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Confidence boost

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.

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Brave in Sunny San Diego

San Diego…what a beautiful place! I’m here for a few days to attend a behavioral health business conference. It’s been a positive experience. I generally love conferences because I walk away inspired and energized. I needed this considering I’ve been drained.

I admit the first day, preconference, was rough: a 3 hour flight and then I couldn’t figure out where to enter the hotel due to construction. I drove around several times. There was a slight problem with my hotel reservation, but it was resolved. My ears were plugged up for the rest of the day. I was tired and irritable. My nose was congested.

I felt better when I woke up Thursday morning at 3:14 a.m. My body still thinks it’s 2 hours ahead in Texas, so I woke up on time. On Friday, I woke up at 3:48 a.m. I’ve still been getting a little less than 6 hours sleep. My attitude improved after I wrote Thursday’s blog post.

I decided to make the best of this trip because how often do I get to come to San Diego? It’s a privilege I’m able to travel to interesting places for work. This is my first time in California. I’ve never particularly cared about visiting…go figure. I enjoy networking when it’s the right group and I had an inkling this would be that group. On Thursday, I made some connections, gave some compliments, passed out my business cards, learned some valuable information, and overall embraced the day. I also received a few site seeing recommendations from a conference participant I met from Minnesota. I had something to look forward to at the end of the day.

I spent some time in Seaport Village and I loved it. Although I can’t swim and am afraid of large bodies of water, the water had a calming affect on me. I took lots of pictures and soaked in the breeze.

I took my time strolling. I walked on a pier. I enjoyed watching other people taking in the view. In some ways, Seaport Village, particularly by the pier, reminded me of Chicago (my home town), on the Lakefront. Instead of the Pacific Ocean, Chicago sits right on Lake Michigan. In other ways, the location reminded me of Austin because of the open beautiful, blue sky.

Eventually, I was hungry, but indecisive about which restaurant, so I perused through menus until one felt right.

I landed on a place where my food was mediocre at best, but the window view on the water made up for it.

Thank God for smartphones and GPS because I rely on them so much when traveling. I got nervous when I missed a turn in this very unfamiliar city. For a moment, I thought, “just go back to the hotel”. However, I was determined and when I found my destination along with a parking space, I was relieved.

It was a relaxing and wonderful ending to a great day. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to do a little exploration of San Diego. It wasn’t much and I won’t be here long, but I wanted to get back to Austin with some good memories of San Diego. The fact that I’m attending this trip solo confirms my commitment to growth. I’m so used to operating outside of my comfort zone, I seem to gravitate towards activities that do just that, without much thought. At the end of the day, I grow in confidence, knowledge, and experience.

Light lessons:

  • Be brave
  • Take responsibility for your growth
  • Live outside your comfort zone sometimes

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You need a tool box

As a grown up person, you have to realize you are responsible for charting your own course despite past circumstances and upbringing. If you want to gain more confidence, do the work to increase your confidence. If you are not fulfilled in certain areas of your life, do the work to become fulfilled. If you want to write better, do the work to improve your writing. If you want to lose weight, do the work to release the pounds. You get where I’m going with this…Light lesson: Ultimately it’s up to you to manifest the life you want, and to get there, you must take action. I want to empower you with this: You direct the changes/enhancements you want in your life, but not without putting in some work…at times, some soul stirring, gut-wrenching, sweaty, messy, frustrating, humbling, confusing, unpretty, exhilarating, rewarding, and satisfying WORK.

Some of us have done the work, but I believe we also need periodic refresher courses. When you have a professional license and/or certification, you’re required to maintain a certain number of Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) to maintain the license in a specific timeframe. This ensures you’re keeping up to date on practices in your field. I haven’t renewed my social work license yet because I’m short on ethics CEUs. Those are hard to come by, especially with my schedule. In essence, refresher courses, like CEUs ensure you’re keeping your skills sharp.

Over the years, I’ve studied to earn an advanced degree, worked jobs that took me out of my comfort zone, gained parenting skills, improved my fitness level, improved my cooking and baking skills, learned how to cook vegan meals, learned how to be a better wife, learned how to garden, honed my communication skills, lost some weight, and on and on. I’m a constant learner. I’m an action oriented person. I put in the work.

All I do to gain knowledge and enrich my life adds to my self-confidence. Occassionly, I need a refresher course because despite my high confidence, sometimes I have doubts mostly due to my damaged wiring. Yes, although we may put in the work to conquer past demons, resolve old hurts, forgive past mistakes and people, there may be some residual damage of which we learn to live with. It doesn’t mean we haven’t done the work. It just means there are remaining mental and/or psychological scars and damage. We can’t control the memory triggers, but we can work on how to cope with them.

