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing Tuesday on the Puerto Rico recovery in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear from representatives from the FDA, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on public health preparedness and response to 2017 hurricane season.

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Hollywood speaks out on James Toback allegations

(CNN)There are some harsh words being bandied about in Hollywood since numerous women accused screenwriter and director James Toback of sexual harassment.

Toback’s agent, Jeff Berg, told CNN on Sunday he would pass a request for a comment on to his client. The director, 72, denied the allegations when contacted by the Los Angeles Times, according to the publication.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn posted Sunday on his official Facebook page that when he was living in New York City in the 1990s, Toback “was EVERYWHERE.”
“I have personally met at least FIFTEEN WOMEN, probably more, who say that he’s accosted them in NYC,” Gunn wrote. “He essentially goes up to women and says, ‘Hey, I’m James Toback, and I’m a famous director, and I feel like there’s a connection between us.’ Then he shows them some article on himself or some other artifact to prove he is who he is, and tries to get them to go somewhere else with him.”
Gunn wrote that three women whom he dated, two of his best friends, and a family member had alleged to him that Toback harassed them
“I don’t want to be attacking every Hollywood douchebag who hits on countless women,” Gunn wrote. “That type of behavior isn’t cool, but I think it’s important to separate douchebaggery from any kind of sexual coercion. But the women I talked to who DID go someplace private with Toback, told stories that were worse than the women only accosted on the street.”
Gunn also mentioned the March 1989 issue of the now defunct satirical Spy magazine that contained a story about Tobak.
Titled “The Pickup Artist’s Guide to Picking Up Women: A Case-by-Case Look at Movie Director James Toback’s Street Technique,” it outlined stories of more than a dozen women who alleged Toback tried to pick them up, including the writer of the piece, Vincenza Demetz.
Demetz wrote that Toback told her of the story, “If you print this piece, I promise it will be the single thing you regret most in your life.”
The accusations against Toback follow allegations of sexual misconduct made by more than 40 women against producer Harvey Weinstein.
One of the Weinstein accusers, actress Rose McGowan, tweeted Sunday “James Toback damn you for stealing, damn you for traumatizing.”
Actor/comedian/radio host John Fugelsang tweeted “I had no idea James Toback objectified women until I watched like any of his movies from the past 20 years.”
“Will & Grace” star Debra Messing also tweeted about the allegations.
“The damn [sic] has broke,” she wrote. “Women will no longer be silent. We have your back and will amplify.”
An update since this story originally published, Jeff Berg is no longer representing James Toback.

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Quickly catch up on the day’s news: Monday, October 23

(CNN)Here’s what you might have missed on CNN today:

President Donald Trump on Monday disputed a widow’s account of a condolence call he made to her following the death of her husband in Niger after an ambush on US Green Berets. Myeshia Johnson said the President stumbled on her husband’s name during the call.
On Monday afternoon, the Pentagon held a briefing led by General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He revealed new details on the Niger ambush, including that US troops requested additional support about an hour after the firefight began with 50 ISIS fighters. The attack took the lives of four US and five Nigerien soldiers.

Soldier’s widow on Trump’s call

President Donald Trump on Monday disputed a widow’s account of a condolence call he made to her following the death of her husband in Niger after an ambush on US Green Berets. Myeshia Johnson said the President stumbled on her husband’s name during the call.McCain takes jab at Trump
Sen. John McCain, in an interview about the Vietnam War, appeared to take a swipe at President Trump when he criticized people from “the highest income level” who avoided the draft by finding a doctor who “would say that they had a bone spur.” Trump received five deferments during the Vietnam War, including being diagnosed with bone spurs in his foot.

Trump presents Medal of Honor

President Trump presented the Medal of Honor to Gary Michael Rose, a retired US Army captain who served as a medic in the Vietnam War.

In other news

— The Environmental Protection Agency has canceled speaking appearances by three of its scientists set to speak at a climate change conference on Monday, The New York Times reported.
— The mystery of James Comey became slightly more unmasked as the former FBI director confirmed he’s ‘Reinhold Niebuhr’— the account posting six cryptic tweets since March, including photos of Comey posing from the Iowa countryside.
— Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing has been postponed to Wednesday.
— Billy O’Reilly responded to the The New York Times report on his $32 million settlement with Fox News, saying the newspaper published the story because it wanted to ruin his career.
— Listeria triggered a major recall of veggies across the US and Canada.
— A global study reveals 72 gene mutations leading to the development of breast cancer.
— The novelty of dining underwater is about to hit Norway.

