If I’m to focus on what lights me up then I am going to frame this photo. It doesn’t look all that exhilarating. It isn’t a photo of me jumping off a cliff. It is a photo of me teaching the class, Leading with Confidence, at the YWCA Moxie Conference at the Monona Terrace last Thursday. It was so. much. fun! I loved every minute of it. I loved prepping for it, practicing it and being nervous for it too. And I loved the women that came up to talk to me after class. I LOVED THAT! They were vulnerable, strong and courageous. They were on a mission to break through the obstacles that they were walking through.
I was struck by the topics that women brought up in regards to what holds them back. It was very hard for many of them to come up with a list of 10 accomplishments. I offered suggestions like, graduating (college or high school), having a baby (ummmm that is HUGE – could count for two!), getting a job you really wanted, going to yoga class, or moments like standing up for yourself to a mean boss, trying something you were scared of or hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner.
I wonder if I’m too much of a personal growth junkie because I could have whipped through a list of 20 easily. And not because I feel like such an accomplished person but because I focus on personal and professional growth on a regular basis (and so what if I do feel like an accomplished person?). Keeping track or being aware of accomplishments and even naming mistakes as accomplishments has been a major part of my journey in building confidence. Practicing perspective and the simple action of doing something that scares me or is out of my comfort zone is a reason to feel accomplished – even if I fail. I’ve been taught to stand tall in my failure because that means I’m one step closer to success. And the reality is that failure is part of my success, not a step away from it.
I came home and gushed to Carlos about how amazing the event was and how grateful I am that we’ve created this bubble of awesomeness. I haven’t worked in corporate America. I haven’t worked in politics or for a company with red tape, a fear based culture or a layer of distrust and unhealthy competition where co-workers throw each other under the bus to get ahead. When you are far from the yuk, it is easy to take the yummy for granted. This was an important reminder.
The concerns and questions about how women can get into the positions at the top kept coming up and the conversations were passionate. I might not be at the top of a large company but I’m at the top in my own way…yet when we are sitting at the table for a team meeting I feel like I’m shoulder to shoulder. Sure I have a bossy tone sometimes and I am the one responsible for keeping us on track, but I am learning with the team and from the team. We all are learning together. I teach, I coach and I listen and I learn. It is this awesome synergy that makes me glow when I think of our bubble of awesomeness.
I caught myself wanting to figure out how to change these cultures that I am so unfamiliar with and quite frankly completely turned off by. Then I remembered the sage words of advice from one of the keynote speakers, JoAnne Brandes. She encouraged us to do what we can within our circle. The world is big and sometimes when there is so much change needed everywhere it is natural to get overwhelmed. That is exactly what stops us from taking action. How can we help everyone? We can’t. But we can make a difference in our small world…in our bubble. I let go of my anxiety to fix the horrible toxic fear that permeates throughout many big corporations and I made a promise to focus on what I have a direct influence over and commit to starting there and starting strong.
Feeling little makes me shrink a bit and my strong, confident shoulders hunch over. Feeling like I can make a difference to someone, anyone, makes me stand up tall and radiate a HUGE smile.
Smile on sisters and brothers!