On this last Monday of January 2021, the first day of my work week, these three words have been ringing in my ears for weeks: “DO HARD THINGS”. I know it’s easy to do “familiar things” and “comfortable things” but what about “hard things”? Well, silly rabbit (nod to the Twix cereal commercial from back in the day), there’s a reason why doing hard things is hard, but there are also benefits.
A couple of months ago, I received notice I was asked to present on one of the programs I oversee at a stakeholder meeting in the last week of January…this week. Nothing unusual here. This was a task I could delegate because despite the fact that public speaking on occasion is part of my job, I do not enjoy it. I’m mostly an introvert who likes to be behind the scenes. However, I’m strong in representing my programs so when duty calls, I often perform.
There are people on my team who don’t like public speaking more than me. I decided I would do the presentation with backup. As I was reviewing the presentation content with my backup, in our discussion, I literally said ” it’s because I do hard things”. I don’t remember the exact thought that led me to say that, but she agreed, with relief. Otherwise, she would be the speaker for the presentation.
Some may look at me and think it’s not difficult for me to do public speaking because I do it well, but OH CONTRARE. I’ve learned long ago if I wanted success (as I saw it because success is subjective), then I couldn’t stay stagnate, where I was, without trying. Doing hard things doesn’t mean it gets easier over time either. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s hard every single time.
Every time I’ve done the exercise DVD in the cover photo, it was hard. In all realness, I haven’t done that DVD in a few months, but when I was doing it a couple times a week, I did it because I wanted the benefits of a stronger body. About a month ago, in my blog post “Shaking Things Up in 2020”, I wrote about my experiment with changing my exercise routine because I felt my routine was stagnate. For a while, I’ve gravitated towards “familiar” and “comfortable” exercises, but I was getting bored and no longer seeing results like I had previously.
As you embark on this new week whether it be the start of your work week, school week, or whatever, think about what hard things you will tackle. The hard things may lead you to what you’re looking for or need.
I “do hard things”…things outside my comfort zone (such as public speaking) because I want to increase my strength mentally, physically, and spiritually. My return on investment is much greater than if I decide to stay mediocre or stagnate.
If you want to excel in any area, “do hard things”. Your hard things may not be hard for someone else but that’s not the point. They have to be hard things for you and no one can tell you what that is but you.
What hard things will you be tackling this week or year for that matter?
It’s been 17 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love working from home. However, it comes with some unexpected adjustments.
Little did I know when I wrote this on my board on March 18, 2020 that on July 16, 2020, I’d still be teleworking. At the time, my agency indicated telework was voluntary. Because I’m in the high risk category due to my breast cancer history and current treatment, I decided I would telework most of the week and work from the office once or twice a week. As COVID-19 updates were rapidly changing, by Friday March 20, 2020, telework was no longer an option. It was mandatory.
You may be wondering why I took the picture of my dry erase board before I left to venture on this teleworking escapade. Well, I actually took the picture in mid-May, after a 2 month absence. My laptop crashed so I had to meet with IT at one of the state buildings. It was a great opportunity to stop at my office and pick up a few things. Who knew I’d be so excited to wear my work badge again.
So what are the adjustments I’ve made for teleworking? For starters, the fact that my world has been turned upside down (slight exaggeration) with the increased utilization of every virtual platform known to man (slight exaggeration) has erupted my senses (no lie).
At my agency (state government), we are authorized to use about 3 virtual platforms. Some of the platforms out there lack the security needed to protect our information, particularly pertaining to the vulnerable populations we serve.
Though I think it’s very cool that state government is finally embracing the tools of the 21st century (insert sarcasm), it’s a lot of work for my senses. My team connects with me in multiple ways throughout the day, every day: instant message, email, virtual, and text. Add in the fact that I work longer hours and am required to participate in more meetings, you’ve got an exhausted Lucrece on your hands!
