By Guest contributor Katie Schrader
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” My mind repeats this as I head on stage to present in front of hundreds of people. This isn’t the first time I’ve done it and likely won’t be the last. It helps me. I feel confident. I’m ready to take whatever comes at me. But how did I get here? I used to be so self-conscious.
Have you ever left a stage having no idea what you just said in your presentation? This happened to me constantly. I would be insanely nervous before presenting, waiting for the worst to happen. I’m not sure what I was expecting the “worst” to be, but I always pictured it ending with me feeling embarrassed and incredibly unsure of myself. I had to learn ways of calming my mind and my body before presenting. Little did I know the more significant lessons I would learn along the way…
I started to realize the quality of my presentation was never great when I left not really knowing what I talked about. And worst of all, I walked away still feeling unsure of myself, even though nothing bad had actually happened. No one made fun of me, no one questioned me, and no one acted like I shouldn’t be there. But, I never walked away proud and confident in what I said, even though I probably managed to get the basic points across.
Everything I’ve read always says preparation is everything – make sure you know your audience, make sure you know and practice your material, be prepared for follow-up questions, etc. While all these things are true to nailing any presentation, I was still missing confidence. And all the preparation in the world would not get my mind ready for standing in front of a hundred people with all eyes on me.
Building confidence in myself has been a constant challenge since I was a young kid. In fact, I remember making my brother go to the snack stand for me at our local pool as a child because I was too scared to talk to anyone. I mean I was too scared to go get a delicious chocolate treat! What is wrong with me?
Nothing. Nothing is wrong with me.
While I don’t have any statistics on this, I’m assuming everyone has had moments of sheer terror at some point in their career. Maybe it wasn’t a presentation, but maybe your boss asked you a question and you struggled to answer it due to low confidence. You might even always have the answers, but somewhere inside you something is saying, “What if you’re wrong?” I lived this every day for years. It was terrible for my self-worth and made me appear very unsure of myself.
As I worked to build my career, the same feedback kept popping up… “You need to build more confidence in yourself.” I was frustrated with this because I always felt like I was nailing every other aspect of my job and I hoped the leaders of the company would just look beyond my lack of confidence in myself. I was wrong. They weren’t going to see past it until I made a change.
To make that change, I set out on a mission to read all the self-help books, which helped to a certain degree. But eventually I realized that I needed to find something new in myself, not in some book I read. To do that, I found positive quotes and put them everywhere…in my phone, in my notebooks, on my walls at home, anywhere to force it in my head that I was worthy. Worthy of becoming a leader at work, worthy of standing in front of others and sharing my opinion because I am the expert, but most importantly, worthy of all the love from my family and friends.
And then, one day, after all the books and notes and quotes, I thought, “Why do I care that much what others think of me?”
This was such an easy question, but one I had never gotten to before. Because, at its core, worrying so much about what others thought was what caused my brain to fill with the thousands of self-defeating thoughts that drove my insecurity. Asking myself this question brought such a sigh of relief!
I even wrote down the worst things that could happen at work if others didn’t like me or see value in what I provided to the company. Nothing that I wrote down was even close to more important than the family and friends in my life. I wasn’t really defined by my job, yet I had let it define me for years as I struggled with my confidence. It’s funny when you look back and realize nothing at work matters very much when you have a great support system outside of it.
So, why had I cared so much? I think it’s normal. We all want to succeed and become big important business people who have expense accounts. I get why I cared, but now I realize not caring is so much better. Once I let go of all of this pent-up frustration with myself worrying about what others thought, I was able to be a completely new person at work. I shared my opinion in meetings without fear of backlash. I presented with confidence and found positive feedback from my colleagues and bosses at the end. And then, I was rewarded with a new role I had strived to achieve for years.
And all I had to do was let go and find confidence in myself. Hindsight is always 20/20.
The value I have found in myself just by overcoming my internal fears is more than I could have imagined. It certainly wasn’t easy getting there, but boy is it worth it to put in the time and effort to find courage within yourself.
I know I will never be “cured” from my confidence issues, but I know how to deal with them now. I know how to make myself feel good instead of sulking way feeling unsure. And I will continue to search for cheesy quotes and sayings that make me laugh, to realize I don’t need to take myself so seriously.
One last thing. The fear of failure is real and it will consume you if you let it. Find a saying that works for you to combat that fear, and repeat it until it sticks. You may have to reach down deep, but I know we all have the confidence in us if we keep on pushing.
Katie Schrader, a long-time friend of GGTW Co-founder Amanda Epp, graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Public Affairs Journalism. She completed her MBA with a focus on Finance at Capital University after discovering her passion for working with data while working at a healthcare IT company. She currently leads an analytics team as the Director of Enterprise Intelligence at CoverMyMeds. She built her career there across various business units including account management, finance and establishing client value propositions for the sales teams. In 2017, Katie opened Three Buds Flower Market along with co-owners Kate Stevens and Megan Zahnow, and she currently serves as a board member for the Buckeye chapter of DAMA (The Global Data Management Community). She enjoys traveling the world with her husband Vinnie and spending as much time as possible with her dogs, Zeke and Cooper.