Ana and I were in the company of very talented, accomplished and competent women when we presented at the Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lamda Phi Chi 2015 National Convention. Hermanas, sorority sisters, at different stages in their college education and careers (new, transitioning, and established professionals) attended our sessions. Being among Latinas from multiple generations who care about their own growth and development and each other’s reaffirmed to us that personal development is timeless and reinforced why STQ is so important. There were many things that stood out about the weekend, such as seeing the passion that the women have for community, their desire to support each other, and hearing Lady Brion perform her poem Lady Leader—it was amazing! Another is how confidence is a problem for Latinas. The women that I spoke with or heard speaking were accomplished individuals—they are highly educated, hold leadership roles in their organizations, community, or college, they are professionals and are active in their local community. Many were first generation college graduates and put themselves through college with little to no financial support from their families. And yet, with these and other achievements under their belts, many still lack self-confidence and allow fear or the opinions of others to cloud their decisions.
More than once I heard Hermanas of different generations holding back. Similar to other women, they fear not having all of the answers, thinking they have to figure it out before taking action, believing they have to do it all alone or were the only ones experiencing a particular situation.
Here’s what I know about how fear affects confidence:
1-It makes you believe that you cannot take action because you don’t have all of the answers. We buy into the idea that before we can do something or take any action we have to have it all figured out. When we believe this we choose to play safe and not rock the boat. The reality is that unless you take action you won’t know what is next, what’s working or not.
2-It reminds you that you have to have it all figured out. We think that when we hit a certain age, educational level, etc. that we should know exactly what to do. Believing this keeps us stuck in a job that we don’t enjoy, holds us back from trying something new or maybe keeps us in a relationship that doesn’t satisfy us.
3-Fear has you believe that you have not had any successes. It particularly rings true when we want to move to another field or turn a hobby into a profession, something that pushes us outside of our comfort zone. And yet, when we take the time to examine our life and careers, we do find evidence of accomplishments. What are some of your wins?
4-It has you comparing your start to someone else’s middle. Our confidence suffers when we look around and see others being more successful, further along, or having better results. What we forget is that we have to do our part and put in the work and time to achieve success. There is no secret formula! Second, we only see what others want us to see and we don’t know what challenges they have had to overcome.
5-We think in absolutes. Rather than be satisfied with having some of the answers or some components figured out, we think have to have not just the end goal but also ALL of the components.
6-Fear has many voices. It sometimes may sound loving and supporting. It can be in the voice of a parent, teacher, mentor, significant other, or friends. You determine how right or wrong the voice is.
7-Isolation feeds fear. When we don’t share our burden or our fear, we give it more power because it becomes bigger in our minds. We assume that our way is the only way of looking at the situation and become locked into a limited perspective.
8-We are willing to disappoint ourselves in order to not disappoint others. Fear plants doubt in our thoughts and how others will perceive us if we don’t live up to their expectations—X won’t love me if I don’t …I won’t get that promotion if I don’t accomplish/complete…I won’t be seen as competent….They will be disappointed if I say no/decline….
Si queremos we can:
Create the Space for Trust and Vulnerability—As Women and as Hermanas we have to cultivate patience and openness to hear the ideas of others and create space for guidance and growth. Part of this is saying yes to conversations that will challenge and stretch us and the other is supporting others and witnessing them. It involves creating trust by being wiling to be vulnerable and admitting that you don’t have all of the answers, have made mistakes, or need support.
Shift Perspective to Raise Your Self-Awareness—In different conversations I heard participants discussing what they want to accomplish for the sorority and their community, how they support each other, what is the impact they want to have, what holds them back, etc. As I sat and listened I was reminded that you have to recognize what is important to you and not buy into the bullshit that you have to be like everyone else.
What I was also reminded of is that self-awareness is not just about being aware of our strengths and weaknesses. It is also about an opportunity to change perspective over and over again – to explore the unknown and find new ways of looking at old problems.
More than once, several women used the same name to discuss a particular topic or situation. However, it wasn’t until they were in conversation and asking each other questions that they recognized that although labeling it the same how they defined or described the topic differed. It required both sides to be comfortable enough to share their perspective, even if it differed, and to be willing to see it another way.
Acknowledge We All Have Wisdom to Share—The sorority is over 25 years old. It has involved expansion and several generations of women in its history. Each group of women has wisdom to share regardless of where they are in their personal or professional life. There is much to learn from individuals younger and older than us. Part of creating the space involves interacting with others that are like us and also have different experiences, outlooks and ideas to help us expand our views and perspectives.
Own Our Choices—Stop making your success or failure the result of someone else. Take ownership of it and make conscious decisions on what you say yes to, what you risk and what you want for yourself.
Your Turn: In the comment sections share, how do you recognize when fear is influencing your decisions?
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