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The other day I was catching up in the morning sun with a dear friend over pastries and mugs of steaming hot coffee. My friend is a lovely bright power house of incredible ability and one of the most senior women in her finance field.

She put into words something I’ve been feeling too…

“The thing is Lauren, I care less about work now”…. “Don’t get me wrong, I still CARE about my work, I’ve just noticed I care so much less about what others think of me while I’m doing it.  It’s been so free-ing. I feel happier, and guess what…I’m doing a better job for it!”.  We even laughed that it’s now “nice” when someone agrees with her, but really, she doesn’t need it.  BOOM……

In my more potty mouth way of speaking, my friend and I have less f+cks to give now about what others think of us.  We own who we are and what we bring to the party, and, what we don’t! (Don’t rely on me for home made profiteroles, it’s not happening!).  This, to me, is the definition of self confidence: trusting in the uniqueness of you.  Living life looking forward and without anxiously looking over your shoulder at every turn to make sure everyone is nodding approvingly of who you are and what you’re doing along the way.  

It wasn’t always this way, for either of us.  

Despite our list of professional qualifications we have lived many more years with inverted confidence.  This doesn’t mean nervousness.  It means a lack of trust that your authentic self is enough and so you’re going to fail.  It means you trust the opinion of others more than you trust your own.  In fact, you don’t trust the validity of your own opinion until someone else agrees with you and in doing so gives you permission to trust yourself (see the vicious, exhausting, never ending cycle?).  This made me into a praise junkie; a validation hunter; an approval seeking aficionado.  It’s a flipping futile way to live like a seal in a tank doing tricks to get tickled and more daily fish.  I relied on others to be there to cheerlead me on, to bandage up my ego with their praise and so hold me together enough to do whatever I needed to do that day to swim in the shark tank. 

I learnt how to play confident by watching tv and reading magazines like everyone else:

  • “Fake it til you make it” – look at this old photo of me as a plucky, twenty something year old trainee lawyer doing just that!  The tight, locked jaw mask of confidence which barely hid the chip on my shoulder. 
  • Go get even more professionally qualified and hang my certificates up on the office wall. “See I’m qualified to talk about this. Will you listen to me now? (because being listened to felt VERY important back then for my leaky self esteem).
  • Get the promotion and “right” title at work bestowed upon me so that I’m then anointed with permission to be confident from those magical people up above me (p.s. this doesn’t work! A surprise chasm of insecurity opens up before you as you then realise that even more will now be expected of you with that snazzy new title and you likely don’t yet have the skillset to bridge it…. and, no one (except maybe your work bestie) will be standing there waiting to play a violin for you when you’re struggling). 

Cutting to the chase: this is all window dressing, and the performance works just about enough until it doesn’t.  Because (whilst dressing up is sometimes fun) we can’t play dress up for the rest of our life. It doesn’t work.  At some point I had to actually BECOME confident in who I am. 

In the words of one of Bob’s nursery books: I had to stop pretending and find the lion inside!  And she’s in there (as she is in you) and was getting rather annoyed with not being allowed to roar! Cat’s don’t care what you think about them.  They’ll keep purring and catching mice regardless of what you think or do. They’re not fretting about the past or have anxieties for the future like us poor fearful humans.  They just live as if they’re God’s favourite noble creatures.  What would life look like if we acted more like our self confident feline friends and less like performing seals?  How do we do that?  These 5 steps have helped me to retire from my trained seal performance!


1/ Own Your Worth: I’m now grateful for all the times I said “yes” to doing something I was sh+t scared to do at first like, being the dissenting voice in a room full of yes, writing here, or just stepping up to lead without apology.  These no longer scare me, but, they used to!  I grew into being the person who could do this with more ease and less sweat by showing up and DOING IT, over and over again, rinse and repeat, until it was no longer new and just something I do. You know, the 10,000 hours of practise rule.  You no longer need to fake it as you ARE it.  And if you’re reading this I reckon you’ve clocked up enough time now. And if you’re worried you haven’t got those 10,000 hours yet, how about you go get them now?

2/ Don’t pretend you’re a mouse: As a young girl I was taught to “put yourself down before anyone else will”.  This developed into some carefully curated self deprecating ticks which were ALWAYS added before offering my opinion to make sure everyone else was aware that I was aware of my place:  “if I could just give you my 2 pennies…”, “I know I’m just little old me but if I could just share something…”, “I know this is above my pay grade but…”  Yes, I used to add these self diminishers on the regular like a shield to protect myself as I didn’t want to be seen as being “too big for my britches” (whatever the heck they are?) . Nope – I will NOT do this now, and please stop doing it if you’re now realising your own version of this self harm tick.  It does so much danage to your precious self worth while doing absolutely NOTHING to protect you from the opinions of others, which will come anyway (and that’s ok). There is much greater power in owning and trusting who you are and being willing to back yourself up then trying to play defence up front by making yourself seem small.  What I’ve found is, that when I’m willing to fully stand for what I’m saying others are far more likely to trust and support me in return, and if they don’t, I’m still ok.   

3/ Plug the skills gap: When I first stepped up to be head of legal I knew how to be a lawyer, I did not know how to be a leader.  What got me here, wasn’t going to get me “there”… So I actively learnt!  From people, books, courses, coaches, trial & human error.  it was a noodling path with some wins and some pain along the way.  But growing my skillset grew my confidence out in the real world as I actually became better at what I was doing without needing to fake or prove anything.  My skillset gave me confidence to do what needed to be done.

4/ Don’t Stop – I know, you’re probably a bit annoyed with me as I’m not just giving you a link to my favourite book! But there isn’t a one book solution here. Living into it is the answer (I know, you’re even more annoyed with me now, yes it takes a little time but it’s worth it to be confident with who you are in this lifetime…).  But you really can’t get that wrong and you never will and no one is keeping score.  Life will keep offering you up new opportunities and experiences to practise your gifts out in the world.  Something doesn’t “go well”, try dropping the weight of the “failure” part and keep the wisdom bit in your backpack to light the path ahead.  Many of my failures are now super funny stories I’ll gladly share with others (and nope they weren’t funny to me at the time).  Let me tell you about the time I ccd the absolutely wrong person on an email, oh, that was a fun day!  

5/ Shine:  I’ve had plenty of “who do you think you are?” thrown my way over the years.  I now can see that my playing big with my loud, confident voice might make others feel small and, I can’t make myself small enough for them to feel better about themselves.  My acting small actually wont help anyone.  And I always find this funny as it’s usually thrown my way when I’ve had to take some massive fear inducing action DESPITE my own insecurities.  So please don’t let worrying about this be the reason you dial down your light.  Shine anyway, and in doing so show others they can too.

So, in one sentence: when in doubt, be more cat I think that might be more fur’n- ha!!


Lauren  x

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