I attribute the decrease in writing on my blog to this exhaustion. There is so much going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest that it’s no wonder I’m exhausted. This is a time for self-compassion.
Here are some benefits of teleworking:
Traffic stress evaporated
Time to exercise daily
Close proximity to my family
Mid-day snuggles from my cats
Safety of home
Easy accessibility to my team and bosses
No fuss about clothing or shoes
Wear shorts and comfy bottoms almost daily
No unsolicited office snacks like donuts, cookies, and cakes
It was surreal going to the office in May because it was empty…as if time stood still. All the files, file cabinets, boxes, and shelves of just “stuff” that we thought we needed in the office, but ended up not needing when told to vacate. That alone can be a blog post in itself…a post about “stuff” we don’t need, but think we do. On that note, stay tuned for a future blog post about all the organizing I’ve been doing to keep track of all my “stuff”.
To my surprise, the plants in my office were still alive so I took them home. A little while back, maybe about a year and a half ago, I made a picture board outside my office of favorite moments with my team. I went to the local craft store to get some supplies and had pictures I took with them developed. While at my office in May, I stopped to look at their faces on the board. I remembered the lunch outings, birthday parties, and other activities. Although I see them everyday virtually, I do miss seeing them in person.
I occassionally create a space in the daily “huddles” with my team to discuss how people are feeling in the midst of current events. The flooding of news and information can take a toll on each of us. I think acknowledging it is a step towards reducing anxiety. People need an outlet to discuss these things. In this time of “social distancing”, it can feel isolating for many people. It’s important to have meaningful connections whenever we can.
Thankfully, I’m on STAYcation this week, making time to unplug from work and get some rejuvenation. Since my mom passed away on July 8, 2017, I’ve taken time off from work around the anniversary of her passing. This year I decided to take a whole week off and I’ve inserted some additional time off in the next few months. This is called self-care.
Stay tuned for more blog posts. That’s my self-care too.
How are things in your neck of the world? What are you doing to cope?
Let’s get clear about something in 2020. Effective communication is essential in sustaining fulfilling relationships. Yet, in communicating, it’s so easy to get wires crossed, misinterpret, make assumptions, jump to conclusions, ignore the facts, etc. I urge everyone to work on improving your communication in 2020. If you think you communicate superbly, you might want to consider further refining your skills.
What am I talking about? I’m glad you asked because as you know, communication takes several forms such verbal, nonverbal, and written. The communication styles I learned about in college as a social sciences student was assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive. (HINT: You want to be assertive.) There are many platforms of which to communicate (Ex., in person, phone, instant message, text, emails, audio, video calls, etc.) and the act of communicating can entail multiple simultaneous activities (Ex., listening, watching, speaking, processing, interpreting, etc.)
At my place of work, communication is a constant challenge because I work for a large bureaucratic agency. The volume of work is VAST. I’m flooded with emails on a daily basis. And here’s a NEWS FLASH!!! Emails are not the most effective mode of communication. Yet interestingly, many people think it is the best way to communicate. My opinion is that in person is the best way and all other modes can work to support in person communication, but not without extra effort.
Over the last few months, I’ve noticed communication problems with a member of my team. In these types of situations, as the leader, I assess where I can tighten up my communication style to ensure I’m communicating effectively. Be direct. Check. Give sufficient information – no more, no less. Check. Paraphrase what was said to ensure I understand. Check. Repeat. Check. Summarize. Check. However, despite my best efforts, communication continued to decline. We ended up having a meeting with a director to help mediate the situation. At the end of the day, it was a matter of communication styles and some other factors.
I love how my cats Beignet and Cannoli (pictured) communicate with the four humans in their house (us) and with each other. Beignet is the alpha cat of the two. He’s aggressive with his expression of love. He is constantly affirming his love for me by following me EVERY WHERE, giving me tail hugs, brushing up against my leg when I’m on the toilet, meowing for me to open the door after I purposely locked him out, winking at me when we lock eyes, laying on my chest in the early morning, sleeping on my shoes, and believe it or not, there are many more ways Beignet displays his love for me.
