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Finding Confidence

Confidence sits in the precarious place between self-doubt and egotism. Having faith in yourself takes work.

Yesterday my daughter called from her college campus. With exams, projects, and juried performances right around the corner, she was understandably stressed. The subtle catch in her voice told me she doubted it was possible for all of it to get done, and for her to do well. I could have offered her a standard mother daughter lecture--don't take things too seriously, make sure you get enough sleep, be sure to eat right--but how many of those helped me when I was in her shoes?

Instead I told her a story.

"Remember when you were in third grade and your big book report involved getting your summary of characters, setting, and plot to fit on an ordinary cereal box? And you had to do it creatively? You didn't struggle to read the book. You didn't mind analyzing the story. In fact, I recall you loved those parts. I watched as you learned, by trial and error, how to make the decisions that would make your project unique. You wanted to follow the guidelines set forth, and impress the teacher. Sure you worried that maybe you couldn't do it, or that it would take so long you might not finish on time, but that didn't stop you from doing what had to be done. The stress motivated you, it didn't immobilize you. Of course you completed it, and it was a job well done. Looking back, I don't remember a single project you didn't finish or one that you handed in late."

"That's true," she said. And then she went on to list some really overwhelming projects she worked on during her formative years. Projects I remember all too well. The invention. Building a Mayan civilization out of clay. The twenty. (You don't want to know about this one.)

Telling her a story helped. Experience builds confidence, if you remember to look back and appreciate it. Like my daughter, if you've done something before, why not be confident you can do it again. Have you written one chapter? You can write another. Sent out one query letter? Send out another. Introduced yourself to a writer you admire? Introduce yourself to another.

I can't give my daughter the confidence to sail through her final month as a freshman in college. And I can't tell you that you'll achieve your goals either. What I offered my daughter was what she and I call, mother's pearls. Those tiny bits of wisdom generously given to support, encourage and motivate. Even with those, she must find the door to the land of confidence--east of doubt and west of egotism. And once there, only she has the key to the door.

You're the only one that can find your confidence, too. It isn't always easy, but here are a few things I've learned in finding my own.

Looking at previous successes inspires you to believe you will find success again.

Whether you think you can or think you can't--you're right.

Experience is something you get, even if you fail.