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The Premise Of The New ’50 Shades’ Book Is Hilariously Bad

If you ever read and thought, “This is pretty sexy, but it would be wayyyy sexier if I could hear these exact same events told from the perspective of a man,” then you’re in luck! fan fiction author-turned-porn-book-woman E.L. James will be releasing a new installment of the series called which is, you guessed it, a retelling of the second book from the perspective of Christian, and with the longest book title known to man. E.L. James, you know don’t have to like, explain the entire premise of the book in the title, right? Like, Harry Potter books are just called not . It’s not necessary.


The new book will come out on Nov. 28th, just a few months after the release of the film version of so those of us me who only see the movies because we don’t want to be spotted reading a porn book in public will be able to hear Anastasia’s side of the story, before Christian gets his man thoughts all over it.

E.L. James teased pages from the new book on Facebook over a year ago and horny soccer moms stans have been wet with anticipation ever since.

Ugh should I not have said wet? I’m sorry. That’s gross.

Anyway, this type of re-release is nothing new for the sopping wet avid fans. E.L. James pulled a similar move back in June of 2015 when she released . Again, there is no need for these titles to be so long. That’s what the inside of the book is for.

Not that E.L. James needs any advice from me. sold over 1 million copies in its first week, despite the fact that literally every critic said it was hot, steamy garbage. It’s almost like the reason is so popular has nothing to do with literary merit or something…


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Too scared to speak up? How to be more confident

Some people exude self-assurance, while others dread putting themselves forward. But is lack of confidence societal or genetic, and what tricks can we use to overcome it?

Above the entrance to Manchester Grammar School lies a coat of arms and a Latin inscription: Sapere Aude. Ian Thorpe, then the schools development officer, translated it for me Dare to Be Wise as we stood in the front quad on a warm day last July. First used by the Roman poet Horace in his book of Epistles, the phrase was later employed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant: Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own understanding is the motto of the enlightenment, he wrote. And it makes a fine motto, too, for a school that counts among its alumni the writer Thomas de Quincy and the director Nicholas Hytner.

Manchester Grammar is the largest all-boys day school in the country, and when I visited they were in the throes of summer sports day: a loudspeaker reeled race results out across the grass, a large marquee stood by the track. There was, I felt, a sense of gentle splendour there in the trees that line its long driveway, mature and broad-branched, and in the quad designed in the style of an Oxbridge college. Certainly, the school wants for little: it stands on a 28-acre site, has a history dating back to the early 16th century, and commands fees a little shy of 12,000 a year.

In the cool of the library, I joined Thorpe, his colleague Laura Rooney and some of their students. We talked about the benefits of the school, their previous educational experiences at a rowdy primary and a local state comprehensive. Theres more attention to individual pupils here, said one. When I came to this school, I felt more important, said another. Rooney spoke of the schools old boys network. We look after them for the rest of their lives, she said, and told of how, only the previous week, she had arranged a sixth-form work experience placement with an Old Mancunian who is now a vehicle engineer for a Formula One team.

The boys were open, articulate and delightful, their demeanour imbued with a confidence I found striking. But a school such as Manchester Grammar engenders confidence not just through the depth and breadth of its education, but through the sense of history and lineage it bestows upon its pupils, the belief that it is quite something to join the ranks of Old Mancunians, the familiarity with Oxbridge and the professional world, a feeling of ease in a variety of social settings and occasions. And although not every public school child will brim with confidence, many will go on to live their lives with the deep-rooted sense that they have worth.

Confidence is a peculiar beast. At its most fulsome it can seem repellent. In some cases it could even prove dangerous consider the circumstances brought about by the unwavering confidence of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, for instance, or the kind of financial maelstrom unleashed by the overconfidence of stock market traders. Yet as I left Manchester Grammar that July day I felt a great wash of sadness that not all young people will know that sense of self-assurance; that many will spend their lives feeling perpetually on the back foot. And I wondered whether confidence might be something we can learn at any stage in life.

To an extent, confidence is something hardwired into us from birth. A study of 3,700 twins by behavioural geneticist Corina Greven at Kings College London and Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry, for instance, concluded that academic self-confidence was 50% nature and 50% nurture. Women, meanwhile, have a biological tendency to seek acceptance and avoid conflict, while men tend to take more risks under pressure, meaning that, in some lights, women might appear to lack inner confidence.

But external factors play a huge role in shaping our feelings of self worth. Lets say you are white and male and raised in a detached house in the home counties. You attend a fee-paying school, your family is financially secure and well-educated as it has been for generations. It seems brain-numbingly obvious to suggest your levels of confidence are likely to be higher than if you were female, black and state-educated, growing up in a single-parent family on benefits living on a council estate in, say, Burnley.

