top of page

Working up the Nerve

I was nominated by Saunders and Cash for an Entrepreneur of the Year award. They had these characters made of us. They gave me quite a neck trim, and got the nose on the nose!

I spent most of yesterday feeling a bit nervous. I had a short but important presentation to give late Friday afternoon, so the appointment was on my mind. I may look calm and smooth on the outside, but like most people, I’m paddling like hell on the inside!

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a little nervous. It’s normal to feel that way when we care about the results. And, if we don’t care about the results, why do it?

I never let the nervousness take over as I used to when I was younger. When I hear myself say, "I'm so nervous," over and over again, I know I've got to talk myself in off the ledge! I counter with something like, “You’ve got this.” Or “This is what you do!” It helps because I know it’s true.

This topic came up in the Entrepreneurship in the Arts class I teach at WSU this week. I bring in lots of guest speakers during the semester that make their living in the arts industry. This week Monte Wheeler, the new owner of Mosley Street Melodrama, came to class. Monte told us when he was new to auditions in New York City, he would wear the widest leg pants possible, so no one could see his knees shake.

Monte, the Wise.

I had lots of epiphanies during Monte’s visit. He talked a lot about “building your core,” or in other words, the inner strength that helps us take risks. I'd never thought of it like that before, and it makes a lot of sense. We work on our core muscles during exercise classes. Why shouldn’t we work on our mental “core” as well?

In the Picking up the Pieces class that’s coming up on Sunday, November 17, Janet Federico and I talk about reconnecting with resilience after trauma. We’re all born with the ability to bounce back from whatever life throws at us. The proof - we’re survivors!

We can strengthen our ability to spring back by practicing coping strategies in advance, like a coping savings account. When we're feeling strong, situations don’t kick us in the gut quite as hard as when we’re feeling vulnerable.

Before yesterday, I’d thought of these pre-emptive coping strategies more as “self-care.” Now, thanks to Monte, I see that it’s so much more than that. It’s about building confidence. While we seldom think about it in this way, purposely working to develop our self-confidence like a muscle is powerful. Talk about “building the core!

In thinking more about this, I reached out on social media and asked, “What do you do to build confidence?” I got a bunch of great ideas from everyone’s comments and used a few of them to build myself up before the presentation.

I’m sharing a few of these with you this week but want to know what you think. What do you do to build self-confidence? Email me with your answers, and you might win a Finishing School pass!

When you look good, you feel good.

If we were playing Family Feud, this would be the number one answer. Lots of people told me that sprucing up their outer appearance, helped their inner mood. Just putting on a bold lip color raised confidence for many women who responded. I know screaming red lipstick does it for me.

Dressing up, going bold with color, or power accessories were brought up many times too. One person said that wearing jewelry given to her by another powerful woman, made her feel more confident, visualizing the bracelet as a repository of her friend’s energy.

One delightfully surprising answer on this topic was about feeling comfortable in our own skins. A woman in an online intuitive eating group I follow said that walking around her house naked makes her feel more confident. She said her husband doesn’t hate it either. I couldn’t love this more.

It doesn't take watching too many Queer Eye makeover shows on Netflix to know how this works. There are actually good reasons to get that new haircut and color, buy a new fancy frock, or a pair of statement shoes. Check out these badass boots that walked into the Finishing School this week. They obviously come with superpowers.

These boot were made for kicking ass.

You are what you think.

Just like you are what you eat – you are what you think. The number two answer to building confidence was paying attention to what we tell ourselves. Some people start their day with power affirmations, like “I am..” statements. My favorite example was, “I am courageous and stand up for myself.”

Other people talked about gratitude - acknowledging the blessings in their lives, the good things that have happened with more to come, and being thankful that things are getting better every day. One answer along this vein that surprised me was performing an act of giving back by doing something kind for someone else. That's gratitude in action.

I like mantras, phrases I tell myself to get my head back on. After my presentation on Friday, my usual habit is to replay everything in my head and pick it apart, which, of course, does no good. So, I stopped the replay and repeated something my Dad told me after a particularly hard day, “All you can do is the best you can do, and that’s all you can do.” Then I let it go.

You can do it!

Another top answer to build confidence was to get moving and making. Exercising, walking in nature, and having a personal dance party were popular answers. Thinking about movement as something that feels good in your body is more fun than thinking you have to “work out” to exercise. I love yoga for my poor arthritic joints, and it sure makes me more confident when I can move more fluidly from a half-hour of gentle stretches.

Just listening to music helps too, but how can you help but shake your bootie or chair dance just at least a little. Cardi B, Fergie, and Latin music were some of the top music jams mentioned. I love Lizzo so much. You can dance and repeat power affirmations at the same time with her music.

Getting creative and making whatever strikes your fancy builds confidence too. Whether that's something art-related, craft-inspired, or culinarily created, it feels good to use our imagination to make beautiful things come out of our hands. Home improvement projects count too. Nothing builds confidence, like seeing the results of your handiwork in whatever genre inspires you.

You are loved.

This popular theme surprised me the most. Having the love and support of the people in our lives apparently goes a long way to build confidence. Knowing that someone we revere sees what is good enough in us to love, helps us understand these values in the reflection.

But the most surprising answer in this category were ones that had to do with the people that came before us, and the strength we’ve gained from their struggles. My friend Isobeau had this to say:

“I think about my ancestors behind me. Loving me, rooting for me. However, lacking and weak, I feel—generations of people came before me who had many fewer choices, and many of them died too soon. And thinking about that, I can do my best. I am big and strong with their hope.”

Here I am with my friend Isobeau, who is also very wise.

You are love.

I’ve always thought the way we protect our vulnerability is to “grow a rhino suit,” a thicker skin that repels the slings and arrows of life, so no one can get through. One of the biggest epiphanies I had our class conversation with Monte is that building the core is a whole other way of protecting ourselves.

What building our core, and working on self-confidence, really boils down to is our ability to give ourselves unconditional love – not just protect ourselves. Looking at caring for ourselves in this way is so much more expansive. It grows our hearts, rather than throwing up a shield.

We agreed in class that life takes both a strong core and a rugged rhino suit. The trick is to know which one to use and how and when to employ them. I have a feeling that strengthening the core is where the big paybacks happen.

What do you do to build confidence?

Headmistress Jill

41 views0 comments
bottom of page