Cannoli does all the same things as Beignet, but to a much more tame degree. He barely meows. Yet, he will communicate he loves me by laying at the foot of the bed instead of on my chest, except for when I’m on the couch…he’ll lay on my lap. He’ll gently rub against me when passing by, but not always. He’ll give me a wink too if he feels like it. I don’t get quite as many physical expressions of love from Cannoli as Beignet, but that’s fine because they’re different cats, communicating the same thing. They love me. Message received.
When my kids were younger and we first got our cats as kittens, I taught them to “listen” to what the cats were trying to tell us by their actions. I especially had to remind my daughter, the younger of my two kids. Don’t keep trying to hold Cannoli when he’s squirming in your arms. Let him go. He’ll come back to you when he’s ready. Beignet is wagging his tail rapidly and his ears are pointed up, which probably means he’s agitated and may lash out at you. Don’t get in his face. Cannoli is rubbing up against you again, which probably means he wants you to pick him up. There are plenty of nonverbal cues our cats give to let us know what they want, but you have to be observant and discerning.
I wish communicating with other humans were as simple as communicating with pets. Despite all the tools at our disposal, communication can go haywire if you don’t pay attention. Each person is different, has different learning and communication styles, and motivations. People can use all the tools thinking communication will be better, but not necessarily. It takes effort and intentionality. Beignet demonstrates his love using all of his tools and because I’ve received his message, I reciprocate. You have to be intentional about communicating. I’ll do a later post on communicating with your loved ones.
So I encourage you to evaluate how you may need to improve your communication style in 2020. There is always room for improvement.
What’s your communication style? What areas do you need to improve upon?
Oh dear! This is the last Christmas Eve of the decade! Listen, 2019 has tried to WHOOP my behind and I mean TRIED, but I have a second wind. I’m percolating with ideas and enthusiasm. I’ve been laying low and recharging my battery, particularly my spiritual battery. For anyone in a similar situation as me, we can end 2019 with a BANG, or at least with the acknowledgment that we did the best we could and we’re still standing to tell our story.
My lovely boss gave me an early Christmas gift and I’ve already begun diving into this book. I know I’m a badass and I don’t doubt myself like I used to. In fact, the older I get, and the more experience I gain, the less I doubt myself. However, sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt your path, BUT I’m here to tell you to keep going. Obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t bother asking, “Why me?”.
If you’re not in a struggle now, you’re coming out of one or are headed that way in the future. But don’t fret! It strengthens your muscle, and which muscle being strengthened (character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.) depends on what lesson you’re meant to learn.
Intermingled with the obstacles in 2019, are some definite wins. This is why it’s so important to take time every so often to reflect on your life. The end of the year, or decade for that matter, is a great time to reflect. It’s important to review your goals, assess your progress with achieving them, and determine what other work you need to invest to reach them. It’s also important to acknowledge and express gratitude for the things working well in your life because there’s something to acknowledge, no matter how small.
I want to spend a little time doting on the badass women leaders I know. I’m fortunate to work in a environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. I’ve known this already, but it really stood out to me last week. The strongest traits I see in them that I admire are articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things, encouraging others, providing constructive feedback, taking the time to learn, adjusting, and bravely making hard decisions on a daily basis. These are just my current colleagues. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.
My mom, Solange, was a package of strength and vulnerability. I was perplexed by this combination for a long time. She raised 4 children on a meager salary on her own for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned how much her salary was. I think I made more money than her in my first full time job and that job wasn’t much.
Solange was strict and had high standards. She passed her work ethic down to all of her children. I believe the work ethic she instilled in me is responsible for why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is responsible for why I push myself so hard….I’m an overachiever. Overachieving comes with some drawbacks as you’ve seen me blog about previously. I’m in a constant battle of doing and being okay with not doing. I have to tell myself to “chill out” sometimes.
