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A Course in Confidence

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I had lunch with my boss this afternoon. As always, it was wonderful. I'm so blessed to have someone working above me that truly cares about my success in all areas - personal, family, career, running, everything.

Today, I was nervous. Because I knew there were issues that we needed to discuss where my performance on the job had not quite met her expectations. To be fair, she could have reamed me. But, she didn't. She was kind and understanding. Firm and clear about what needs to change (and she was 100% right), but never cruel or demeaning. I've never worked with a boss that handles situations like this so well. She's something else.

One thing we talked about was my professionalism. She is one of the most professional, confident women I've ever met. Watching her do her thing (which is, incidentally, "schmoozing" the big dogs at colleges and universities) is just fascinating. I asked her for tips on how to...well, be more like her. She said, "I know there is a deep confidence in you and I see it when we meet one on one. But, when we are in meetings and networking gatherings, you shrink back and I don't know why. You need to put your confidence out there and own it."

She's right, you know. I've talked about my insecurity in the professional realm in a previous blog. It is, by far, my biggest challenge at the moment. And it made me think...

Yeah...I DO have confidence inside. Remember my blog yesterday? I'm FIERCE. When it comes to my personal life, I really feel like I'm getting a handle on some things and that, naturally, brings confidence. But, when it comes to my outward persona with co-workers, it feels like a whole different story. And I wonder if it's related to my weight issues and the low self-esteem that comes along with them?

Here is a picture of me my junior year of high school:

I was not an athlete. I did not pay attention to my food and, frankly, I ate anything I wanted and ate a WHOLE lot of junk. It just didn't stick to me. I wasn't overweight until later on in college and, obviously, when I started to have kids. I wasn't one of those kids that was fat my entire life. Being overweight, and then obese, was completely unexpected. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined it would be possible for me to get to where I am now...over 200 lbs.

How did THAT girl become THIS?

Granted, that is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL photo of me and my son. But, you can see a difference from what I used to be.

Back when I looked like the girl in the first pic, my Mom (a tiny, 5 ft tall 100 lb Korean woman) said to me one day, "Leah, never ever get fat and frumpy. No man wants a frumpy wife. He will say he loves you no matter what, but on the inside, he'll be disappointed and he won't find you attractive."

WOW. Can you say ISSUES??? Yeah...you can BET that has caused some DEEP problems in my marriage.

So, this skinny girl goes to college and goes nuts with food and never exercises and gains 20 lbs. She comes home from college and her Mom says, "You are getting so fat. Be careful because....no man wants a fat, frumpy wife." Thanks for reinforcing that message, Mom. Especially since it hadn't already scarred me the first time!

Once in college, when I had gained 20 lbs (to bring me up to a total weight of 140 lbs), I was freaking out about my weight gain and, naturally, crying to my boyfriend about it. He said, "Leah...this is ridiculous. You look fine. Think about this....how heavy do you think you're going to get?" In a burst of sobs, I wailed, "Probably (sniff, sniff) one..SIXTY! Waaaahhh!" Get this...he LAUGHED and said, "You're never gonna be 160!" OUCH.

Mmmmhmmm. Then, when this not-so-skinny girl was pregnant with #2, she called her Dad on the phone and told him that she had officially passed the 200-lb mark. Instead of telling his 8-months pregnant daughter that she could lose the weight after the baby was born, he basically went ballistic, shouting, "Oh my GOD! That is SOOOOOOOOOO heavy! OH MY GOD! TWO HUNDRED?!" Yeah...that didn't help the old confidence.

So...I can see where my confidence went bye bye a long time ago. I mean, if this is what my PARENTS see....people who are supposed to love me unconditionally...what do I expect pure strangers to see when they first meet me? And do you think I'm going to be great at walking up, making eye contact and confidently introducing myself? Nah.

This is not a whine-fest, though. Because I HAVE changed. I've long since dealt with my parental issues, so their negative messages do not cut nearly as deeply anymore. Of course the effect from those wounds lingers on, but now I am able to see clearly when this is happening and work to fix it. This is all a person with a wounded past can do...take it one day, one sitaution at a time. And, as time passes, it gets easier.

