Many years ago, a friend and I were sharing work war stories. We used to meet quite regularly, and more often as and when required. Because of the gruesomeness and high trauma value we were both experiencing at our respective work places at the time, we used to plan long elaborate meal meetings at nice comfortable restaurants, in order to just veg, vent, and invigorate.
She had recently attended a workshop, for what I don’t quite remember and shared something that resonated with me at the time, and till today, after all these years, it is still something that is always in the forefront of my consciousness. It certainly had become and still is one of the key indicators of ME.
One of her workshop facilitators asked participants the question, “what do you do to instill confidence in the people around you?”.
Gosh! I was shocked! Not at the question, but rather, that IT was a question! I had never really thought about it, but rather, just instinctively acted on it. That, is what caught me. That, I was not conscious, or mentally present with the whole issue. And an issue it is!
Having been in an executive managerial position for more than ten years at the time, I was a bit taken aback that I had never concretely asked myself that question. Considering that my job entailed managing a large sales and marketing work force, I was surprised that it never occurred to me to ask that particular question (and like any executive, I had a plethora of them). Considering that building self confidence in my team and subsequently their team was an integral component of my job, of my terms of reference, of the key indicators of a successful department and company, I never once phrased out the question to myself, or to my peers. Considering that my success and very rapid climb up the corporate ladder was based on self confidence, and the confidence from my bosses, and my team members, I never thought to be conscious of the whole confidence factor in my success and my role in instilling confidence in the people around me! I simply, till that point, just “knew” it. Abstractly!
The question made it concrete. Tangible. Existent!
“What Do I Do, What Have I Done, What Will I Do, to Instill Confidence In The People Around Me?”
It’s such a crucial question for me! As a person who has been blessed with the opportunity of a sound education, and multiculturalist international exposure, the one thing I had promised my self very early on, was to always be conscious of not being patronizing.
I know that I have certainly not perfected that ability to be a confidence builder 24/7! I am terrible at it with my husband! Well, not terrible, but I definitely need improving. I take it for granted in my most intimate relationships I think, however, I am in full “on” mode with everyone else! Hey! I didn’t say anything about being altruistic… ! Recently, a young woman whom I used to volunteer with mentioned to me that it was because of something I said to her about her self-worth, that she decided to pursue her dream career! My heart! My ego was singing, (still is) and my soul heartened. This is part of my life journey that I do enjoy, most of the time.
I do know that over the past few years, I have been making a conscious effort to be extra encouraging with women. I work hard at trying to put aside the envy (sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s bad), the competition (we’re all racing for the finish line aren’t we?), and the insecurity (the I wish I was able to do that type of emotion), to be more compassionate and supportive. I have to be clear though; I only do this if I feel it. If not, I walk away as little negativity spread out as possible. I really do believe in negative and positive energy, and I would rather leave behind positivity, then to drown my self and others in unconstructiveness.
In every step of life, we are provided opportunities – no matter how insignificant we may believe them to be –and to be part of an achievement. Or to play a positive role in a fellow human being’s life voyage, whether of your inner circle, or of a complete, perfect stranger. In my personal spiritual and secular journey, I have time and again, faced the reality that every single person that crosses my path, somehow or the other, has or will play a role in my existence. I just have to remember that there is always a reason why I am faced with a situation, person or idea.
I know, in my heart (and my brain agrees too), that I have a purpose on this earth, and that everyone that crosses my path is also part of that purpose. How and what I do with the situation (I like to call it opportunity) is really 100% dependent on how I engage in that opportunity. I have a sister, younger to me by 10 years, that exudes positivity and exploration in everything that surrounds her! When I am around her, the amount of confidence she instills in me is phenomenal. When with her, I feel like everything negative around me is insignificant and petty, when previously that thing was considered a coming of Armageddon! She, in her relentless pursuit of always being at peace, teaches me that buried in negativity is the fruit that you are meant to have reaped! It’s like what one of my all time favorite heroes, Shrek, The Ogre, has famously said – and I am paraphrasing and adapting – all is like an onion, they are layers, and you just have to peel them to get to the heart…
The Dalai Lama, one of the most revered living spiritual icons of our time, has many times said that we will only be able to build a better world, when we are self-confident in our abilities and realize our own potential. And that is why that saying about the importance of surrounding your self with supporters and positive influences in your lives is as important as believing in yourself.
This is not to say that you do not build the resilience and skill that comes with dealing with critique! Equally, if not more important, is attaining Robert Frost’s definition of education. He says “education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence”.
Things, people, experiences, opportunities; these all happen for some reason. Embracing what happens, the learning’s from these happenings have certainly played a key role in my quest of keeping and building self-confidence.
And never before has there come a time when having a strong sense of identity and self confidence was important than, the time where I was given charge of women’s activities portfolio in my community.
I am an Ismaili Muslim, and part of our spiritual obligation is to volunteer our time and knowledge for the betterment of quality of life in both our Jamat (community) and the larger community in which we live in. Having been made aware of (very secretly) of a rise in gender-based violence (GBV) in our Jamat, one of the programmes I embarked on was a GBV workshop. When an informal, aka secret, poll was taken, it was found that more women suffered from emotional and physical violence from other women within their personal and professional circles, than from women suffering at the hands of the opposite sex.
The facilitator of the first workshop, who was a well educated and well versed expert from one of the national gender services organization, in her presentation showed us (a very quiet and unwilling to engage audience ) a very eloquent illustration of about 4 or 5 women trying to climb up a long flight of stairs, with multiple more women trying to grab the ascending women’s ankles to “pull them down”! I remember hearing gasps and murmurs around the room, and an open dialogue ensued… That picture instilled confidence in the audience, and in some cases, I later learned, opened up the eyes of some women in their personal roles of supporting or not supporting their fellow women friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances.
I collect corny quotes – writing them in one of my notebooks or just saving it on my phone. I came across this one, somewhere by Peter McIntrye (a New Zealand author, of whose work, I must confess, I have never read!): “Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong”. The GBV workshop was considered very controversial in the community, and I really had to negotiate with the leadership (ironically the women were more concerned than the men!) to conduct it. I recognized and accepted, that it might turn out bad, but I knew, body and soul that it was not the wrong thing to do! In hindsight, I recognize that the unwillingness in support from the women was based on my inability (through my bull dozing, and impassionate dialogues) to instill confidence in facing one of the most crucial issues facing women and humanity-at-large today!
I am not perfect, and my attempts at being a more positive human being are definitely a work in progress. Since my introduction all those years ago to that crucial question of what my role is in the positivity in the universe, I am still working on it. And I will continue to persevere. I thank the universe that put on my path a friend-in-rant who instilled confidence in me by freely exchanging ideas, rants, and knowledge. There is still a lot to learn, a lot to share, and certainly, a lot to accept as a woman in a very competitive, and a somewhat convoluted society. I have a niece, and it is my prayer that she is surrounded with self-confident people, who are not scared of sharing a bit of it with her.