Borrowed Confidence

At age five, I begged my parents to let me do something to prove that I had become a big boy: “Let me wash the dishes, please!”

They consented, and soon the sink was overflowing with soapy water. I remember two things from that experience. First, doing dishes was more fun than I imagined. I got to use the sprayer–which normally remained off-limits to me. And I could make as many bubbles as I wanted if I kept adding more soap. The second thing I learned was that my generous offer to do the dishes had in fact created more work for my parents. This was punctuated when I came downstairs for a drink of water later that night. In the kitchen my dad was rewashing the dishes I had just scrubbed; my mother was mopping the floor.

Instead of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks” my parents gave me the experience of feeling like a big kid, the sense that I had accomplished something. They watched me while I worked, and they even made it more fun for me by offering praise instead of criticism for the dubious quality of my results. My parents did this even though my generous offer to help would create more work for them both.

Most things we attempt to accomplish for the first time will not produce stellar results. That’s natural. The outcome is less important than is our willing to try. Many times our willingness to try–and sometimes fail–new things requires that we borrow confidence from others.

My parent’s confidence in me made me think I could wash the dishes well. I could not at that time. But I did learn eventually. Thanks, mom and dad, for loaning me the confidence I needed to try.

Years later, the associate director at a social service organization demonstrated confidence in me, and made me believe that I could work with troubled children. At the time, I wondered if his confidence in me was misplaced. I earned the Family Therapist of the Year award in 1993 for the state of Michigan. Thank, Lynn, for loaning me the confidence I needed to try.

A few years after that, a vice president and a director at the country’s largest non investor-owned health insurance company gave me a try as I transitioned from social work into corporate America. I had no corporate experience. I would rise through the ranks to become the chief of staff. Thanks, Bob and Kasey, for loaning me the confidence I needed to try.

Success involves an element of talent and skill. It requires being in the right place at the right time. Luck plays a certain role. But in most cases, our success starts when we have others who believe in us, who bring out the best in us, and who bolster our confidence.

Everyone knows you can borrow brains. But you can borrow confidence, too.

Who needs to borrow some of your confidence today?

Who needs a nudge to try something new?

0 Comments Add yours

  1. Terry Williams says:

    Here here! I too have had people place confidence in me when I had none in myself. I had the willingness to succeed, but lacked confidence. In the late ’70s I worked for the largest soft drink company in the world as a “lowly” route driver, but Andy and Guy had enough confidence in me to promote me into a role which had not existed in our operation. Much to my surprise, I excelled at the job and was quickly promoted to supervisor and ultimately manager. Once the recession-laden ’80s took their toll and my position was eliminated, I was once again facing the lack of self-confidence to start over. I decided to apply for a phone agent job at one of the premier lodging companies, content to take phone calls forever and not be a leader. Many times over the course of a year and a half, managers would approach me about job openings in their departments and urge me to apply, but I told them I wasn’t ready. Then I was asked to take on a role that had not previously existed in our operation (sound familiar?). I became a coordinator, then a supervisor and was asked to go to Ireland to manage the European call center, and was promoted to manager upon my return. Thanks Paul, Kerry and Gary! Self confidence is sometimes bestowed upon us… whether we think we have it or not! I have learned over the years to pass that on and have seen people flourish in their leadership roles, and that always makes me proud.

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