My entire life has changed over the past few months. It hasn't been just physical...it has been emotional and mental and spiritual. A complete overhaul. I have SO much more confidence than I had even back in February of this year. YOU are a part of that. You guys give me confidence every single day.

And that's what my boss, Jennifer, is talking about...she has seen this change in me. She knows that I possess it within. She is just asking me to show it to everyone else.

In the meantime, I am interested in faking it until I make it. So, if I have any seasoned professionals in the business world that read my blogs, help a girl out. Give me some BASIC tips on how to exude confidence in a networking setting.

For instance, Jennifer's idea was this: when I meet someone, give them the firm handshake, look them directly in the eye and say, "Hi so and so, my name is Leah Drichel and I am the Fiscal & Administrative Manager for the Kuali Foundation and I really wanted to meet you." Her tip was: imagine they really WANT to hear what you have to say. (Cuz...they actually probably DO! Haha).

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You write the most amazing blogs. You do amazing physical things. Use this experience to fuel your networking. Smile. Look them in the eye. Tell them who you are and what you do. And then be YOU! Just like you made friends with the runner you saw every run. You know how to do it. Apply your life confidence to work. You have this in you already.
    2072 days ago
  • CORKY982
    Eye contact and smiling are key! Most people who don’t have a lot of confidence forget to smile haha, and people can tell that you are uncomfortable by facial expressions. So.. smile! And make sure it reaches your eyes. A firm handshake is important. I often take a notebook and pen into any meeting I go to, even if I don’t think I need it, and jot down a thing or two the person says. That way it really shows them I value what they are saying, and taking the time to talk to me wasn’t a waste. When you’re talking, make sure you don’t over-use your hands. Nervous people, or unconfident people, tend to play with their hair, fidget with their clothes, wave their arms around like they are trying to land a plane! So keep your arms either at your side, resting comfortably on the arms of your chair (if you’re sitting) but don’t cross them or stick your hands in your pockets. I know, such a small thing, but body language really does help! That’s another reason I always carry anotebook – I have a pen and paper in my hands, so I can’t wave them around, can’t cross my arms, and can’t put my hands in my pocket or touch my hair/clothes. I would also say, if you have them, always have business cards on hand to give to the person you talked to. I always feel really important when I have that little card with my name and position on it, and I find people remember you better – or at least can get in touch with you to follow up on anything you have talked about easily. And I echo what people say about dressing – don’t be afraid to spend money to buy nice clothing, even if you aren’t at the size you want. And I sometimes go to thrift stores, Value Village, online to eBay.. find nice clothes for cheap!
    2074 days ago
    I found this to be helpful and realize weight loss goes beyond losing weight, but also improving self-esteem and confidence. I can;t wait to walk with my head held HIGH
    2074 days ago
    You are amazing. thanks emoticon
    2076 days ago
    I always love reading your blogs, they are always so filled with the human touch and day to day living...and you are absolutely wonderful!!

    Haven't worked in the professional field in quite a while, but when I did I would always introduce myself by saying Mr or Ms/Mrs/ So and So, I'm so happy to meet you, my name is Angie O'Mara and I am the Program Co-Ordinator for the Before and After School Programs in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, let me take a few minutes of your time and explain to you how much I love my job and what it entails. After a few intro like this it became easier for me and I stopped turning red (blushing) every time I did it!! Hope this works for you!!

    Once again a great blog, thanks for sharing!!
    2076 days ago
    Gosh girl reading your blog makes me think so much about myself. I am new to the workforce after being a sahm with my 18 month old. I can definaely see how much my confidence has gone down since gaining 60lbs while being pregnant with my son. Just know that if you stick to you it will work out for the best! You can do this!
    2076 days ago
  • ANNANN63
    Mimic business associated that are successful. Notice what they do and say and just copy it. You really can have preset things you do and things you say. Once you get past the introduction to a new person, you can concentrate on the work. If you know what you are doing you will be able to communicate that.

