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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Writing at the Unconference

Today was the unconference #IndieCon at New Work City, my coworking space. When I got there, I learned that at an unconference, participants just sign up for the workshop they want to teach. On Thursday night, I had taught Blogging Basics so one of my coworkers suggested I offer a taste of that workshop in one of 30 minute sessions this afternoon.

I did. I had a wonderful group. I gave the bloggers seven minutes to write (then added two more). I offered “hungry for more,” as one of the creative writing prompts to pump the well and get the words flowing. So, in less than 10 minutes, this is what I came up with.

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I’m hungry for more. I am looking to learn more, I’m grateful for the business I have, leading the workshops I lead, but I want to lead a writing workshop in the Amalfi coast, in a Paris cafe, or on a Guatamalan mountaintop.

I have a bad case of wanderlust.

At my Dangerous Writing workshop with the IWWG (International Women’s Writing Guild) last month, several of the participants had traveled to Natalie Goldberg’s workshop in Italy. One participant said I was a better teacher than Natalie, which blew me away. (Yes, I’m a competitive creative writing teacher!)

And, my student added, she would take an international writing excursion with me, because, besides being a good teacher, I would let her and her friends drink when we traveled together to the castle in Italy.

“Of course, I would let you drink,” I said. Curious about the most famous creative writing teacher’s motivation, I asked, “Why wouldn’t Natalie let you drink?”

“Because then we might become friends,” another of my students who had been on Natalie’s writing workshop chimed in.

Maybe Natalie wanted clear-headed writers. I understand. I know Cheever wrote his best stuff when he sobered up. And I know that the myth of the alcoholic writer is simply a myth, but still, on a writing retreat to Italy, I think we can imbibe.

I love the word ‘imbibe.’ It is such a buttoned-up word and yet the act of drinking is buttoned down.

I am hungry to button down.

I am hungry. Or maybe I am thirsty to imbibe.

***

Here are two photos from my day today. This first is from my early morning birding with Charles Chessler in Central Park. And the last is from my bike ride home from the Unconference along the Hudson River path.

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