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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Small Cup of Kindness

My eyes were a little red. I felt sad. It felt odd to be alone on a five-hour train ride back to the city. I had been juggling fast and furious — with the kids, getting them to camp and Spanish language school; encouraging the chronically ill husband; maintaining my cool with difficult and sad issues around my husband’s family; starting my own small business; finishing a job I love and need to leave.

The peaks looked insurmountable. Seemed there was nothing but trudging uphill ahead of me.

Just keep it together, girl, I told myself. That’s all you can do. Although another side of me said, Go ahead, indulge in your self-pity. No one would blame you.

And so I asked for a cup to tea to join me in my quick sand of brewing self-doubt.

But this woman and Amtrak worker, Veronica, gave me more than a cup of tea — she gave me her smile. And I felt restored by the kindness of a stranger, another woman on the train.

I felt, Oh screw the sadness. Because I’ve got my cup of tea, a laptop, and a smile on this train. I’ll make it just fine. And we chugged along.

Here’s another post on why I like trains better than planes.

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I learned a lot from this movie in which many Victorian women have pleasure at their doctor’s hand. Here are my take-aways:

1. Female pleasure cures many ailments.

2. While many Victorian women sought help from doctors, it is likely that their husbands were not able, willing or interested in doing their duty. So, alas, women turned to Hugh Dancy.

3. The doctor needed a little relief as well. Hugh’s vulvic massage technique became a hardship, causing his cramped hand and overwork! Poor dear!

4. The doctor, while doing his duty, asked the female patient things like, “Is that all right?” Sweet! (The expressions on the women’s faces were priceless!)

5. Settlement Houses for the poor did (and do!) a lot of good. Especially when a headstrong woman like Charlotte, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, was in charge.

6. In running the Settlement House, Charlotte had a secret agenda — to empower women. Love that! (Also, she refused to put down socialism — the French would agree!)

As you probably know, Hysteria is about the invention of the vibrator. This is the first movie I can think of in which female pleasure is seen as a cure-all. But even in this movie, the women are seen as slightly silly or “hysterical” if they want or need sexual enjoyment. (For example, Charlotte is too busy tending to her flock at the Settlement House to need this middle-class luxury of sexual release! “She’s a tough case.”)

In most mainstream movies, it is a given that men must seek pleasure — usually from flawless, scantily clad woman wearing black lace. In this movie, there’s a bit of lace but it is found in a high collar or a long skirt. When the women are pleasured by the doctors, they are fully dressed, and their lower bodies are hidden behind a velvet curtain (which resembles a puppet theater).

This delicious movie opens in a week. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about another feel-good English movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in which senior citizens discover that they are still entitled to pleasure. First, senior citizens and now women! Such radical notions coming from England — all adults are entitled to pleasure! We’ve come a long way, baby.

10 Good Things

On most nights I tuck my darling daughters into their beds and I whisper 10 good things about each of them. I don’t know where I came up with this random number.

I have a thing for setting random-numbered goals for myself. I always swim 8 laps in any size pool. I clean for 10 minutes. I run for 13 minutes without stopping.

My children’s recent brattiness has laid me low. Why are they mean to me? ME? I am the nicest person/mother/friend in the world! [See my post from a few days ago: http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/when-kids-are-mean-to-mom/ ]

In any case, to overcome this mean-to-mom moment, let me say 10 good things about myself. This is difficult. I feel confident pointing out my failings, but not my strengths. Here goes:

1. I am funny. 2. I am friendly. 3. I am a good writer. 4. I like to work out. 5. I am creative. 6. I listen well. 7. I am tech-savvy. 8.

I have to stop here and admit I am running out of good things to say. I am bored. I am staring out my window at work and looking at Riverside Church blanketed with snow. It’s almost 9 am and I should get to work. Okay, moving on:

8. I am a hard worker. 9. I love my job. 10. I like staring out the window.

That’s it for me. What are 10 good things about you?

Surrender & Persist

….ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. – Thomas Merton

I am living for the kids. Sometimes I joke, “I’m just holding it together for 10 more years until the kids are grown. Then I’m going to let it all go. I’m going to drink and smoke and be promiscuous.” But I’m not really going to do that. I’m not going to wait to crash once my twins are snuggled into their freshman dorm rooms. No, I’m going to crash gently now. And not wait 10 years.

Like Sully above the Hudson River, I can see my life has real mechanical failures, so I’m going to try to bring the jet down gracefully on some makeshift runway.

I’m finding the path of least resistance now. And as I see it, the path is towards — God, it sounds corny; but here you have it — greater loving.

To take this path, I have 7 rules to live by. These rules were developed by me and my friend Lindsay Pontius after we had several glasses of champagne at the Yacht Club –sounds so deliciously decadent. It was Lindsay’s birthday and we wrote our rules on a wet napkin with a felt tip marker we’d borrowed from the waitress.

I’ve told several friends my 7 rules and one or two suggested I jot them down on something more lasting than a torn napkin. So here you have it. My 7 Rules on the path of Loving.

Until you get to them, I suggest you hold it together. Or, if you have to crash, try to take it down gently.

The path is easy. But like all worthy endeavors, it requires a mix of seizing and letting go of your own power. The path requires persistence and surrender. Persist or give up. It’s up to you.

#1 Pile on People

# 1 Pile on People (P.O.P.)

There is no problem that can’t be bettered by adding a lot more people to it.

If two parents are good, then three are even better still. Four or five? Excellent! After all, it does take a village to raise a child. Or fight a war. George Bush employed this concept — he called it a surge.

In my life, I have employed surge. Especially in the last few years I have piled on the people by employing housekeepers and babysitters. And it’s really worked well. (Heck, half of my facebook friends are the kids’ babysitters.)

One note: it does cost you. So, be prepared to DTE (damn the expense!) when piling the money on when you pile the people on! Or barter! Or get family members on board.

I was just chatting with Josie, former babysitter, the other night. I was dissing marriage to her. Saying Let’s face it, married couple love is way overrated. That relationship is so fetishized by, oh, I don’t know, diamond companies, candymakers, Valentine’s revelers, Catholic priests. If we are going to celebrate love, let’s expand our concept of love a wee bit.

Let’s celebrate a love of a single mother for her kids, a sister for her brother, two dear old friends, a son for his dad, an aunt for her nephew, a student for his teacher, a pastor for her flock. I dunno. I’m just sick of all the brouhaha over marriage.

My point is — it’s wrong to send love like a garden hose in just one direction. That won’t water the garden. Hook it up to a sprinkler and let love be more like a fountain — spraying in many directions and watering a wider land.

I’m digressing and I do want to tweak my P.O.P. concept.

Make it P.O.U.P. — Pile on Useful People. Because just a pile of people gets unwieldy. And given that I’m a real people pleaser, when you have to please unwieldy people, it’s a real drag. So try to see that the people in your life add, not take away.