    Dress professionally. Do not make the mistake I made for years. I read "Dress for Success" and knew what I needed to wear but I didn't want to buy nice clothes when I was so heavy. So I kept buying the wrong stuff and I did not make a good first impression. My wake up call was the day I had on a simple dress with a jacket and my boss (who was wonderful and successful) said something like "you look great, you should dress like this everyday." He was brave enough to tell me that the rest of the stuff I was wearing to work did not make me look like someone who was competent and professional. Even when I was 225 pounds, it made me more confident knowing I was wearing appropriate professional clothes. And I found that with sales and buying things that all worked together, I could afford the right clothes.
    2076 days ago
    Love this. Thanks for blogging.
    2076 days ago
    I can so relate - my mother was just the same. And both my parents put me down constantly about my weight - to calling me a 'fat slob.' It is hard, but it can be overcome, and you are well on your way to overcoming. You are doing so well!
    2076 days ago
    Don't know about business advice (partly cuz I have the same issue of "putting my confidence out there" ) But I do know a well thought out plan and a well written blog when I see it! Good going on all counts Leah!
    2076 days ago
    I think BESSHAILE has wonderful suggestions. The thing that helps me is thinking about what I have to offer and how it will benefit. It helps to put it into perspective that the other person doesn't see me as an overweight, unprofessional, blob but rather someone that knows her business and is here to help. And anytime I am feeling scared, anxious or self-conscious, I smile. I smile a big smile that I may not feel but it makes the other person smile and then I'm more at ease.

    Thanks for your blogs! What an inspiration and awesome source of support.
    2076 days ago
    2076 days ago
    some thoughts.

    First off - forget about yourself when you approach someone in a business setting. Here you are the message, not the messenger.

    If you love your message - pour the enthusiasm you feel for it into your voice. When I go out to talk about libraries - I remember how much I love the idea of a library - the idea that unlimited education is offered to one and all - for free - because of a library.

    Second - think of the fundamental good your organization does - what it does at the very bedrock of humanity - again, my library example may go all over the place, but it always includes two things:

    "It's about the story" - because it is through stories that we pass on core values from one generation to the next.


    A public library is the first place a person learns how to be a good citizen - someone who partakes of the common good, benefits from it, cares for it, then returns it for someone else to benefit from.

    these things - loving your message and being able to show how your message is about the greater good of humanity - actually help you cut that message down to the personal, tailor it to your particular audience. And none of this has anything to do with what you look like or how confident you feel. You're just a bell, ringing out some good news - and EVERYBODY likes to hear good news.

    The trick is to forget about yourself and think about your audience - and how much fun it is going to be to give them your message. And I know you can do this. You're so fierce!
    2076 days ago
    2076 days ago
  • READE2MOVE2012
    Your boss gave you excellent advice.
    2076 days ago
  • SHEL_V2
    Great advice from your boss. My non-Korean mom was hung up on my weight, also, and basically a product of her time. She mentioned one time that any woman who needed size 8 underwear should just kill herself. I had to suppress the urge to pick when she'd put on some weight and I wondered what size she was wearing! But she'd long since shut her mouth about my weight, so I didn't.
    2076 days ago
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    2076 days ago
    As always, you have amazingly well written blogs. I really enjoyed reading this because it is amazing how we start to internalize those messages that our parents given us and it affects our lives in so many ways. It seems like your boss is a very positive, inspiring person to look up to. It is obvious that she sees the confident you and if she sees you that way, you should be able to see yourself that way.

    This is definitely a process of trying to overcome those old messages that we now tell ourselves because of what was told to us. great blog! emoticon emoticon
    2076 days ago
    It's late - I need to go to sleep. But I read your blog and had to at least acknowledge it. As to how to 'fake' your business confidence - given your belief in your boss, each situation you are unsure about, ask yourself, "what would Jennifer do"? And then do it, unless and until, the inner, confident you says, "that's what Jennifer would do, but I can do it better".
    2076 days ago
    Wow. I congratulate you for staying in the game. Life is more challenging with naysayers in it, but you are rising above it and that is the sweetest most loving thing you can do for yourself! You Go Girl! I am with you 110%!
    2076 days ago
  • KAREN1035
    Reading made me thing of my life. Some points were dead on. I have already thought that if you be your self in meetings and with networking, you should do fine. Some people really like to put on a show, but they don't get anywere.