No working-class kid, however self-confident, is ever going to be made the editor of the Evening Standard without any journalistic experience, in the way that George Osborne was, says the writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie, who has written often on matters of class, politics and regional divide. What he has is a complicated nexus, a network of power and relationships that means you cant really fail. Underpinning that sort of confidence, he adds, is actual material and political power and I think this is forgotten sometimes when well-meaning people are accusing working-class kids of lacking the confidence and self-assertion that comes with middle-class people.

Illustration: Dom McKenzie

Some of the reasons for this are glaringly obvious, while others exert a more subtle force. John Grindrod is the author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Post-War Britain. For hundreds of thousands of years, our confidence has been shaped by the environments that we are allowed into or not allowed into, he says, pointing out that, by its nature, castle design led to the feeling that those inside were protected by its architecture, while those outside were not. After the war, Grindrod notes, this began to shift. We saw a desire to try to create buildings that were more transparent and more permeable, he says. An egalitarian architecture as a panacea to a lot of issues around people feeling very disconnected from power.

But the issue is that we do not live in an egalitarian society. The design of a public school such as Eton has much in common with, say, the colleges of Oxbridge, as well as the Inns of Court and the Houses of Parliament. If you grow up among these kinds of buildings, you are not only less likely to be daunted by their grandeur but ,on the contrary, you will feel at home, as if you belong there and they speak your language. When the competition to build the Houses of Parliament came along in the 1830s, you were only allowed to enter buildings that were neo-gothic or Tudor, adds Grindrod. People who understood this vernacular, of course, would have been to Oxford and Cambridge and all those other hallowed institutions.

There have been architectural ripostes to the established elite, however. Maconie speaks fondly of St Georges Hall in Liverpool, a neoclassical building begun in 1841, when the city was flourishing: Its designed to be the first thing you see when you get off the train at Lime Street, this grand edifice, and its supposed to say, Were not bowing to anyone, were supremely self-confident and were as good a city as anywhere in the world. You see that in a lot of Manchesters cottonopolis-era architecture. A sort of swagger in bricks.

Swagger is one of those words often used to describe confident northerners particularly men. I think of the self-confidence of the north in terms of, say, the Gallagher brothers [from Oasis], that and Arthur Seaton [from Alan Sillitoes Saturday Night and Sunday Morning], says Maconie. That kind of self-confidence is born, to a degree, of failure. You get a lot of street confidence in northern males, its an Im never really going to make anything of myself in terms of money or power or prestige, but I can enjoy the prestige of being the loudest guy in the pub.

Confident women, meanwhile, often find they are described as bossy or snobby. Katty Kay presents BBC World News America you may remember her as the presenter whom Dr Ben Carson, the former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, tried to silence during a live TV discussion of Trumps alleged sexual assaults, asking for her microphone to be turned off. She is also the co-author of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance What Women Should Know.

Kay is the daughter of a diplomat, she attended Oxford, and worked for the Bank of England before beginning her career in journalism. Despite this grounding, professional confidence has been a quality that has often alluded her, and she attributes its cause to thinking I wasnt bright enough, and I was conscious of not being confident enough.

But she is aware that she is not alone. Evidence of women underestimating their abilities is comprehensive and across the board, she says. It exists in sports, it exists in politics, it exists in business, it exists in the military. It is quite the reverse for men. One of the most reliable social studies you can do is to give men and women a scientific reasoning quiz, she says. Men tend to overestimate their abilities by more than 30%. Women routinely underestimate their abilities. In reality, the quiz results reveal men and women tend to do about the same.

This, of course, has implications for both an individuals career and the workplace in general. Hewlett Packard has done work on promotions, Kay continues. Women will apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skill set, men will go for those same promotions with 60% of the skill set, because they figure theyre going to learn the rest when they get there and theyre right, they will, and so could we. Its one of the biggest factors I think in why women hold themselves back at work. Now, there are lots of structural reasons, the playing field is not level, but we are also not going for those promotions, were not asking for those pay rises in the way that men do.

During the last few months I have been making a radio series about confidence what it is, where it comes from, why some of us have it and others dont, and what to do about it if your confidence levels are in short supply. I should note that I am not a confident person. I spent my entire first term at primary school allowing myself to be called Louise because I was too shy to tell them my name was actually Laura. I also recently gave a talk at a festival and, for fear that I was taking up everyones valuable time, began early, then garbled through it at high speed and low volume, apologising frequently. I did not ask for a lectern, or for the window on to the noisy street to be closed, I did not allow myself to stop and breathe, because I feared that to do any of these things things that would have benefited both the audience and myself might have been considered arrogant.

