Tag Archives: mentor

The Confidence Quotient

While I’m not exactly sure why I stopped writing, I am certainly worse for it – and I do not mean my Klout score.

I’d like to claim that line from the movie Contagion where the dad-from-Six Feet Under called blogs “graffiti with punctuation” chastened me or that sitting ten feet from the bureau chief of Chicago’s NYT editorial team has intimidated me.

The truth, however, is that I’m just in a confidence crisis.  My slightly-neurotic analysis has yielded something like this:

When I was smart, I just wanted to be pretty.
When I was pretty, I just wanted to be loved.
I know now that I am neither smart nor pretty, but am miraculously and unquestionably loved.

My simple mind isn’t processing this well.

Further, what’s love got to do with it?

I’m talking about SELF-confidence.  Belief in oneself apparently has nothing to do with how other people view you.  But lack of it sure makes you vulnerable to the worst opinions others may or may not have.  (You would not believe how far I can take this.)

Shouldn’t truly having self-confidence make you a bit impervious to outside forces?  Is it not your own invisibility cloak when the ghost of crappy economy haunts you?  Or the shield against the morally bankrupt thugs who would rob you of your vehicle to success and kick you as they drive away?

I am reminded again of that haunting statement by an interviewer that his dream candidates are single women because they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.  It made me furious then, but merely more self-conscious now.

Writing, like any art, is about sharing your impression of the life that surrounds you.  And since we are all the hero of our own drama, everyone’s impression is unique to their storyline.

What has risen up as a monumental roadblock is the nagging disbelief that my storyline matters.

I think self-confidence is the elephant in every woman’s mental room of her own.
And my elephant has taken to sitting on top of me and crushing the life out.

This isn’t to say that men don’t suffer from a crisis in confidence.  I’m sure they do.  But overwhelmingly, I have noticed that women (including me) get derailed by circumstances beyond their control and then struggle to compartmentalize a sucky situation so they can get back to being awesome.

I had a fantastic conversation this week with someone who wanted ME as a mentor.  [If that doesn’t boost confidence, what on earth will?]  Listening to her story and her self-doubt felt very raw.  In the beginning of the conversation, my nag was reciting “blind leading the blind” over and over… but when I stopped thinking about poor me and what an unimpressive loser I’ve turned out to be, I felt my indignation rise on her behalf.

She didn’t embezzle a million dollars, or have an affair with a married supervisor, or punch a client in the face.  [For the record, neither have I – I was just trying to think of things that would, in fact, warrant feeling a little self-loathing.]  Yet she was behaving as if she deserved to be sitting in ashes wearing burlap.

I was a relative stranger and a brand new connection but even I could see that she had something sparkly inside.  And I told her so.

I’ve been inspired by this woman to seek out connections with people who won’t pump me up, who don’t have anything to gain by injecting my ego with steroids.  I’m on a mission to read and subscribe to confidence and positivity bloggers.  I have pulled out my child psych books to learn what I can about building confidence and what plays a role in one’s “confidence quotient.”

So much is determined by it.

Sometimes the mirror your friends and loved ones hold up to you is like a funhouse mirror.  Their investment in your happiness and obvious love throws waves into the truthiness of their feedback.  In my experience, at least, it is rare that someone close can give you raw truth.  Most people shroud feedback in fluffy nonsense rendering any kernel of actionable insight unrecognizable.

I had a high school ‘phriend’ who, while she wouldn’t be seen with me in public thereby reinforcing my leperous sense of self, would write me ridiculous notes about why I shouldn’t think poorly of myself.  These little gems had very little to do with weighty issues but still gave some perspective to the tragic sensibilities of a teenager – things like “You have all your teeth.” and “You do not smell bad.”

While funny in a Dax Shepherd sort of way, this has given me an idea.  I’m thinking about a little project over the next few weeks.   I’m going to emphasize positive things in my life that I can claim credit for as a way of focusing on good and praising my accomplishments as a valuable human, no matter how small.

If Gretchen Rubin can have a Happiness Project, I get to have a confidence one.

I’ll call it The Confidence Quotient – Small Wins or #CQsmallwins.

Who wants to play?

Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.

That quote is from the cult classic, “Better Off Dead” and has long been stuck in my head as my life’s roadmap.

