Performing our way to confidence

As a recruiting professional I often coach my friends through their career-related issues.  I recently coached two friends who needed similar kinds of coaching.  I was happy to be asked for help and pleased that I could provide a bit of performance coaching. 

One friend is someone who I had coached during a transition into a new role in a new industry. She is an extremely bright and talented professional who, like many of us, can easily become insecure in the face of having to do what she  does not know how to do. 

I think it is fair to say that with today’s economic realities many people are being asked to stretch in new ways, take on new roles, and wear multiple hats. It is a challenge to rise to the occasion and perform at the top of our game even with an underlying feeling of “there’s no way I can do this”.

In the case of this particular friend I had to remind her of all the things she’s done and accomplished without any previous experience — without “knowing” what she was doing. As she and I and many of us can attest to from our life’s experiences, we learn in the doing. Sometimes we need reminding of that. 

The performance I recommended in these moments is a performance of confidence. More than one of my improv coaches has made the offer to me that I work to create more “high status” characters, as my “natural” inclination (behavior) can be to play “low status” — characters who are do not in any way convey confidence.  Playing/performing confident takes self-conscious effort when we are questioning ourselves. I’ve learned the role of confident and accomplished businesswoman through improvisation and most of all by performing in life — and I’ve become that woman. Methodologically the “pretending” ** leads to development,  we become who we were not.  

My other friend is an accomplished and talented producer who is looking for a new opportunity after many years of working with people she knew well and built strong relationships with over many years of working together. It’s both common and disconcerting when looking for a new position to become insecure or frightened, especially in today’s employment market.

I asked her if there is someone she admires for her or his confidence. Someone came to mind immediately. I suggested that she do a “creative imitation” of that person. How is this other person in the world?  How does she express her confidence that makes her an appealing role model?   It turns out that my friend admires this other woman’s ability to take pride in her accomplishments without boasting.  That was an important thing to recognize in the other person, so as to begin to find a way to give expression to her own accomplishments in her field.  In the case of my friend, developing a performance of (just the right amount of) hubris is exactly what she needs.

**For more on “pretending” I refer readers to the paper “Let’s Pretend” by Drs. Lenora Fulani and Fred Newman:

One thought on “Performing our way to confidence

  1. Your blog is great! Each entry was helpful in reminding me to perform confident, say yes, build my environment, and do what i don’t know how to do!Thanks for these useful and inspiring directions!!!

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