It seems to me that confidence has much to do with space with how much room you feel able and allowed to take up. Grow up in a detached house with several acres and you might feel entitled to more room than someone raised in a terrace or a high rise with a tiny balcony. Attend a school where the class sizes are smaller, where fees are paid, and the buildings are grander, and you will learn early that you have a right to spread out, raise your voice, ask for more.

To muddy things further, girls are raised to believe that being smaller is preferable; in a hundred thousand ways we receive the message that we should be quieter, thinner, less demanding, in case we are deemed bossy, or our views too strident, or in case a man asks for our microphone to be turned off. To ask for a pay rise, then, is demanding; it says I am worthy of more and to women, who have spent their lives being told that they should be less, this is conflicting. Men, meanwhile, are raised to be go-getters, to conquer and to win.

But, male or female, we are all a mess of contradictions: the business leader who cant make small talk, the party animal who balks at intimacy. I feel relatively self-assured so long as you cant see me so I can write an article, or present a radio programme, or be as cocky as you like on email, but in the decade that I worked in the Guardians offices, it filled me with dread to have to walk over to speak to my editor.

In the making of this series, there have been moments when I have begun to question whether confidence is such a marvellous thing at all. I dont know if I always trust it, and certainly I have wondered whether confidence always has to equate with brashness whether there might not be a quieter, gentler form of self-worth. I have thought often of something Maria Konnikova, author of a book about con artists, The Confidence Game, said to me: I have to be very wary of people who speak confidently. That is actually a sign that you should be a little bit more sceptical of them. And Ive considered the state of the world and wondered whether maybe all the big mouths and hot-talkers should just pipe down for a moment. I certainly look around me at the world and see strong, confident men who seem to be leading us into very dark places, Maconie notes. Isnt quiet, modest competence a better thing? Ease in ones own skin, I think, is a different matter. To not feel beholden to anyone or inferior to anyone, thats hard-acquired, I think, and that comes from a long immersion in what you do. Sometimes a little more discretion and humility might be a good thing.

Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cant Stop Talking. She cites a recent study by the Kellogg School in the US which found that in an average large meeting, three people do 70% of the talking. And thats horrifying, she says, because if you imagine it, everyone in those large meetings is equally likely to have good ideas but were only hearing from three of those people. That is just so much power and mind talent that has never seen the light of day.

The problem, she says, is that we have created a culture in our schools and workplaces where those people who are just more vocal, who are more dominant, more willing to take up space are automatically accorded all kinds of advantages, both consciously and unconsciously. But if you consider that a third to a half of the population is introverted, perhaps it is time for us to change the culture rather than change ourselves.

Still, we have grown accustomed to trying to change ourselves. Visit the self-help section of any bookshop and you will find any number of guides to gaining confidence: Susan Jeffers Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Paul McKennas Instant Confidence, Russ Harriss The Confidence Gap among them. One of the bestsellers is Bren Browns Daring Greatly. In 2010, Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, gave a TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability which has gone on to be one of the most-viewed TED talks of all time (31,649,423 views at time of writing). Browns theory is that we acquire true confidence through vulnerability. Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen, she writes.

The School of Life, the educational company founded by Alain de Botton, takes a similar approach. It runs a popular confidence workshop and publishes a guide, On Confidence, that draws on the wisdom of Erasmuss 1509 essay In Praise of Folly, and suggests that a willingness not only to be vulnerable but also to be a fool is crucial to evolving greater self-worth. Theres a type of underconfidence that arises specifically when we grow too attached to our own dignity and become anxious around any situation that might seem to threaten it, it states. We hold back from challenges in which there is any risk of ending up looking ridiculous, which comprises, of course, almost all the most interesting situations. The happy news is that, far from regarding it as an elusive gift, confidence is rather a skill based on ideas about our place in the world, and its secrets can be learned.

Illustration: Dom McKenzie

Katty Kay, agrees. I see confidence almost like building blocks, she says. Its almost a tangible physical commodity. You get confidence by doing things and trying stuff thats hard for you and when you do those things its like you bank a bit of confidence, you put it in your confidence wall. Not so long ago she was called to a meeting on Middle East affairs at the White House. And I thought: Oh my God, Im a fraud, all these people are super-duper experts, what am I doing here? Im just a generalist! When they reached the Q&A part of the meeting, Kay noted how the men in the room just jump in with questions, and Im sitting there thinking to myself: I must ask a question, I cant be one of only two women and neither of us ask questions! And eventually I think: For Gods sakes, Katty, youre nearly 50! Put your hand in the air and ask a question! So I put my hand up, and the question comes out, and the Earth didnt open up and swallow me whole. And the next time I was in that situation it was that bit easier because I had banked a bit of confidence.

