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One Woman Climbs, and Climbs, and Climbs Her Way To Confidence

On this International Women’s Day, I want to talk about something I have struggled with for most of my life: confidence…how to get it, how to keep it, how to strike the right balance between insecurity, confidence, and arrogance.

The first time I felt like I was not enough was when a boy I liked chose someone else. I think I was about 9 years old, and I was crushed.

And just last week, I felt those feelings arising again, both professionally and personally. Was my self-confidence so tenuous that I could so easily been knocked right back to that dejected 9-year-old?

Sadly, the answer is yes, at least for me. The good news is that now I can bounce back quite quickly.

So, What Is Confidence Anyways?

Oxford defines confidence this way, ‘a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities’.

The Urban Dictionary says confidence is, ‘having the ability to walk through a hallway full of people and not caring what they think’.

For me, my lack of confidence has always been inextricably tied to a feeling of being not enough, having that sense that everything I’m doing is wrong or needs improvement in some way.

How It Impacted Me

For years, I felt there was something wrong with me. I was not smart enough, or thin enough. Or I was too smart, too demanding, too much. I took on these indictments, sometimes because of what was said, oftentimes because I joined in on the harsh judgement.

Therein lies the crux of my journey to confidence. For so long, I believed things other people had said to me; things like this:

  • “You’ll never make it on your own.” (my ex-husband)

  • “No man is ever gonna love you.” (my mother)

  • “Karen should not be on stage in a skirt without stockings.” (a former colleague I once would have called a mentor)

  • “No one cares what you did before, Karen.” (a former boss)

  • “Karen is rude and interrupting and I don’t want her doing this work.” (an L&D leader)

  • “You don’t always have to be so nice, you know.” (a former colleague)

  • “You think you’re the best of the best of the best…and you’re not!” (a colleague)

What I Did, What I’m Still Doing

Wow! Even as I was writing those, I hesitated, fearing you might be lowering your opinion of me right now. But I’m taking that risk, hoping instead that you’ll see some of your struggle in mine. I’m sharing them, hoping you’ll be interested in how I ultimately managed to come back from those terrible judgments.

Because I have!

I’m here to tell my story of how I went from this insouciant, impish, expectant little 5-year-old girl to this confident, successful, mature woman.

While the intervening years saw me filled with insecurities and self-doubt, and questioning my abilities, I have gotten to the point where I can allow myself to be exactly who I am.

I found this quote a few days ago that helps me make sense of it all:

“My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.” (Emery Lord). I like thinking that perhaps I was always strong.

And it’s not okay for anyone to say the kinds of things people said to me. I still feel the sting of those words years later.

My work was to learn to accept their words as nothing more than their opinion, not the truth about me. If I’m honest, I’m still learning.

Those irrational thoughts, and those unkind words, are always sitting in my brain, ready to come out at the least opportune moment.

And when they do, I know to pause and take a moment to counter them with kindness and self-love. I have made it on my own. I believe in being nice and I will continue to do that. Many people are interested in what I’ve done before. And there are men who love get the idea.

Try this ONE thing

Does this resonate with you? Do you have unkind, untrue things you continue to believe about yourself? How can you counter them with kindness and self-love?

I want to start a conversation about confidence. I believe it is the ONE thing you need to get before and above all else. I believe that world is a much better place when we all stand up to be who we are meant to be and do what we alone are meant to do.

As I continue with this blog, I am going to be open about my own journey to confidence. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, knowing that my story is your story.

If you want to join me, sign up for my blog at and please share your comments and stories on LinkedIn when I post this. Don’t leave me hanging out here alone...join the conversation, wont' you?

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