It’s been a long time since I last wrote.

If I were to be honest, I’d admit there’s no reason other than my lack of discipline but in the time I’ve been literarily mute, I have started a new job, a new year, and had a birthday.

My last birthday, I wrote about how little the numbers of your birthday matter – how so many of the professional women I admire were 20+ years my senior when they accomplished what it is that I admire them for.

On this year’s birthday, a friend gave me some great advice – that I should use a bit of time from my “work from home day” for writing.  She isn’t as close a friend as I would like but she honored me by knowing how important writing is to my spiritual wholeness and by asking me about it.

So here I sit, at 11:16pm on my WFH day, scratching out a few thoughts.

And it is this friend of mine – who took time out on HER rare night out to celebrate with me on mine – who reminded me of a post I’ve been dying to write.  It is a post about who and what we admire and how we guide and are guided.

In moments of self-loathing and melancholic nostalgia, I will bemoan my assertion that I’ve suffered from a lack of mentors.  I use this term like I know what it is.  Like someone who could easily answer “Who is your hero?” or “Who is your role model?”

Am I the only person who doesn’t feel like I had one?

Am I so critical that no one measured up for my aspirational admiration?  Am I so sheltered that I lacked esposure to stand-outs?  I have to assume that neither are true but I stall when trying to recall help/guidance/direction in my professional life.

Now I’m knocking on the door of 40.  I’ve had one marriage, two kids, and more jobs than I care to admit to.  As I evaluate my value – fiscally, empirically or otherwise, I revisit the concept of mentor with equal parts sense and wonder.

In my adult years, I’ve counted a number of incredible women as my friends.  And perhaps I should view them in some capacity as mentors.  They’ve weighed in and stood by as I explored and failed and rebounded.  But I think it is my insufferable ambition that makes me want to identify someone just beyond ‘peer’ status as an advisor, a confidant, a professional coach.

I have had a few female bosses in my career.  My Aussie boss who got me started in this crazy world of internet advertising went on to launch her own site and become a bit of a maven.  A couple of peers turned bosses have traded sales roles for management ones and made significant marks on their companies.  A former CEO remains a sentimental mystery whom I wished I had known better.

But then there are friends too – or phriends, perhaps – but let’s not let cynicism ruin this, eh?  I have perhaps, half a dozen friends who are wildly accomplished in their fields.  For example, one recent friend who is executive status, politically connected, and philanthropic; another is a self-made social correspondent and contributor, published author, and well-recognized speaker/blogger; A former colleague created her own network of bloggers, sold it successfully and remains a consistent presence in the social and digital publishing reviews.  These three in particular, I think would take my call and work with me on a project.

I have asked them about their path to success exactly… let me count…. ZERO times.

I have asked them for advice on my own zigzag, mishmosh career precisely the same number of times.

I’ve another friend who has finished a book and is in the process of publishing it who asked me to collaborate on her next one.  COLLABORATE ON A BOOK!?!?!?  The honor!  The thrill!  I rewarded her by doing and writing almost nothing.  And then I had a baby and she let me slither away in humiliation.

And then there are the stable, serious, no-frills sugarmamas who just get the job done day in and day out.  One of my oldest friends is a single mom who owns multiple properties and has worked at the same company for a dozen years.  Another has been married for eight? I think?  and manages a family life and a sales team with grace.  HOW DO THEY DO THIS?  I’ve no idea.  I am exactly the kind of self-absorbed, pity-party-of-one fool who never asked.

Seriously.

I’ve done this to myself.

The truth is – I suck at asking for help.  I always have.

I don’t know how or where to begin.  I wouldn’t know the first thing about opening up honestly to someone about my professional goals.  And I dare say that I’ve managed to land on my feet more than once despite that handicap.

But I do have goals.  And perhaps they’re to be fulfilled when I’m in my Ariana-Hilary-Nancy years.  But shouldn’t I be mapping a plan for them now?  And writing about it in the process?

These are the questions I would be asking anyone who would listen at Blissdom right now, were I there with wine in hand.  Since some of the aforementioned heroines are there, I’d best simmer a bit and ask them upon their return.

In the meantime, who do you turn to for the really big career advice?  Where did your best counseling come from and how did you ask for it?  What happened when you took or didn’t take it?

I’m asking…