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Immediately following a speech I delivered at a local high school, Ashley, a sophomore, cornered me and whispered, “How did you get so much confidence?”

The intensity of her body language and eye contact told me she was serious about figuring out how to get some confidence for herself. The desperation in her tone, along with a deep desire to hear the truth, led me to ask, “How do you know I have confidence?”

It’s the same question I ask myself every time I have an experience similar to Ashley’s.

“You weren’t scared to tell your stories,” Ashley said in a hushed tone. “You weren’t afraid to talk about your personal life, and most of all you didn’t even hesitate when you were telling us about your wife.”

The evening before the speech I had struggled with whether I should use the words “best friend” or “wife” on the stage, and so I had to set her straight (no pun intended;)).

“I did hesitate,” I said, “and then I decided to risk honoring my truth over hiding from fear of judgment. Using ‘my wife’ allowed me to be the message that resonates with who I am—honor your true self above fear.”

After a few moments of silence, I continued. “I’m often scared when I do this work. Having a positive impact matters greatly to me, and I want to get it right—perfect really.”

A low murmur had risen from the crowd when I’d mentioned my wife while speaking. For a moment, I tensed, as fearful thoughts of judgment made their way through my mind.  Instead of reacting, I took a breath and refocused intently on the content of my message. The discomfort of that moment turned out to be excellent practice for staying focused, rather then getting caught up in my fears of negative judgment.

[Side note: The impact you think you’re supposed to make isn’t necessarily the one you’re actually intended to make, hence an extended conversation with an audience member about confidence when my speech had nothing to do with confidence.]

In an email exchange later that week, Ashley asked five key questions intended to help bring awareness to what must be done differently in order to begin getting the kind of results you want with your confidence.

Stay tuned… Next week we’ll take a deeper dive into Ashley’s specific questions and practical steps you can take to strengthen your confidence.