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I’ve been keeping track of words that other people use and that I don’t, thinking that maybe if I use these I will seem more like a confident, competent professional person. I’ve also been keeping track of words that I have trouble finding when I need them, that might need a bit more cementing into my brain word categorization. The lists have turned out rather hilarious and I’m worried it’s because using the words that other people use is a bad idea. 

Words other people use:
We’ll be in touch
before we move on,
emphasis on
check off
cover off on

Words I have trouble accessing when I need them:


On Friday, I gave a presentation at work, originally intended to be my final mission for this Confidence project. The presentation included some potentially controversial subjects, the kind of thing that has recently distracted me while I’m talking as I criticize myself for each misstep and scan the audience for any sign of disagreement or anger. I was nervous. Throughout the presentation, I felt like I was talking too fast and gasping for air, but everyone in the audience looked intrigued and supportive. There were missteps that distracted me, when I was sure I had said something wrong and that my entire understanding of my job would be questioned. Afterwards, I was so exhausted from talking that I couldn’t pay attention to anyone’s comments and therefore facilitated a very bland discussion. But in general, it went well.

I started listening to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg the other day— a book that has been recommended lately by everyone, both those who hate it and those who love it— and it began with a discussion of how women often don’t trust their accomplishments. That really hit home. It reminded me of the time when I was on the cover of Fast Company, and I still completely write it off as a silly mistake. It also replayed in my mind as everyone told me that I did a great job after my presentation on Friday, and their compliments flew over my head as I searched for the real meaning behind them— what did I do wrong?

Thinking about all of this rattled me up pretty well for the rest of the day, but one coworker’s comment made me feel a bit better. Right before I began speaking, I was asked if I thought I should wear a microphone, and told that if I didn’t wear it, I’d have to be loud enough on my own. I said I’d be loud enough. When I started talking, I was prompted to project more. I did. Afterwards, I was sure that my voice had slowly petered out as the presentation progressed, as I had less and less attention to pay to keeping the volume up. But my coworker, who has a second life in acting, told me afterwards that at that moment when I made the choice to be louder, she saw a change in my body language and it seemed like I had found my center. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out! She said she’ll teach me some exercises to practice finding it on command.

Also, now I have a video of myself speaking, and my presentation mentor has already said that I’ll have to watch it. Not looking forward to that, but I’m sure it will be very helpful.

Yesterday was the last day of a 4 session class that I’ve been taking over the past two weeks. I was a bit disappointed to be saying goodbye to one of the other students, so in the spirit of confidence, I gave him my information after class and navigated through lots of potentially awkward moments rather gracefully, if I do say so myself. Ding ding ding, won this round.

Maybe there’s something about an impending deadline combined with the right amount of time to think about it.

I’ve been working on sitting/standing up tall, but I often find myself in stressful, busy situations at work where all I’m thinking about is the million things I need to get done. Maybe I’ll come up with a visual cue that I could use to help me remember. At work I’m usually using my computer, so I’ll try using images of giraffes everywhere— on the desktop and screen saver and maybe some floating window. Also, I’ve been thinking of buying some high heels. I have very rarely worn them in my life, but they seem to make me concentrate on how I’m standing and moving more. I’ll try that too if I can find a good pair.

Also, yesterday I went to a play at the Greenhouse Theater. It was great, everyone should go! Before the show started, they asked us to tell any stories we had about riding the El. I was thinking, Telling a story now would be easy, it’s just my friends and me, and these two very engaged theater people having a casual conversation with us about a topic that I do indeed have some stories about. But I worried about what would happen later. For each story told, they asked us for our name, wrote it on a piece of paper and put it into a hat. After a couple of my friends told stories, I decided to tell one too— a story about a man who got increasingly angry on the train until he was removed by the police. It was a good story, I thought. Then, near the end of the show, they brought out the hat and picked a name. Of course it was my name. But my roommate and I, who had both told stories earlier, shared the same name. I asked “Which one of us?” and then turned to her and said, “You go.” She shared her story very eloquently and the actors recreated it, and it was hilarious. But I felt so terrible afterwards, both because I had completely failed to confidently take the opportunity, and because I had forced my roommate into an uncomfortable situation. 

I’ve been thinking about how to redefine this project to make baby steps towards appearing more confident. As of now, it seems like I need to work on body language, speaking, and then maybe social things like approaching new people. I made a list of skills I need to work on:

1. stand up/sit up tall
2. eye contact
3. pay attention to hands, intentional movement, define set positions to practice
4. practice vocabulary
5. practice word retrieval

So tomorrow I’m going to start with simply focusing on sitting and standing tall. I’ll continue to dance in the mornings. I’ll have to think of a way to visualize these new goals.

I was stressed out about the train platform project already by Sunday  night. My friend, who is great at approaching strangers, said this assignment would even make her nervous. This morning, the train approached as I ran up the stairs, like most mornings if I’m being honest.

What if I make it more about body language, like my morning dancing, transferred throughout the day? I’ve noticed that more people have come up to talk to me, since I’ve been simply thinking about this project. I want to be able to walk and talk like a confident person, right? I’m sure someone has written about this— more research to come.

I’ve realized that doing this project on top of the diet I’ve been following for the past month is really taking a toll. I’m at my limit for decision making and self-control, and it’s starting to feel less like a fun challenge and more like a scary burden.

So I’d like to rethink my assignment. I want there to be as few choices involved as possible, and it should fit into my normal daily schedule. So let’s try this:

Every morning after my pump-up dancing, I’ll meet one new person on the train platform on my way to work. I’ll introduce myself, tell them about my project, and start a brief conversation by asking where they’re going on the train. I’ll post about each new person I meet here.

I also thought about asking them a question like, “What’s something that you’ve learned lately?” or “What’s been on your to do list for too long?”. I’d like to do something like that, because then I could collect quick answers as a visual representation. I’ll start with the simple introduction and see if I can work the question in.