The other badass woman leader example I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody called “bossy”. Naturally, most people have a problem with the “bossy” ones because they don’t want to be told what to do. However, she was practical and had an organized sense about her.
As it turns out, people who are bossy make great managers and she’s been in leadership roles at various jobs starting at an early age. I’ve always admired Gina’s ability to speak with confidence and articulate what she meant. Gina was frank and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain personnel matters at work.
Then there was my older cousin who is so smart. I’m purposely not typing her name. There’s a lot of pressure in Haitian culture to do as your parents have set out for you. Our parents’ generation had some relational tactics that I found were controlling and manipulative. As the middle child, my cousin, from my perspective, learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. In fact, I think Gina, also has these traits as she is the middle child.
My cousin maintains relationships with everyone even if those individuals don’t get along with each other and some don’t. She’s the common denominator. They all get along with her. I’ve also watched her achieve her goals and meet high standards she set for herself and standards her parents set for her.
I could go on, but these are just some of my examples. If you’re a striving to be, or are a current badass woman leader, surround yourself with other badass women leaders.
The traits I admire in women leaders such as articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things despite the audience, constantly learning and adjusting, negotiating, managing personalities successfully, offering constructive feedback, bravely making and standing by hard decisions, managing work and family life simultaneously, don’t come easily to many of us. Women are raised, or at least used to be raised, counterintuitively to what makes a great leader (please everyone, don’t say what you think, be nice, etc.)
2020 is right around the corner and I plan on being even more BADASS than I already am. And BADASS for me does include taking the time out for myself doing the things I most enjoy. I’ll share some of my goals in the coming weeks.
As a jump start, I started my Christmas break doing something I love…dancing. I was one of the instructors at a Zumbathon benefiting a shelter for women and children.
We normally attend Austin’s Trails of Lights spectacular, but we opted to go more low key and small town this year. Therefore, my husband, and I, went to the small town of Buda’s Trail of Lights. It was seasonably cold.
Then, yesterday after I spent the day preparing a feast for my husband’s birthday, we went to our church to hear the amazing Annie Moses Band play Christmas music. Their performance was so beautiful, it left us speechless.
I hope you all have an AMAZING Christmas and holiday season! I know this time of year is difficult for many due to financial stress, missing a loved one who is deceased, and loneliness, to name a few. The biggest misconception is that you’re alone. The reason for the season is Jesus’s birth and He is with you. Please take comfort in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
Now it has just occurred to me, I’ve repeatedly used the same curse word throughout this post, and yet ended the post writing about Jesus. I’m not perfect, but I know the reason for the season. I plan to curse less in 2020, but in all fairness the book started it!
What wins have you had in 2019? Who are the positive examples in your life? How do you plan to spend the last few days of the decade?
OMG. Holy Moly. I don’t know about you, but it has been a rough past few weeks for me! However, I can see the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel and I’m in a much better place. What happened and how did I get to the light?
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 NIV
I believe wholeheartedly I’ve been under spiritual attack. Six weeks ago, my husband, Bryan, and I joined a Lifegroup through our church, LifeAustin, and we’ve been studying the “Detours” series. I wrote about this new experience for us in a previous post, which you can read about here.
This experience has been beautiful and uncomfortable as we’ve been sharing with fellow believers in our church (whom we didn’t know previously) the detours that have surfaced in our lives. We’ve been learning the purpose, patterns, and promotion of detours according to God’s word.
I’ve come to look forward to my Tuesday evenings. Our hosts welcomed us into their beautiful home each week, prepared a delicious meal, played the video that accompanied the week’s lesson, and led us into discussions about detours. It’s a great experience because I enjoy sharing my perspective, learning from the Bible scriptures, learning from others, especially Bryan, and bonding with new people.