    2076 days ago
    I think it really sounds like you are on the right track and you are getting there! Just keep going.
    2076 days ago
    2077 days ago
    some suggestions -

    Posture - it says so much about what we think about ourselves
    Dress at the level you want to reach
    Know that most of the folks are shy, and will welcome your contact
    And - make sure you have a good bra! That keeps me from looking dumpy. emoticon
    2077 days ago
  • DONNA5281

    Your blog really hit home especially about the parent part. Also, for me it is my whole family.
    You are an inspiration! Keep up with your good work!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2077 days ago
  • JPOZ62
    I will give my two cents. My best advice would be do not be afraid to fail. Every successful person has failed in some way. It is important to learn from your mistakes and grow as a person.Go to network functions where you can work on your meeting skills. People are going there to meet business people. It will help you to have confidence to network in your company business as well. Ask your boss if you go with her to learn her style and what might work for you.
    2077 days ago
    2077 days ago
  • GAL7288
    I really can relate to this blog,and went deep down. I am too currently dealing with the self confidence. In some realms I am a natural self confident, take total control kind of person but when it comes to meeting new people and potential dates, i freak and I take cover. I for no reason in the world can look that person in the eye and even talk without mumbling. And yeah you are right, it's because of insecurity reasons that have been implemented in my mind since i was young. But I too will work on becoming confident in all aspects of my life.
    2077 days ago
  • BUSMOM27
    I am not in the business world, but I do know that when I've lost weight I feel happier and tend to smile more. Smiles can be contagious just like negative feelings can spread. Paste a smile on your face and listen to other people. emoticon

    Thanks for sharing your blog!
    2077 days ago
  • CAROL494
    emoticon emoticon
    2077 days ago
  • HEATHER3477
    your story really motivates me, my parents always called me fat when I was a beanpole. My sister and I both developed eating disorders from the remarks that were made. I ended up losing my sister because of the negative talk she could never get past her eating disorder because she always seen herself as fat when she was 135 pounds and 5'8 inches tall (skinny). I just left the 200's but with the stress in my life today am probably getting back up there. I am unhealthy, but people around me don't see it because I am 5'9" tall. If I were shorter my weight would show better than it does people are amazed when I tell them what I do weigh. There guess is always around 160-170 (unless they are tall as well) then they are usually a lot closer. Anyway thanks for sharing your story and keep up the positive thinking, we can and will do this. :) emoticon
    2077 days ago
    You will do it emoticon .

    I'm not in upper management, but I know you will develop these skills because of all the things you say and do. I believe in you and see growth from when you started in Spark, and it will trickle over... emoticon
    2077 days ago
    Be pleasant, greet people, dress well and study confident people and imitate their behavior,
    2077 days ago
    I love the FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT piece of advice. Because eventually you will realize that you're not faking it anymore. That it really IS you, just you and how you really have become.

    You're AWESOME girl!!

