A Portrait of Confidence

Mar 09 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

In our New Year’s resolutions post I resolved to find more self-confidence. I have not found it yet but I have had some thoughts on what confidence is and where it comes from.

I recently received an email notifying me about a talk titled, “Successfully marketing your scientific training“. It seemed relevant so I thought I might go. I looked up the speaker to see what kind of relevant knowledge he might have. I was surprised to find that he is a less senior postdoc than me who is currently looking for a job in industry. I was floored. Given my experience, I could probably give this talk as well as he can. Yet I would never imagine that at this stage of my career, with no proof that I actually know how to market my scientific training, that I should give this talk.

I asked my husband, how do I get this guy’s chutzpah? He replied that this was such a well-known phenomenon that there is a meme for it:


(quote by writer Sarah Hagi who also made a t-shirt of it: https://teespring.com/lord-give-me-the-confidence)

Not too long later, I read a blog post about a poem that vividly illustrates one woman’s confidence.

You really should read this post, but in case you don’t have time, a brief summary:

The blog post breaks down for the non-lit major a beautifully written poem that touches on boys’ confidence, finding one’s direction, and the places that women are excluded. It then describes the speaker’s birth experience in a way that reverberates with the finding, the knowing, the confidence in one’s body and oneself.

This may not seem connected to the idea of finding my confidence in the workplace. But to me it really hit on the source of confidence. It is not dependent on what other people are doing – it comes from within. Here is the speaker, looking around at others, saying to herself, where is my place to shine? When she does find her voice it is not the way those around her would have. In her own way, in a most womanly way, she does shine. She has brought forth a “new person.”

I am by far not arguing that a woman’s place is with the babies. I see this poem as a metaphor a woman finding within her the strength to produce something amazing. This poem is so full of confidence. Not questioning, just knowing that she is powerful and amazing and awe-inspiring. It is not a confidence that comes from having proven oneself. It is a confidence that comes from within. I know that this is what I am capable of. I am strong.

I love that. I love science but being part of the world of science means constantly being questioned, constantly nit-picked, constantly called to defend oneself. To be able to say, I will find my place for achievement, not in the same way as someone else, but no less extraordinary feels so freeing.


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