In the midst of our Detours Lifegroup, I was feeling increasingly burned out at work and home. I’m a giver. I’m an overachiever. My hormones were out of whack (all over the place). I was not getting enough sleep. I was in the process of interviewing and hiring for one of my vacant positions. Deadlines I’ve been juggling for years began to feel impossible. My team was noticing I seemed different. My boss was noticing. Bryan needed an urgent heart procedure to determine if he needed a more invasive surgery. I was feeling overwhelmed…too overwhelmed to write a blog post last week.
My internal thoughts were attacking me, but I can only take so much. Despite how positive I am and how much I preach about self-care, I’m susceptible to setbacks like most people. We’re also susceptible to spiritual attacks. I must be doing something good and right because I felt the weight of the attacks on my spirit, mind, and body. Then, this week, the weight was lifted.
The path that led me to the light was this:
Awareness – I knew I was off kilter.
Vulnerability- I shared how I was feeling with others – my Lifegroup family, my husband, my sister, and a friend.
Prayer – My husband prayed over me, our Lifegroup family prayed with and for us, and I prayed.
The Word – On my commutes to and from work, I listened to sermons that encouraged me.
In the meantime, I also surrounded myself with people and the furry animals who love me.
Beignet and Cannoli. LPC
I got out and enjoyed the glorious weather when we had it.
Trip to an asian market. LPC
Lucrece and Bryan at the Capitol. LPC
I entertained my sister in law visiting from Illinois.
Sadie, Bryan, and me. LPC
I’ve continued to do my favorite form of exercise…DANCE!💃🏾
A little sweat session in the garage Thursday morning. LPC
I’ve been catching up on my zzzzz’s. Thank you time change. I’ve been going to bed earlier because of it.
I love this sleep mask. LPC
By the end of this week, I could appreciate my accomplishments and most importantly what God is doing in my life. We completed our 6 week Lifegroup, I hired an excellent candidate for my team, I continue to use my position at work to mentor and uplift others, my daughter got all A’s in her second semester as a freshman in high school, my son registered for his community college classes, I have a game plan for the dance I’m coordinating for our office holiday party, my spiritual and mental energy has been restored, and Bryan doesn’t need an invasive heart surgery.
My final thoughts are: Life is GOOD. Hang in there. Appreciate what you have. Pray incessantly. Have FAITH. Keep moving forward.
I debated about what to title this blog post because I know a provocative title attracts the readers. In recent months, I’ve been working on my goal of being more consistent with blogging. I’ve also been experimenting with my content, thereby showing my readers the other sides of me that contribute to who I am such as my love of cooking. In the process, I’ve noticed more traction to my site, of which I’m grateful.
There are many layers that contribute to me being…ME. At the end of the day, this site is an extension of me being a social worker, in an administrative leadership role, who wants to share wisdom with you. Social workers are change agents, help fight social injustices, and are advocates. I’m my biggest advocate.
So as is true in life, it’s not all fun and games. This post isn’t about food or a recent adventure. I want to share some points that came up for me this week regarding leadership. I hope you pick up some light lessons as you read.
I’ve been told (and have heard) that I’m viewed as calm, sharp, a person that can have hard conversations, I have good ideas, I’m a person of few words, I’m the voice of reason, etc. This week in particular, the “calm” characteristic came up because I’ve had to have poignant discussions with some of my team members. So my mentee asked, “how can you be so calm?”
I’ve learned to harness my anxiety over the years. When I tell people, I struggle with anxiety, they don’t believe me. The first thing they point to is my calm demeanor. Yes, I’m an anxious person, and as I get older and learn more through working in public health, about trauma and its impacts on people, I can appreciate how my early life circumstances contributed to my anxiety.
I have developed self-compassion over time. I’ve been working through my issues, but it’s a lifelong process. You can’t always foresee triggers, or may not even be aware of specific triggers, as is the case with me. Yet, these triggers can set the stage for some much needed work to get through issues that seemingly pop up randomly.