    2077 days ago
    2077 days ago
    good for you
    2077 days ago
  • DOTTY7267
    I love reading your blog. I find them very interesting. One thing that I might offer that helps me a lot, especially when I worked Marketing events, is go in thinking/believing that you have the most interesting topic to discuss. I find a lot of times people just want to be acknowledged, so when you approach them and introduce yourself, you've already done more than a majority of people will do. Find out something about them and incorporate that into your conversation about what you are trying to put across. For me, small talk doesn't bother me, I always think that it's better having a conversation with someone then being alone with great ideas.
    2077 days ago
  • AJB121299
    good luck and know that you have the support of all of your sparkfriends
    2077 days ago
  • FARIS71
    Everyone has had awesome suggestions. Train at it like you train for fitness goals. Small steps. Tracking. I definitely see you as confident. Shine on sister!
    2077 days ago
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    2077 days ago
    2077 days ago
    this is all terrific advice. like all of the others who have commented, i understand where you are coming from. and i echo the sentiments of one in particular--do you love and believe in what you do? let that love come forward--forget about who you are or how you might look with respect to your weight to the other person--focus on what you do and why you love it. that will come out by itself if you get the other stuff out of the way.
    i think of the negative voice that lived in my head for 57 years as a person who was a very destructive "friend" in my life. this person was real, and i jettisoned her from my life without a backward look, just to preserve my own sanity. it occurred to me recently that i can do the same to that unhelpful voice who talks to me all the time. so i gave that voice my ex-friend's name, and then i turned my back on it. helped me a lot.
    and remember--when people meet you for the first time--esp. in a business situation, they WANT to like you and they WANT to come away from the meeting feeling positive. they don't automatically dislike you--they don't want to waste their time or not finish the encounter without a positive result. go with that positive flow. look them in the eye and connect with them as a person--not a judge and jury you need to be afraid of. you will be great! you want it badly enough to fight for it. go forth and do it :-)
    2077 days ago
    2077 days ago
    Leah, do you believe in what you do?? One thing I learned was that I had a good product. It was valuable to me and it was valuable to others. I call it the "cookie." You can call it what you want. I have the cookie and they will want it. I am happy to let them have it for the right price, but they don't always know how valuable the cookie is at first. That's where you come in with your confidence. You don't HAVE to share the cookie, but maybe, if they really want it, you will. The fact that you know how valuable it is and they don't gives you the inside track on it and the confidence about it and what you do.

    I hope that simplified explanation makes at least some sense...
    2077 days ago
    With regards to your parents, are they still around? What is your relationship with them like now?

    With regards to your lack of confidence at work, think about how you attack every run. Baby steps are the way to go. A little at a time. You will not come out of your shell instantly, but you can try little things. And you could track those little things in Spark as fast break goals!

    I love the “fake it ‘till you make it” idea. Keep doing it!

    2078 days ago
    I've been in the business world for several years, and faking it until I made it was something that I learned very early on. Here are some of the tips that I recommend to anyone looking to be more confident in the workplace.

    1) Posture! Stand tall, square your shoulders, and hold your head up high. I think putting your body in a confident position sends some kind of magical signal to your brain that helps calm nerves and makes you FEEL more confident.

    2) Channel! When you are in a situation that you feel your confidence waning, ask yourself what would a more confident person do, and then do it, no matter how strange or uncomfortable it feels. It will become more natural with practice.

    3) Ask! Asking questions is a subtle way of controlling the direction of a conversation. Ask questions, keep the other person talking, and give direct and concise answers to questions you are asked. Then ask another question. The other person will think you're the best conversationalist they've ever met!
    2078 days ago
    I love reading your blogs! I can relate to all of them. I wish I had more self confidence because I know that is one of my major flaws. I do my best to put myself out there and get to know people, but I have a tendency to shy away myself. You will be successful at this because you want it to happen!
    2079 days ago
    I love your blogs. Seriously love them.

    As for tips... I'm a social worker... TOTALLY different field. But when I'm meeting with state workers or county officials, I try to remember that I'm the expert of whatever the topic is in my own way. I see a side of the issue that they don't experience, and that is invaluable. Helps the confidence for me professionally.
    2079 days ago
    I love how you can pour so much emotion into your blogs and word it in ways that everyone reading can relate to. I am not a professional but I bet you that if you use the same technique when in your meetings and let your passion and ability to show others how you can be a leader who can relate things are bound to work out the says best for you.
    2079 days ago
    A lot of good advice. I'm not in a profession that I have to speak to a lot of people or talk in front of a group. I'm shy and have little self confidence at the moment. My advise would be to look them in the eye, ask questions, listen to them, respond back. I'm sure after some more practice it will get easier. By the way, how about the critic of your work on that meeting you had to handle? How did that go?

    On a final note, I must say I think this injury was a blessing in disguise for you. You have opened another window and I think this journey not only will help you with your weight loss, but will help you in your personal and professional life.

    God works in mysterious ways. I call them"God Winks" emoticon
    2079 days ago
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