About a month ago, I was thinking of writing a blog post on confidence because I’ve encountered several women lately who lack confidence. They know it. I supervise a couple of them. I believe once they conquer the confidence factor, the sky is the limit on what they can do. This is important to me because I know how important confidence is in life and business. This blog post is really about how I’ve gained and maintain my confidence.

To help myself in my own periodic struggle with confidence, I recently opened my tiny purple tool box that rests on my dresser in my bedroom. It’s about 8 years old. In my field education class in graduate school, my instructor had each student decorate a tiny box. Once we completed the task, she had us write a positive message about each person in our cohort on tiny pieces of paper. We passed the tiny pieces of paper to each person, folded our own tiny messages, then placed them in our box. It was a brilliant and beautiful exercise. It’s like a time capsule in that strangers who bonded years ago shared their impression of you at the time. I read the tiny pieces of paper recently and a smile emerged on my face and heart. Talk about a confidence booster! I needed that refresher.

You may not have a tiny purple box filled with notes of inspiring messages from classmates, but my point is to find something that reminds you of what makes you FABULOUS. Also:

  • Take some life refresher courses, literally and figuratively
  • Create a tool box, literally (like my tiny purple box with powerful messages) or figuratively (books, activities, quotes)
  • Educate yourself
  • Plan and take action

We have access to so much information. No EXCUSES. Do the work.

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Know your limits

No these are not tree trunks! These are my legs, tired and lifted on a bench, as I soak in this luscious breeze and watch my husband, Bryan, finish his last lap in our neighborhood park. I got my Fitbit steps 2 laps ago. I feel inpsired to write at this very moment, on a Tuesday, because stress is real and I’ve been overcome with it today. These daily walks with Bryan out in nature helps calm my nerves. I’ve employed most of my self-care strategies today: hot tea, head massage by hubby, Alleve, a walk in the park at dusk, and writing. Next is a hot shower. Am I better yet? A little…

My light lesson for the day is know your limits and work around them. My boss told me the other day that you teach people how to treat you. Inside my head, I was rolling my eyes because how many times have I heard and practiced this very thing? However, I have a new epiphany. I need to teach people how to use my calendar. My job requires me to be in meetings most of the day as we plan and strategize for our programs, but I need to be extra vigilant on days where I have long meetings and then other meetings. I already block off time to do work, but a little more planning would have prevented today’s debacle. It’s just too much. I was overstimulated…BIG TIME. I have a limits. I need to respect them.

Rant over and I feel better.

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Work-Life

This week was rough physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. It was full of obstacles, temptations, stress, productivity, high points, low points and everything in between. I suppose it’s called my LIFE.

On Tuesday, I was running late for a meeting offsite and had a bad fall in the parking garage that resulted in huge knots on my foot and elbow. It was an interesting fall because I missed the final step going down the stairs. The way I landed…almost in a yoga, cross legged pose, made it difficult for me to get up and caused me to twist my foot. Everything is still sore including my hips and knees. I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, but it was with my oncologist. He doesn’t treat falls, but did tell me I’m healthy. And you know what…they didn’t even ask me to speak at that meeting. Really?

I’ve been attempting to embark on a weight loss journey (10 pounds), but there were food temptations this week such as the ice cream social we held on Wednesday in honor of our administrative professional staff. I did partake of ice cream because I don’t believe in being overly restrictive, but me and sugar have a love thing going on. I do want to limit my sugar intake, particularly as part of my cancer recovery. We have a lot of ice cream remaining, so…well, I also partook on Thursday and Friday. I didn’t know Blue Bell has a “banana pudding” flavor. Additionally, my general work stress and busyness from a week jam packed with meetings and interviews didn’t allow me time to log my food at all and I had been doing so well with this new habit. I did bring my healthy breakfast and lunch daily. A few of us also signed up for our agency’s weight loss challenge, which starts on May 4.

I wore my social work advocacy hat to address some issues I observed with my husband’s clinical team. I politely gave them a piece of my mind. They were very responsive and addressed my concerns. I also participated in my husband’s intake for his neuropsyche exam. It was emotional for him. Unlike other weeks, dealing with his medical stuff was interwoven in my schedule daily. It did add a bit of extra stress.

We’re on one income (mine), for the time being, and I get paid once a month. Despite my good salary, money is tight, but all bills are paid. For the first time in my life, I actually bought generic maxi pads because, you know, I need them. And you know what…I didn’t have an accident. The world didn’t end. I don’t know why I even made a big deal about it. The decision was actually easy when I considered my funds.

My son was sick a couple of days. There’s pressure because he’s behind on a couple of classes. We need him to pass his classes for obvious reasons. It’s a chore getting that boy to see the benefit of education. Perhaps the mission trip we’re planning to Haiti will open his eyes.

All in all, it was another productive week for the history books. I’m glad to be in recovery mode. I will spend the weekend resting and recharging, which is what I encourage my team to do. I’m also about to get my exercise on. Work-life balance. You’ve got to work on it.