One major way I harness anxiety is exercising 6-7 days a week. I exercise mostly for the brain boost of endorphins. I’m a healthy, albeit fit, size. (I almost typed my size, but didn’t to keep you in suspense). I’ve been an avid exerciser for over 20 years. I absolutely love my cardio, dancing. and free weights.
And core exercises…not so much. My blood pressure is a “dream” for many as I’ve been told by my doctors for years. In addition to calmness, the other fruits of my exercise are peace, contentment, confidence, happiness, and ARM MUSCLES.
In terms of calmness as it relates to my leadership, one particular class in graduate school made a significant impression on me. In this class, our instructor invited a different leader to speak to our class on a regular schedule. One particular leader was the head of a major federal department. During his leadership, a major catastrophe occurred that resulted in the loss of life….many lives. It was mind blowing. It was an unrelenting mess for years. What he said got him through was an expression I had never used before. He said his biggest lesson in that circumstance was to “stay above the fray”. It was a phrase he’d learned as a result of being a pilot in the military.
“Staying above the fray” in my opinion means to stay above the chaos. Don’t let the chaos seep inside of you. Don’t contribute to the chaos. Otherwise, you may lose your objectivity and problem solving sensibilities. The leader should have the level head. The leader should have the calm demeanor. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel emotion or empathy, but you’re not taking it in. There is strength in being calm, especially for people you are leading. Calmness means not overeacting, which may contribute to someone else’s anxiety. Calmness allows for quick and nimble thinking.
My calmness doesn’t mean I’m going to blow up once I get through whatever it is either. You may have heard the expression “calm before the storm”…? That’s not me. My calmness doesn’t mean I’m not anxious on the inside. Again, I intentionally harness my anxiety, so I can operate in calmness.
The light lesson here is to protect yourself from taking on other people’s anxieties, problems, etc. You have your own stuff. For whatever situation is going on…”stay above the fray”. Invest in doing the mental, spiritual, emotional, and/or physical work needed that will allow you to function at optimal levels.
How did that happen? January breezed by with me posting not one blog post. It was busy. Now February is in full swing. No, I didn’t make a list of resolutions. However, I have been fulfilling my commitment of ramping up my self-care. I completed a 30 day green smoothie challenge (simple green smoothies), got back to going to the gym and dancing with my Zumba fitness buddies on Saturdays, and reconnected with some special people. My husband and I got baptized. I hit a milestone with being in 2 years remission from breast cancer. You can read about how I first learned of my diagnosis here. I’m generally more optimistic this year than this time last year when we were dealing with my husband’s health.
I’m living, being, moving, doing, and am overall feeling good about 2019. However, as I’ve been minding my own business, trying to live my “best” life… BOOM!!! I’m hit with another familiar challenge. I blame it on the work culture where I’m employed because there is constant change and turnover. I’m faced again with the external pressure of moving up and deciding if job advancement is what I want. What bothers me about it is that I love what I do and I spend most of my work time out of my comfort zone, but I’ve gotten comfortable with the level of discomfort I’m in right now, if that makes sense.
Listen, no one is telling me I have to do anything. No one has assigned me to anything. However, as I observe people advance in positions, I have a moment, which could be a day(s), week(s) or month(s), of internal questioning. Why wasn’t I picked? What will others think of me because I wasn’t picked? At the same time, as a working mother that solely financially supports my family, I have to think of my family first and how my job impacts them. I can’t just pick up and go to another agency because three people depend on me. As the keeper of the insurance, I know we can’t have a lapse in medical coverage either given our combined health issues.
I’m not sure how many women can relate to my exact experience, but I think it’s a common experience to deal with multiple pressures. The tug and pull of being a working mom and the sole financial support for my family can feel overwhelming at times. I love my family, but have a demanding job. People have expectations of me at home and work, and I have expectations of myself. I work with very ambitious people, not that I’m not ambitious too. Thank God my husband, Bryan, is a constant presence for our kids during the week. I’m actually glad he isn’t working right now so he can be here for the kids and attend to his health issues.
