On Confidence

One of my girlfriends and I talk about this a lot. We bemoan that our schools don’t teach our daughters how to be confident. In relationships and in the workplace, confidence seems to be a make-or-break key to success.

How can we inspire confidence? As parents and teachers, we can model confidence. Or, at the very least, model competence. Then, move on towards excellence.

I tell my kids the best way to be confident is to be prepared.

I have had a funny relationship with confidence. At times, I am overly confident — optimistically reporting my capabilities (and then, behind the scenes, scrambling to skill up). Other times, I am insecure. My voice shakes and my body posture gets smaller.

I attribute my confidence problem to one small fact — I don’t like to be wrong. And when I am, I get defensive, mad at myself for not knowing all of the answers from all of the angles.

Last week I led a blogging workshop at the Hudson -Mohawk ASTD. (photo by Mark Grimm)
Last week I led a blogging workshop at the Hudson -Mohawk ASTD. (photo by Mark Grimm)

Recently, when I don’t know something, I’ve tried a new method. In my presentations or workshops, I’ll say, “That’s a great question. I really don’t know.” I might say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” Or better yet, I’ll kick the question back to the group and use my curiosity as an opportunity to find the wisdom from the crowd.

Another inspiration has been from the Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy on body language. Cuddy shows that when you strike a power pose for even two minutes, you are perceived as “assertive, confident and comfortable.” A power pose could be a Wonder Woman stance, a wide-armed and wide-legged stance, or a feet-on the table, hands behind-the-head stretching pose.

Cuddy advises that we not ‘fake it ’til we make it,’ but we ‘fake it ’til we become it.’

That’s what I’m doing with confidence. Only I’m not faking it. I truly am curious and I am prepared. My friend Evelyn suggested that in presentations, we should get ‘large and in charge.’ I like that. And that’s what I will suggest to my girls.


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4 thoughts on “On Confidence

  1. So true, all of this. I remember a great story that a famous avant garde director, Ann Hamburger, used to tell. When she was in rehearsal and something wasn’t working she’d stand up from her seat in the house and say, “Well, let’s try this….” then she’d stride toward the stage. She says that almost every time she did it she had an idea by the time she got up on the stage. Terrifying. But part of what brought me a mantra I’ve been using when performing lately, “I will have all the information I need exactly when I need it.”

    1. That’s brilliant, Kizz. Yes, the answer will come when we strike the pose. I love watching the way directors work — especially when they are very physical and enthusiastic. Inspiring!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of “be prepared.” Of course, we all know that no matter how prepared we are, at times, we still feel shaky. And I think that’s where “faking” it by a powerful posture helps. I am also intrigued by your mentioning of “not liking when I am wrong,” which probably resonates with many. Yet, mistakes and failures are necessary in the creative process…so I wonder how we can include “learning to be wrong” in our “prepared” tool kit?

    1. OMG! That’s so true! The “learning to be wrong” is a very hard tool to learn for me, a know it all. But it IS so essential. And it is only one piece in our whole feedback loop — yet we (I) tend to see my wrong-ness as a complete failure, not a failure that will inspire me to grow! Thanks for the insight!

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