Embracing Confidence

Last week, Frank and I went to a crab boil put on by our mortgage company. It was part-thank you for clients and part-staff party. It also felt a bit like it was part-networking, as the name tags included a profession, as well. Since I was a “plus-1” my name tag was handwritten without my occupation.

After getting our drinks and waiting for a lull in the zydeco music, we introduced ourselves to the couple to our right. I can’t remember what the husband did, but the wife was a former accountant, turned stay-at-home mom. We found an easy connection and talked about kids and preschool and testing and all the things parents are supposed to talk about. I felt comfortable saying that I, too stayed home and wasn’t it just wonderful to be around for these formative years?

The couple to our left included a medical researcher. I have always had a bit of a fangirl reaction to researchers. I loved that aspect of college. In fact, one of my favorite (and most successful) art history classes was one in which we spent the entire semester curating an annotated bibliography. I was so happy spending time in libraries around the city, reading first-edition texts, taking notes, and collecting research. We talked about the fascinating field of medical research and I peppered her with questions about her work.

At the appropriate point in our conversation, this brilliant woman asked me what I did. “Oh. I’m just a teacher and I also stay home with our daughter.”

Reframing "success"
Reframing “success”

Not one week earlier I had the privilege of attending Women in the Mix‘s Work-Life-Thrive Summit. I spent a day with amazing, thoughtful, smart, successful women. It was empowering and intimidating all at once. Something I took away from this day of encouragement was that I am not just. I have a lot to offer and I am good at what I do. (Even if it is just reading Erandi’s Braids again…)

In fact, a whole presentation was about women being confident in their skill set. Men don’t apologize or depreciate their accomplishments at nearly the same rates that women do. For whatever reason, women are more likely to apologize, to lump themselves into a group accomplishment, and to discount achievements rather than to accept words of praise.

Yet here I was, discounting my own abilities. Not everyone can teach a roomful of 8-year-olds to tell time, to read, and to behave in socially acceptable ways. Not everyone can facilitate an experience in an art museum that leads kids to realizations and connections beyond the art and into their own life experiences. I need to be proud of my own accomplishments and recognize that I am not as expendable as I feel.

This interaction reminded me of a conversation I had with my cousin’s wife a couple weeks ago. She has started a new job as an executive director. She is one of the most qualified, confident, and approachable people I know. Her life experience makes her perfect for this job and she has every reason to expect to excel in it. Yet, when she was offered the position, she said she felt like a fraud. She wondered if she was old enough to be an executive director or if she had enough of the right kind of experience. We talked about how easy it is to assume that someone else would be better for our jobs. But, someone else isn’t better.

I have another friend, who after a rough day with her preschooler, said she had to remember that she was chosen to be her child’s mother. Even though it didn’t feel like it in the moment, no one else could do her job of mothering this particular child better than she could.

Whatever the title – from mother to teacher to director to researcher – I wonder how often we discount our contributions. How often do we add just to our titles? I’m trying to be more assured in my choices, to model confidence in these decisions, and to remember that I am the best person for the roles I’ve been given.

How do you introduce yourself – do you include your occupation? Have you ever struggled with the feelings of being just…?

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8 thoughts on “Embracing Confidence

  1. Except for relating to justice, I think the word “just” should be stricken from our vocabulary! Yes, we all have unique skill sets. And I might freeze from fright with a whole room of eight year olds! Thanks Annie.

    1. I agree! It’s so easy to add “just” before accomplishments. You are definitely one of the people who first comes to mind when I think of those courageously pursuing dreams and accomplishments.

  2. There is so much here I could write WAY too much in a reply. This Sunday, Henry will be out of town. Since in our denomination we both receive the same ordination and have many of the same expectations, I will be speaking Sunday. Here is where my confidence is really low. Public speaking doesn’t much frazzle me. BUT….this kind of speaking that I can’t even use the “p” word…I am so unworthy. I realize none of us are worthy BUT….
    Research? Good for you! Definitely not my thing. We have a children’s art museum here that is just wonderful and I love taking our granddaughter to. I’ve seen the groups go through and the staff trying to hold their attention. It can be challenging to say the least. There is never a time where you should put “just” before that OR staying home with your precious one. So glad you shared about this. We all find those areas or moments when we don’t feel the fit. Thankful to folks like you to remind us God will use who he will use.

    1. Embrace your role as pastor!! 🙂 From what I can see, you are an amazing pastor in ways far beyond the traditional public speaking role. Thanks for your encouragement, Debby!

  3. Oh, Annie, you spoke to the very thing I’m struggling with Right. Now. Mothering has been difficult for the past few days. It’s easy to think God gave the boys the wrong mother. But, I have to remember that God doesn’t make mistakes. And, He strengthens us when we need it. Boy do I need it today. 🙂

    You’re right. It’s so easy to lessen what we do with “Just.” “I’m JUST a stay-at-home mom.” I think when we do that, we lessen the calling and the gift God has given us of being able to invest in the lives of our children, or of those around us when we’re working outside the home. There are no small jobs in God’s economy. Each calling is vital to His kingdom. Now to live like I believe that . . . . 🙂

    1. Yes, I’m trying to live fully in God’s calling. Clearly, I need constant reminders that he has called me specifically to this moment, but I’m learning…. And, boy, do I hear you about “those” days. Bea and I have been at it lately – exhausting!!

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