Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thinking about Self-Confidence ~ Intentional Awareness ~ “Pleasant Pit bull”

This morning while I was washing dishes, thoughts were racing through my mind. I’ve been thinking about a school memory for a week or so; or rather it popped into my awareness and I wanted to write about it and then a book on introversion that I’ve been reading gave me a different perspective on my experience. I haven’t finished the book yet; that may be where my hesitation is—my experience and the book have not yet fully gelled. And so I began writing about it and set it aside and started this—started writing knowing thoughts of yesterday were on my mind— and I can tell as I type this there is that self-conscious observer right at my shoulder.

Speaking of self-consciousness. There used to be a time that I was overly aware of my every move. I still am aware, but not to the degree that I was in the past. It can be difficult walking through the world, having a conversation with someone, or just waiting in line—being fully aware of every uncomfortable feeling in that moment. I no longer think of myself as shy, though I do have shy moments. Writing has helped me to find not only my writing voice, but also my verbal voice. I have moments of meekness and I have moments of thunder. I have a line that if crossed, the lion cub growls. That’s how I see myself sometimes—as a lion cub that is capable of being a lion with a great mane. Yet, I have accepted that my nature is not the lion.

When I go to a café to order a coffee, most of the time I place my order with the meekest voice. I become self-conscious because I wonder to myself, why are you acting like a mouse? Where is your voice?!  Sometimes, I come across as confident.

Yesterday my lion cub came to my rescue. I was at work and the boss came to me in a calm but accusing manner and asked why I had filed the letter with his edits scribbled on the page and that it did not appear to have gone out. At first I accepted the error because on the spot when someone approaches you accusingly, what else is there to do? I was caught off guard. He said, “I’d like to know what happened.” I took the thick file from him and looked at the letter, and said, “So would I.” I flipped the docket over and examined it. He had not signed off, and I had not signed off that I had processed it. I said to him, “I can say that with 99.99% certainty that I did not file this. I would not file a letter like this with your written edits on it and furthermore you didn’t sign off on it and neither did I. This looks like you filed it.”

His demeanor changed when it came back to him and he realized that was exactly what happened.

Not often, but occasionally the boss will deviate from the usual processes that are in place so that things like this don’t happen. Or in a haste he may forget to transfer his notes to indicate why he didn’t actually need to send a letter out and that’s why he put it back in the file the way it was. In the end, all was fine, and I reminded him, “If your going to do something yourself, you need to make sure you document it so we know what the hell happened!”

“I agree,” he said. And he puttered off.

What this experience makes me think about is that in my job role as an assistant, something in me changes so that in more moments than not I have confidence; I speak up, I take charge. I know that this is common when you’ve been at a job for a long time, but it perplexes me to a degree that I can be one way during this chunk of my days and then another way the other chunks of my days. Throw me in a live classroom and most likely I won’t raise my hand to talk; small class group discussions won’t open me up much; if my hand isn’t raised, and I’m picked to answer a question, I might freeze. I’ll want to talk but I won’t feel a comfortable entry point because most people will already be talking and I won’t be able to get a word in—this is how it feels, this is how it’s been. And by the time I muster up the confidence to speak up, I’m exhausted, we’ve moved on. It’s done.

The exchange with my boss yesterday reminded me of how different I am at work—mostly the speaking up part.  During one of our team meeting activities, the activity was to select a question and the question was to discuss what attribute we liked about each other. I liked the question. After we all shared what we shared, my co-worker closed by saying I seemed to do a good job of keeping things moving along and described me as a pleasant pit bull. I loved the image.

In most of my jobs, if I felt comfortable in the environment, this aspect would come out. I remember another boss, whom I had a similar relationship with described me as a bulldog because I knew how to get the things I needed to do my job and help others do their job. I would keep after them, but always with a pleasant slant—firm, but friendly.

Sometimes this confidence will show itself in family settings and with those close to me. I guess I’d like to hone this in myself and to bring this confidence out in more and more settings as time goes on. It’s nice to know it’s there and by writing about my experience, it helps me bring more intentional awareness to that which I wish to work on in myself.


keiko amano said...


If I were you, I would keep a journal of boss's misbehavior. Write every detail indlucing his expression, his words, looks and so on. You can use it when your performance review comes up. You just need to remind him each such entry on what, how, and when each happened, but has he acknowledged how many times you have filed his letter correctly and other job activities to his satisfaction? Do you remember what I wrote before? You can ask him if he is satisfied with your work once in a while especially right after you worked extra hard for him. This is to build a strong image of yourself to him. If he says yes, thank you, a few times, and you keep this up, then it's easy to ask raise when the time comes.

Rebb said...

Keiko, thank you for your good suggestions and yes, I do remember what you wrote before--thank you.

I hope I'm not painting my boss to be a bad person. I was going to delete this blog, but I didn't think it was too bad--I hope not. He has many positive qualities too I admit though that I don't like taking the defensive, which I sometimes must to to counter balance his personality. I'm not worried about a raise. I just don't like when he blames before thinking. The good thing is we've been working together long enough that I feel comfortable speaking up when I need to.

The funny thing is, he's always very complimentary in my performance reviews. I try not to blog about work too often, but it does happen.

Vincent said...

I sympathise with you in these matters, Rebb. I tend to shrink into myself when dealing with strangers who respond in a mechanical way - checkout staff in a supermarket for example who greet you because they have been instructed to be friendly. I don't object to their training of course and it is pleasanter than if they were surly. Sometimes there's a student on vacation in these situations and I instantly spot a different attitude, then it is easy to be real and friendly.

So I think that in social situations one's own self-confidence or otherwise depends more on the other person than one may be aware of.

I usually try to be genuinely open and friendly with everyone but don't have a way to show it clearly. I believe powerfully in non-verbal communication; but does the other person?

Rebb said...

Mechanical makes me a little uncomfortable also, Vincent.

I think your absolutely right in what you say about social situations and the other person. I've observed this in myself, but in reading one of the introversion books--one I'm listening too--there's a part where the author discusses this. I am hoping to write a reaction when I'm done and weave in my few self-observations if I still have the interest to write about it when I'm done. I know too that when I'm in a social situations and someone seems shyer than myself, I kick into a different mode and make the effort to make them comfortable without making them uncomfortable. Also, I do well around comfortably outgoing people. They put me at ease because they feel genuine and I don't feel pressured to talk. I also don't always do well with when I'm asked certain questions on the spot. I need time to process.

Also, I've always known this about myself, but in one of the introvert books I'm reminded that introverts don't typically like "small talk." I'm ok with talking about the weather, movies, and other little things, but I'd rather listen in on a philosophical discussion or someone dealing with something emotional, and anything having to do with reading, writing, and thinking, etc. and I tend to only really talk if I'm one on one with someone in person, mostly I listen and observe.

Yes, I too believe powerfully in non-verbal communication. There are so many subtleties that quite honestly, I feel that many are not aware of the non-verbal both in sending and receiving.