Written By Kate Hardy.
That was the question asked to a room filled with one hundred women and a few men on Wednesday evening at de la Femme. Deb Elbaum, MD, CPCC, APCC, a career and life coach, author, and speaker, was hosted by de la Femme for a workshop at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA. The topic of the night was, “Boost Your Professional Presence: The Art of Being Confident.”
Deb’s workshop is interactive, and her goal is to help women learn to believe in themselves and present their ideas with confidence both professionally and personally as they work towards their own successes. Everyone in attendance left with a new sense of empowerment and concrete ways to practice confidence on their own.
To many, confidence must sometimes seem like a difficult and challenging feeling to achieve. What makes one person feel completely at ease and confident may make another feel unsure and indecisive. But on this night, Deb made it seem so much simpler, with her thoughtful exercises and her tangible, actionable steps.
The central message of the night was simple and direct: A + B = C. Attitude + Body = Confidence.
Upon arrival, all of us were given a worksheet of thoughtful questions that we would soon be guided through answering. These questions were formulated to help us discover insights about ourselves. One of the first pairs of questions we answered were: what people, places, things, or events cause us to feel like our confidence is being sucked away, and which situations cause us to feel we are completely confident? And then, an extra challenge: Tell the person sitting next to you.
The thing is, as scary as it can be to tell a complete stranger these personal insights, the valuable lesson is that we’re all in the same boat. We all have things that make us feel confident, and we all have things that make us feel totally un-confident. Not to mention, what makes me feel completely paralyzed with self-doubt may have very well made my neighbor feel energized and on top of the world. “Wow,” I found myself thinking. “If she can have the attitude to feel confident about giving a presentation to 500 people, then maybe I can be that way, too!”
A bit further on in the evening, as we completed the other parts of our worksheets, we were instructed to finish statements like, “At home, I am really good at…” After this thought exercise, we created a personal purpose statement. This was a combination of words or themes that we felt captured us best from the statements we had just completed. Mine? I found that I was a motivated, goal-oriented communicator.
At first, that seemed kind of odd. “Am I really that way?” I asked myself. Sometimes I feel like my communication skills are lacking. I don’t always ask for what I need from other people to be successful, to feel nurtured, or to clarify a situation because I don’t feel confident enough to do so. But, lo and behold, I found that just moments before I had finished the statement, “At work, I am really good at,” with, “teaching and communicating.”
Deb explained how large an impact our own self-beliefs, our attitude, has on our overall confidence. We have this well of confidence within us, just waiting to be drawn from. If we learn to identify and question our negative self-beliefs, we will most likely find at least one confidence drainer. Once these are uncovered, we can work to correct them and replace them with positive self-beliefs. We are in control of our confidence by shaping our attitudes.
The second letter in our alphabet equation was B for body.
As it turns out, Deb taught us Amy Cuddy’s power pose, which was based on the coaching of Amy’s TED talk and work. Your body language not only translates to others, but it also translates to your own emotional state. When you position your body in a way of strength and freedom, your mind listens.
Next, we all stood up and learned how to power pose. We learned how to plant our legs firmly on the ground a little bit apart. Body straight. Head up. Eyes forward. Arms flung up in the air or Superwoman-style on our hips. And that is how we stayed for a full minute.
Right before these power poses, Deb had asked us to stand hunched, arms crossed, bodies curled into ourselves, eyes down. She asked us to describe how we felt: “Small.” “Nervous.” “Unsure.”
But when we struck those power poses, our reactions were completely different: “Powerful.” “Energized.” “Confident.”
Attitude + Body = Confidence.
Yes. How simple, and yet, how hard at times! Deb explained that confidence is a practice. It is a habit. She encouraged us to practice power posing every day. And to not stop questioning the attitudes that make us feel we are not confident. Because we are. All of us in that room had a well of confidence from which we could draw endless amounts of our own personal support.
Walking home from the workshop, my friend and I talked about how we had both learned insights about ourselves. She told me that sometimes she doesn’t speak up to her boss because she doesn’t want to step on toes. I considered this for a minute, and then pointed out that often times a group or organization is stronger for opposing beliefs. And that maybe her newer and less experienced views on her job may actually be innovative. Thanks to this workshop, she was learning to identify her negative self-beliefs and had tools to practice positive self-beliefs instead.
I’m sure I speak for almost all of the attendees that night when I say that Deb guided us to some valuable personal insights and gave us powerful tools to help practice and nurture those wells of confidence we hold within. We learned how to identify and question our negative self-beliefs, how to create positive self-beliefs in return, and how to channel positive energy with our physical bodies to channel pure confidence.
And as for my neighbor? I got a text message from her the very next morning that read, “My boss called me last night. I used my new confidence!”
Written By Kate Hardy.