I’ve been processing my thoughts on this topic in my head for a couple of weeks now. If you’ve been following me, you’ll know one of the most instrumental tools I use to process is writing. Putting “pin to paper”, so to speak, is a sign I’m ready to make some decisions and move past this. I’m also meeting with a mentor for tea this morning and I plan to talk it out.
The LIGHT lessons I need to re-eaxamine are evaluating my work goals and what I want, in my due time. I need to not let external pressure cause me to make moves that I don’t want to make because it looks good to someone else. A pivotal question is what do I want which can be blurred when raising a family that depend on me. Bottom line: I need to stop worrying about what other people think of me and do what’s best for me and my situation. I need to stop being so hard on myself.
What reoccurring issues present themselves in your life and how do you handle them?
How do I get women to have the courage to be bold, confident and work in their own power? It’s not by coincidence I’m asking because not only have I struggled in the past with this personally, and quite frankly, I still do in specific situations, but I manage a team of mostly women. I see women struggling with confidence and speaking their knowledge with authority. The one male on my team has no problem with confidence and speaking knowledge, yet I prefer he reigns it in at times (different post). Some goals I have for women are to be empowered to share their ideas with confidence, to stop second guessing, to step out of their comfort zone, and to speak with authority.
I propose the following strategies (in no particular order) to help women gain more confidence in the workplace and in life:
Do your homework- Educate yourself on the topic at hand. In my work environment, the core workforce are called subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs learn everything there is to know about their particular program, including learning what other states do. I’ve found the more I learn about a topic, the more confident I become.
Practice – When I was in high school and college, I used to rehearse my presentations with other students, or solo by looking in the mirror and literally reciting my script out loud. In my line of work, these techniques haven’t gone away. I make lots of presentations and still need to rehearse, but not to the same degree as I did when I was a student. For group presentations with my team and/or others, we plan on who will say what. You might even record your voice and listen later to hear how you sound. You might want to rehearse asking for a promotion, for a job interview, and for delivering bad news.
Believe in yourself through positive self-talk – We all have the inner critic in our heads judging everything we do. Train your critic to be your cheerleader. It takes practice, but replace, “I can’t do this” with “I will”. I’ve trained my inner voice to be kind and it speaks to me as if I were a friend. That’s not to say the critic doesn’t come out every so often, but I work hard to make my cheerleader my main voice.
Make time to do things you enjoy – my love of exercise and Zumba fitness, on the surface doesn’t appear to impact my job, but the energy, calm, and joy I draw from these activities, spill into other areas of my life. In fact, becoming a Zumba fitness instructor, and the act of dancing in front of others has boosted my confidence in ways I couldn’t have imagined. That boldness has helped me in my current leadership role, which leads to the next strategy.
Set goals for yourself – As you accomplish your goals, you’ll develop more confidence. I had the goal of completing the training to be a Zumba fitness instructor for my 40th birthday. That was five years ago. I also had goals of earning advanced degrees, losing weight, spending more time with my family, etc. The more goals you accomplish, the more your confidence increases. Keep setting new goals.
Just do it – This Nike slogan has been one of my favorite mantras. Sometimes, you’ve just got to put yourself out there and “do the darn thing”. It won’t be perfect. It may not be as rehearsed as you would have liked, but put yourself out there. Take a chance. We only live once. I work in a fast-paced environment where we often sacrifice 100% quality for getting it done and out the door. If perfection is holding you back, let it go because nothing is perfect. I, myself, am a “recovering perfectionist”.
Channel all parts of you – I’m a parent, wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, cousin, niece, manager, mentor, exercise enthusiast, cook, reader, etc. As a parent, I’m used to raising my children, being nurturing/loving, setting boundaries, and teaching and directing them. Parenting is hard, but I’m confident that I’m raising my kids the best I can. I channel the parenting part of me in my role at work. I’m confident in my relationship with God and His purpose for my life, which I channel in my work. The confidence I’ve developed in the various parts of my life adds to my overall confidence bucket and greatly impacts how I demonstrate my confidence to the world.
