Maybe it was my hyper-critical New York upbringing or perhaps my competitive Ivy League attitude…whatever the cause, the person I was in college was not nice. I was sour, dour, and altogether arrogant. No denying—I was bitchy – as in an old school-defined snob.
In stark contrast, my Chicago-bred college buddy, Laura, constantly bore a bright smile, positive energy, and bubbly personality. She was good at everything from academics to sports. She attracted everyone with her positive energy. Everyone said hello to her. Everyone wanted to be with her. I wanted to literally be her.
I was inspired but also baffled. How did someone learn to be so naturally popular? Maybe the Midwest had better air? Maybe she had happier parents, privileged experiences, or even genetic superiority? In hindsight, I know the answer: She generously shared authentic confidence.
As I entered the workforce, my “bitchiness” didn’t go away…if anything, it worsened: I continued to be aggressive, opinionated, demanding, and annoyed. Don’t get me wrong—my dominant attitude had gotten me that far in the first place so it seemed politically correct. I was driven, direct, and not afraid of competition or confrontation. Post women’s lib, I was not letting my feminine values come to work. I was as tough and gruff as the men, ready to make deals happen. But beneath my badass attitude was an insecure bully. I didn’t have confidence so I unconsciously tried taking it from others.
I didn’t realize the personal impact until one day my Brazilian mentor bluntly said to me: “You’re difficult to deal with and several people don’t want to work with you.” So despite my hard earned competence, my badass behavior was cutting down my career.
But I wasn’t ready to hear or accept that. My defenses went up and I argued that it was their problem, not mine. I didn’t recognize how much it was costing me – even beyond my job.
I wasn’t happy. I felt on edge most of the time and frustration would squash my motivation. I envied other people to a point of spite.
I noticed on business trips, my mentor always got the better hotel room, unsolicited airline upgrades, and countless other gifts that strangers bestowed upon him. I just assumed it was because he was male or more senior. It was a convenient excuse. It took me way too long to figure out that is wasn’t what he was, it was who he was. My mentor was genuinely welcoming and accepting of other people, from all walks of life. He wasn’t just friendly. By giving everyone his full attention and interest, he filled other people with confidence – just like Laura did.
I see now that while I was trying to hide my insecurities with arrogance, in fact, I was being a self-centered, unaware, defensive meany. And by acting negative or rude to others, they reflectively did, too. As a result, I got treated the way I treated others – with indifference and subordination. I wasn’t giving respect so I wasn’t getting it either.
When I was able to see my own truth, I started acting with a lot less aggressiveness and a lot more positivity – and people, including strangers, started giving me gifts of physical and emotional value in return. I felt MORE in control, happier, and less exhausted.
Now I can explain it neurologically. Thankfully, I was able to take control of my behavior by not being reactive, like a cavewoman.
Moreover, I received my greatest life lesson: when you give confidence, you get it back.
You make a real connection and have a meaningful impact. I’ve seen personally how giving confidence results in getting better service and better stuff. It’s infectious and benefits both the giver and receiver. Truly, confidence is the real secret to success. And yes, I wish I had learned it in any of my old schools. It is undoubtedly more important than much of the other stuff I studied. That’s why I feel so passionate about teaching confidence to others.
Like the Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit, “Impossible Hulk“, I admit there are days I still feel that insecure inner bitch wanting to break out to be angry, mean and destructive – but I snuff her down by deliberately and genuinely giving confidence to others.
We all can be that kind of superhero: A Confidence Crusader
Do you have a former bitch or bastard living inside you, too?
What lesson can you learn from that voice?
How can you shape it for the better?