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Shimmy and swim to confidence

Speak Up. Don't Speak Up. Be Assertive. Raise Your Hand. Calm Down. Interrupt. Be Nice. Don't Be Intimidating. Don't Be Angry. Calm Down. Stop Shouting. Dress Respectably. Be Confident.Every person at the latest Pollen Work Redux event about Confidence was beautiful. I mean this in the sense that the folks attending were projecting a seriously genuine aura of belief in themselves, support, and kindness, and it was absolutely amazing to be in a room with 250 other women with that kind of vibe.

This is true of every event I go to in this series focusing on bringing together “women spanning diverse backgrounds to reimagine the future of the workplace.” Unfortunately, there’s no space large enough for every woman in the Twin Cities to simultaneously experience a Work Redux event, so this blog is my little part to share the message far and wide – women are in the workplace and, in the words of Pollen’s Jamie Millard, we have a crisis of confidence, but together we are going to totally rock the world.

Pollen's Work Redux events embody what Nancy Lyons of Clockwork (and one of the panelists) advised – “As leaders, we make room for people to come exactly as they are.” Outside of our jobs, we have families, passions, hobbies.  We are activists and artists, naturalists and explorers. We can’t leave our worries, our mental and physical illnesses, or our insecurities at the door. We are whole people, and accepting a whole person in a space – especially a work place – can bring so much to the table. How we accomplish this can look really different, depending on the space.

One of my former jobs had a very small, all-female staff, and supporting each other as whole individuals meant that my supervisor and I had 10 minutes each morning where we shared ALL THE THINGS we were bringing to work that day. This made us much better able to connect, work as a unit, and capitalize on our strengths.  In other contexts, amplification and echoing of women’s ideas in meetings can ensure women get the credit they deserve, as Mica Grimm of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis (and also a panelist) pointed out. The Washington Post even recently published an article about how women on Capitol Hill are using this strategy.

Fundamentally, we also have to change the narrative around our actions, as Ilhan Omar, candidate for MN House 60B, articulated – “Women shouldn’t ask permission. We should just do it and show them by action.” After the Presidential Debate on Monday, there were excellent pieces from the New York Times and Washington Post discussing some of the attitudes and obstacles women have to overcome to do this. And, because of that, it’s especially important to shine through our actions when our work place, or a meeting, or our volunteer group just isn’t as supportive as it should be. As Mica Grimm said, we need to “walk into the room with the confidence of a mediocre white man.” We are not imposters, we are entitled to these spaces, and we need to show up with confidence in that fact.

To support us in this sometimes overwhelming venture, then, we need to have other folks in our life to help us maintain our confidence. Nausheena Hussain, panelist and co-founder of Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment, encouraged us all to create our own personal Board of Directors. Having a group of people to turn to when you need to brainstorm, decompress, or make decisions will help you maintain and build your confidence. And, as Lyons pointed out, they can “get you out of the tree” when you DO feel overwhelmed or trapped.

Because, we are not 100 percent confident every moment. I’ve definitely been feeling that lately, having recently left my job without another full-time one immediately lined up – a risk that is far outside my comfort zone. It’s taken me two months, some nights curled up in a blanket sushi-style, and a lot of support from my friends and family to feel confident in that decision. So, I really related when Tasha Byers, panelist from the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, revealed she has sat in her car for an hour before a presentation, just to get up the courage to go in. When working through that anxiety or when over-analyzing your faults, she advised that “Maybe what you said was perfect for someone in the room…what if you insecurities are your glory?”

Turning my mistakes into a source of power? Yes, please. I don’t want to fake it to make it anymore. And Mica Grimm advised that we should think instead that “maybe you don’t have confidence in where you are right now, but you can have confidence in your potential.” In the mean time, let’s swim in our successes.

Or, as we saw in the first Presidential Debate, we can do a little shimmy:

It’s your jam – celebrate your confidence in all the things you are and will be!

Image reposted with permission from Pollen MidwestCreated by Allegra Lockstadt (allegralockstadt.com).


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