My assumption in writing this post is that women are working in environments where they are expected to share ideas and contribute knowledge which will ultimately impact an agency’s bottom line. In my line of work, it’s getting citizens the help they need.
Please feel free to share your challenges and successes with building confidence.
Last month, I went on my first business trip in months – a sign that my work life is back to normal. I welcomed the trip because I was in a work “slump”. My attitude had not been the greatest due to some recent decisions made that were out of my control. Those decisions impacted a project I had been working on for 3 years. I often use the travel time to reflect and regroup, and boy, did I have some epiphanies!
I know I have the power to change the atmosphere (environment I’m in) with a positive attitude, but it takes work. Sometimes, it feels more comfortable to mope around, but it doesn’t provide any long term benefits. Here’s a personal example from my business trip of changing the atmosphere.
This incident occurred at the airport on my way to my destination. Yes (eye roll)…I hadn’t even left Austin, Texas yet and I was faced with a lesson. I’ve noticed over the years, I tend to get tagged for extra screenings at TSA. This day was no different. I was so annoyed because I got called to the side even after they practically made me strip down to the basics – shirt and bottom.
I was told by security the following areas on my body were of concern: my left wrist, my waist, my groin area, my left breast, my knee, my right hand, my right kidney, my second toe on the right foot, my lungs and my thyroid gland (not really on the last three, but you get my drift). Really??? This day was just ridiculous. It seemed like it was taking forever. I partially kept my gaze on my belongings in the bins. I didn’t want anyone to walk off with my stuff. I was impatient and annoyed with the questions and frisking.
By the time it was over, I was outdone with irritation. I went to grab my belongings, reached for my shoes, and the security guard asked, just as I managed to put one shoe on, “are those your shoes?” I looked at him and said, “Yes.” There was a slight delay in my mind registering what he had actually asked, so I came back with an, “I hope so since I’m putting them on MY feet.”
We exchanged a laugh. He said he was trying to cheer me up since I looked so serious, but he could see I didn’t get it at first. He said he was only joking and knows people only reach for their own shoes. I attempted to explain I was annoyed by the frisking process. Saying it out loud made me realize I was making a bigger deal about it than needed. We exchanged a few more words, then we parted ways.
The security guard changed the atmosphere in my mind. I was on my way to a full on melt down, but he stopped me. I walked away asking myself why I had been so annoyed. I know this is routine. I arrived at the airport early to account for the process. Hearing him tell me that I “looked so serious” reminded me that was the opposite of how I want to carry myself. This is especially true having recovered from a chronic, life altering health condition like breast cancer.
I strive to be lighter in mind, spirit and body. Even the use of the word “light” in my blog site title provides a clue of how I want to be. The experience at the airport did ENLIGHTEN me to my attitude. I’m not immune from reverting back to old ways. I also believe my oral medication for breast cancer treatment affects my mood. I’ve been more conscious of it and make adjustments as needed. For example, I’m more reserved at times by staying to myself at work and/or home to avoid spewing my agitation on some unsuspecting soul.
With humor, the security guard said something that sparked a change in the atmosphere of my mind. He changed the trajectory of my attitude and I loved it. That’s how I want to be for others. You have to believe you have this power. It doesn’t take much and can be accomplished through simple acts of connecting with others. These can be brief moments. You can also do it for yourself by engaging in positive self-talk. Out of habit, you may be feeding your mind negative messages (like I do) and not realize it. However, when I catch myself, I change my self-talk to that of encouragement, or whatever is useful in the moment.
I’m grateful the security guard gave me a reminder. I need to channel more of my humor, especially when I’m stressed, and share it with others. How do you go about changing the atmosphere?