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Sleepy head

I’ve had a couple of people say to me lately, “You must be up all night with all of your responsibilities”. I’ve paused for a moment to ponder the question, then respond with a confident, “No, I sleep like a brick”. There’s more to this story that isn’t pretty. For the hours I do get to sleep, I sleep soundly and deeply. That wasn’t always the case. I would be up in the middle of the night ruminating over the days events or worrying about various things. I think it’s a small victory that I’m able to sleep. However, I acknowledge that I need more of it. I often say that I’m chronically sleep deprived. My Fitbit goal is 7 hours of sleep per night, but I’m averaging about 6 hours…not ideal. Thursday night, I only got 4 hours and 58 minutes. I paid the price.

Yesterday, (Friday), I planned a pancake breakfast for my team. I also had back to back meetings all day. We had our team meeting with breakfast (I made the pancakes) and it was a long, but productive meeting. By 10:15am , I was beginning to feel the exhaustion. At 11am, I had a meeting with other managers and we participated in an ice breaking activity. We actually talked about what we did for self-care. Sleep wasn’t on my list at the time, but it needs to be. For the rest of the day, I literally had meetings every hour except noon and 4pm. By the afternoon, I found myself dozing off at my computer. Dare I say, at one point, I dozed off while looking up something for a staff member and SHE WAS IN MY OFFICE. It was a quick doze and sleep deprived people may know what this is like. I just had too much going on yesterday with very little sleep.

I’ve noticed that even while driving, I become very sleepy. Needless to say this is dangerous. I’ve also expressed my concern about possibly being anemic to my husband. I have a doctor’s appointment with my oncologist this month and I will share my concerns.

I love that my Fitbit shows me how much sleep I’m getting and also tracks the amounts of REM, Light, and deep sleep. Each stage is so important and impacts memory, rejuvenation, and healing the body. My husband bought the Fitbit for me for the purpose of tracking my sleep. It’s been over a year since I’ve had it and I still need to work on a good sleep plan so that I can feel refreshed.

In the selfie attached to this post, I think I look refreshed, but the truth is that I was likely sleepy. In fact, I wake up sleepy. My remedy last night after I got home was to go to bed early. I tend to awaken early every day despite the time I go to bed. Today, I can tell that I slept well, but there seems to always be a slight deficit. I’ll continue to work on my goal of getting more sleep despite all of the responsibilities in my life. In fact, I need sleep to deal with my responsibilities. I may even go back to sleep after writing this blog post. Sadly, it’ll mean I’ll miss my Saturday morning Zumba class, but sleep is a priority too.

I encourage everyone to take sleep seriously. Gone are the days of sacrificing sleep to get more done. There’s plenty of research demonstrating the benefits of sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. I want to function at optimal levels and getting enough, quality sleep will help me achieve this.

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The boss

There’s a phenomenon I’ve been experiencing at work since becoming the boss to people who were once my peers. It’s been awkward for a few, but most have embraced it. One person on my team told me she was “relieved”. That made me smile. I don’t want to narrow it down solely to haters being haters. I’m constantly self-evaluating and self-regulating to ensure I’m communicating clearly, articulating my expectations constantly, and setting people up to succeed. Despite my best efforts, some people just don’t want to get on board. I can’t please everyone and that’s not my goal.

As I’ve been evaluating what changed for a few people since I’ve become the boss when we were fine as peers, it occurred to me that it is more so the other person’s issue, but I’m fascinated by the reactions. I do empathize because I’ve experienced being passed over for a position and it hurt my ego tremendously. Notice I typed that it hurt my ego, and by that, I mean my work persona. I used that energy to clarify my career goals and make myself better. The next time an opportunity for advancement presented itself, I was not passed over. The situation may not involve competing for the same position and not being selected, but my point is that some people allow change in others to affect them in a negative way. Some become bitter and callous when a better strategy is to focus energy on determining why the other person’s change is causing them to feel insecure and then actually do something positive to repair the insecurity.

Additionally, I think when people elevate or advance, whether that be at work or in life, some people can’t take it because it causes them to question themselves and what they’re doing. It is good to question or self-evaluate, but there really is danger in comparing yourself to others. The danger is to your own self-esteem. I know most people do it, but we need to work towards breaking the habit of comparison. I go farther when I focus on competing with myself rather than others. We can’t see all the mitigating factors that put a person where they are, so we’re at a disadvantage already.

Be happy for other people when they succeed. Your time will come. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t be callous. I’m not just saying that because I want people to be happy for me. I believe we all have our own paths to greatness and there’s plenty to go around. Sometimes the negative feelings/behaviors/energy occur because people feel left out or that there aren’t opportunities for them. Turn negative energy into positive energy and take advantage of opportunities to self-evaluate and change. Even if you determine that you’re ok, you may need to change your environment so that it’s a better fit for you.