The Beginning: Owning the Runway, NYC
by Julie Lancaster View Bio
Each July, I take a big, luxurious break. I want to model to my clients that true vacations are possible. But mostly, I do it for me. To recharge, embrace the concept that life is to be enjoyed, and gain new perspective. This year, it starts with NYC. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Claim your confidence. That’s the name of a mountain biking program that Judy, my colleague, runs for women to lean into the thrill.
Shoulders back. That’s the mantra of the modeling industry that was repeated to my daughter as she walked the runway in New York City. On the mirror in our hotel room, she wrote “Be bold.” She entered a modeling competition with 1000 contestants and raised the money herself to attend.
At 10-years old, she almost peed her pants on an airplane because she didn’t want to bother her aisle-neighbor. Now, just 5 years later, she climbed the stairs of the catwalk to be scrutinized and judged, with her image being projected onto a 40-foot screen, and her confidence-metamorphosis on full display. No people-pleasing smile. No approval seeking glances. Shoulders back, beaming with fierceness. She is a strong and independent force of nature, not shying away from taking up space in the world. I only realize later that I’ve held my breath the whole time, utterly mesmerized.
She reminds me that we are complex, and so is confidence. She certainly was nervous, but it didn’t look that way. We know it’s healthy to be tender and vulnerable and exposed when we feel supported and know that we are loved, warts and all. It’s healthy to be brave and bold and proud when we are feeling on top of the world. And it’s an incredible skill to summon either of those.
One complexity to confidence is how we respond when we win. We are asked to navigate the world of self-confidence and the world of humility at the exact same time. Our society doesn’t teach this skill blatantly, but we are certainly expected to figure it out. If we don’t get it right, we come across as arrogant, full of ourselves, and like a braggart. Or meek, wimpy, and not self-assured.
I watched her traverse this confidence with humility maze, learning 4 main confidence tenants:
- Who to be over-the-moon excited with (mom!) behind closed doors.
- How to accept praise of “great job!” with heartful gratitude for the recognition.
- When to dim the light on her accomplishments when the other might be doing a self-comparison and feeling small.
- When to turn the focus onto the other person and shine light on them.
She likes to challenge herself in many ways, and she also does this in the area of confidence. One afternoon when we had a short break between events, we hit the streets of Midtown Manhattan. Between Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park, she started an experiment. “I’m going to walk down the street and not move out of the way for other walkers coming my way & see what happens.”
With a little apprehension, I joined in. I was shocked about how drawn I was to accommodate, get out of the way, or apologize. And I would say that I am a fairly confident person! We held our heads up, enlarged our presence, and took up space. As a woman, I think I could do this more often.
As another experiment, my mentor, Whitney, has recently challenged me to accumulate as many “nos” as I can. He says I am playing it too safe in business & experiencing more rejection is my next level of growth.
Katie, my colleague, once asked me how she might turn up her confidence in the middle of a training, as sometimes she had it and sometimes, she didn’t. I encouraged her to experiment with inclusion. Every time I want to bring more confidence in while running a training, I turn the spotlight onto someone in the group, and engage. My facilitation confidence soars when I am clear that the training is making an impact, and I can’t do this with accuracy without a feedback loop.
We work with 30 organizations each year and 1-10 teams within each organization. We help with only 3 things: leadership skills, strategy, & culture. To have a thriving culture, we start by addressing the team’s ability to talk about individual and unique strengths. We ask each person 1 question. “What are 5 strengths that you possess that you could teach or mentor the team on?” Their comfort with and ability to answer this question is where we start. If we have a culture that practices humility without confidence, we miss out on the opportunity to clearly identify and apply our strengths to help each other.
I want to help my daughter to learn more of the nuances of confidence. I think about my own confidence journey and how, even at 49-years, there are times that I am glowing with courage and others when I am shy. Like when to follow the rules and when to challenge them. And how to start powerfully, authentically and unapologetically if she is on stage, in front of the class, or giving a speech and get the audience truly interested. And how to practice a generous act of service, like giving a compliment, to help others’ confidence. I want to teach her how to hold the silence and give herself a moment to think after someone has asked a question. And how to stand her ground and less frequently let the interrupter take over. And how to lower her voice an octave if she is nervous to calm herself. I want to teach her how to look in the mirror and say “I look great” every day. Parents, the book 101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love her Body says that the way to teach this is by doing this when we see ourselves in the mirror.
Growing our confidence (with humility) seems to be something to work on throughout our lives. I think about my own confidence journey and how, even at 49-years, there are times that I am glowing with courage and others when I am shy. 70% of our clients, regardless of age, want more of it. Or perhaps want it more consistently when pushing back, standing up for ourselves, or when the chips are down. One of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to create communities of confidence is creating the power of belonging. The next time someone share a win or success, I encourage each of us to notice which of these 4 things happen.
- You feel happy for them. (A joy shared is a joy doubled.)
- You self-judge. (Why aren’t I as interesting, cool, successful, etc.?)
- You other-judge. (They aren’t that great.)
- You compete. (Oh yeah, well listen to this!)
As you might imagine, communities that have high levels of belonging have strong doses of #1. I would love to celebrate you, hear what strengths are shining for you, or where you are feeling successful these days. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more about confidence and assess your level of confidence? Take our Confidence Assessment here.
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