Its an approach echoed by Brown. Courage is a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts, she writes. Its like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. The brain, after all, is not rigidly set, but malleable and open to change, and so we can learn to be bolder through repetition and reward.

A 2014 study at Dartmouth College, looked at the role of the frontostriatal pathway, which connects the medial prefrontal cortex, implicated in self-knowledge, to the ventral striatum, which provides feelings of reward and motivation. Researchers used magnetic imaging to measure both the physical parameters of that pathway, which it termed the road and the activity levels on that pathway, termed the traffic.

Participants answered questions about how they rated themselves in the short and the long-term with regard to qualities such as happy, hard-working, pessimistic and depressed. The researchers found that an individual with a strong road was likely to experience higher long-term self-esteem. Higher traffic levels on the pathway, meanwhile, showed momentary rises in self-esteem. They also only saw traffic when participants rated themselves with positive qualities, not negative ones. So if we think about ourselves positively, the areas of the brain connected with motivation, pleasure and reward are stimulated.

Just like mastering any other talent, gaining self-assurance requires repetition and time, writes Dr Stacie Grossman Bloom, a neuroscientist who has examined the role that neuroscience can play in raising confidence. The first step is to push back against the obstacles we know stand in our way by being mindful of the situation, and deciding to be confident. Making that complex decision is a multi-step process that taps into our emotions and engages many other parts of the brain. It doesnt matter what level of self-assurance you start at, the more time and effort you dedicate to practicing being more confident, the faster your brain will change and the faster youll master it.

At the Impact Factory in north London, Jo Ellen Grzyb runs workshops on communication, negotiation and public speaking. Over the course of her career she has developed her own tricks for pushing back against obstacles and mustering confidence. If, for example, you find yourself in a meeting in which only three people are blathering on, you might consider interjecting for the good of your colleagues. You put on your Superwoman or Superman cape and you are rescuing everyone else, she says. Because if Im thinking, I have to speak, I have to speak, what am I going to say?, Im all in my head. But if I think, I can rescue this meeting, then that builds my confidence because Im not just doing it on my behalf, Im doing it for the whole room.

There are physical tools, too. You think you dont have the confidence to interrupt this blusterer, she says. But if you begin to speak and you give eye contact to everybody but that person, its one of those little tiny magic tricks, because that person is being ignored. Its not being rude, but you can change the dynamic very quickly. Speak, make eye contact but not with the person who is taking up all the space.

Among many roles, Patsy Rodenburg is head of voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and works with actors, teachers, world leaders and members of the corporate world, teaching on matters of voice and presence. Although I cant talk about the psychology of confidence, I know what it looks like in the body, and the breath, and the voice and the pace, she says. Often people who are trying to be confident and arent swing the pendulum the other way and theyre too loud. They take up too much space. Others are collapsed in their bodies. They dont want to make eye contact, so there is a withdrawal from the world. You disappear. You stop breathing. Its the equivalent of the mouse with the hawk above it.

Her advice is that there is no overnight fix for the underconfident. It takes consciousness, choice, but also simple exercises that might have to be done for the rest of your life. Technique is for the moments when youre upset, disturbed or fearful. She asks people where they feel uncomfortable in these moments. All these tensions stop us breathing, she says. And breath is the fundamental thing in using our voice and connecting to people. So we have to get the breath low and deep and not rushed.

For a lot of women, its a matter of lifting the sternum, for others it might be finding some kind of external connection. I might be sitting at a desk feeling scared, she suggests. So Im just putting my hand against a desk and Im just gently pushing. And if you push against the desk, and your feet are on the floor, you can re-set the breath. Its about re-setting. Youve just got to come back into yourself.

Conversely, coming back into yourself is often a matter of stepping out of yourself. Somebody who is incredibly confident has authority and stillness and theyre interested in us, Rodenburg says. Real confidence has gravitas. And when were fully present, were interested in something outside ourselves. So one of the best things you could do if youre not feeling confident is just listen to others, and be attentive.

Once, I thought gaining confidence might require me to become someone else entirely someone harder and louder and more bruising. But really I think it is a matter of stepping beyond yourself; an adventure of sorts, into the unknown and the brilliantly possible. It is about taking up as much space as you need. About daring to be wise. And, if necessary, its about keeping a steadying hand on the table.

The Confidence Trick, written and presented by Laura Barton, begins on 31 October at 8pm on BBC Radio 4.

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