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Can we get anything done without it?

Yet, and yet and yet, I have entire days I think I just can’t: make that call, send that email, ask that favor, knock on that door or send that resume.

People have told me for decades how confident I appear, and the operative word might be appear, for there are too many days I feel like some medieval warrior girding her loins before even picking up the phone or sending out an email.

As someone with no steady income, salary or pension down the line, I’m in lioness mode: I eat only what I catch and kill. That means having to hustle for clients every day, whether reaching out to former or current ones or finding and cultivating new ones.

Either way, it means a lot of people contact and no guarantee of the outcome.

Which, if I fail, means — I’m broke!

No pressure.

I can blame my reticence on a few things:

— I’ve been canned from a few jobs, which has permanently dented my sense of likability, no matter how businesslike a layoff can be

— I was badly bullied in high school for three years by a small gang of boys

— I spent ages 5 to 30 in Canada, a country that has no tolerance for self-promotion or boasting then moved to the U.S., a place with a population 10 times larger, competing with some mighty sharp elbows. Time to man up!

— I faced a tough crowd in my own family, people who often found much to criticize and little to praise

But without a cheery demeanor and the conviction you have something worthwhile to offer, it’s tough to get out there and ask for what you want, whether a job referral, grant recommendation or help with a new project.

I had recently reached out to two people, one an old friend who didn’t call back for weeks and one a new contact whose initial voicemail sounded fairly frosty. So it was with a heavy heart I called both of them back.

Both were delighted to hear from me. Both had lost my phone number and wanted to hear my ideas.

If I hadn’t had the confidence to reach out again, I would have lost out on some cool opportunities.

Do you ever feel lily-livered?

How do you get past it?

23 thoughts on “C-C-C-C-Confidence!

  1. Of Life and Laughter

    I really enjoyed this post; I’m trying to get into writing professionally, so I’ve started a blog and am applying for a position at a blog site that I love and I’m terrified- but what’s the worst that can happen, right? They don’t like my style of writing? I guess there are worse things! I’m feeling lily-livered for sure!!

  2. ladyberrington

    ‘lily livered’…never heard that…but it its fun to say – say it outloud!

    building confidence takes confidence
    I think we go thru ebbs and flows…based onso many other things going on in our lives, situations…etc
    some days I have it some days I don’t
    some days I leave the house thinking wow I am great and then one little thing can squash it

    know you are not alone

    hugs to you if today is a day where it sits a bit too low on your hips — well hugs to you any way…I like your blog

  3. Good luck!

    The challenge of getting people to like your writing is that people’s tastes are so individual….Some people may love you, some may not…

    The stronger your voice, the more you will likely polarize readers. I think this is a good thing, as people want to read someone with a strong point of view. Bur don’t expect everyone to like you!

  4. Lisa Wields Words

    I live my life lily-livered, but I force myself to move forward anyway. Sometimes I find that, the less I want something, the more I am able to get it. So, I trick myself into believe that something is unimportant. It takes the pressure off. But really, I’m about as lily-livered as they come.

  5. But look at the name change on your blog! I noticed it…:-)

    I agree with your strategy. When I went into Pocket Books to meet them to sell Blown Away, my first book, it had already been rejected by 25 others! I figured…what else can they do to me?! So I was relaxed, calm, ready — sold it.

  6. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I’d never heard the term “lily-livered” before–I love it!

    My job (contract negotiation) requires me to do uncomfortable things all the time. Throughout the last five years, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable doing things that used to leave me trembling.

    Those first six months on the job, though? I had to plan every contingency down and be prepared for it. By being prepared for even the worst eventualities, I wasn’t caught off guard by them and could deliver a pre-planned response. I was anxious all the time.

    Now I do this in real life, too. I prepare myself for difficult discussions like everything is a negotiation . . . which is, in most cases true. I prepare myself for all the different things I think might happen and dive in. Most the time, I’m lighter of heart afterward and profoundly glad to have done so.

    It’s awesome that you plowed ahead!

    1. Thanks for sharing this….so, practice makes perfect? Or easier…I agree.

      I also try to anticipate objections, but often the “negotiation” in my field ends up a nasty beatdown on price and I lose interest in the job(s) after being cheaped out. That’s perhaps the larger challenge for me right now.

      1. Deborah the Closet Monster

        Practice definitely makes easier. And, oh! I am so glad I will never have to relive those painful first six months ago. I had a hard time sleeping. Now I just have to work to sound friendlier in personal conversations, because sometimes I get stuck in matter-of-fact contracts-person mode (which *cough* can feel antagonistic to folks who don’t breathe it every day)!

  7. Loved this post! Thanks for sharing–I have to say, you DO seem confidant, at least virtually…

    I am CONSTANTLY engaged in a battle with my fight/flight instincts, which I think is in the same category as being lily-livered. Today, for instance, I really need to check on the status of a job possibility–but oh, to write the email or pick up the phone is HUGE. Maybe your post is a sign?

    So glad your phone calls had happy endings! I love reading your stuff!

    1. Thanks!

      I feel more confident in certain situations, much less so in others. Writing rarely scares me.

      The real fear, I suspect, is not the fear of taking action — but not getting the result(s) we want: a job offer, a second date, whatever. Rejection hurts!

  8. All the time!

    I feel like I’m completely in the same boat; freelance designer who grew up in the Midwest, nagged throughout middle and high schools, attending grad school in a fiercely competitive year, now am in New York, and constantly get told how “in control” and “confident” I seem. But, I do understand the reservations that inhibit confidence.

    But you have to keep trying, I tell myself. I’m old enough now (only in my early 30s!) that I realize I have to keep playing the game to stay in the game… Otherwise there are plenty of people who would take my spot in this community. It’s a touch frightening, but I find it a great motivating factor.

    Besides, I made it here all by myself with my own work ethic. I must be doing something right. Sounds like you are too!

    1. You make a great point….as long as you are in the game, that’s half the battle. There are a million writers out there, for sure, and if I ever want to scare myself and feel overwhelmed….I just walk into a big bookstore! But, hey, I’ve found my niche and done it twice. So, as you know, it can be done. You seem to be doing very well, and good for you!

      Work ethic is HUGE. Showing up, never giving up, being consistently excellent. Not sexy, but that’s how it gets done.

  9. I am “lily-livered” personified. I have decided, on the urging of friends, that I am going to exhibit my work at a big photo festival in these parts next year.

    The very idea had me hyperventilating (what if people throw up looking at it? What if no one bothers to look at it?!), and now that I have decided, I have to approach exhibition venues, printers, figure out what and how I am going to do this etc. The thought of trying my work as exhibition worthy to venues is yea scary. I don’t know anything about this scene, so I have a fair amount of promotional-like work to do even before deciding what paper i want my photos on.


    Never done this before. Passionately dislike the schmoozing side of anything. I might shrivel and die during the process, but it will be an experience for sure. I feel somewhat better though, knowing that veterans of this trade like you still get the shivers every once in a while. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Congrats! What a cool and fun thing to do with your work….

      First principles: be totally passionate about the value of this work to others (have smart friends help you choose your best stuff) and that alone is highly infectious. Be very clear what you want to show and why and to whom…then the “schmooze” isn’t fake shit but really simply trying to communicate clearly and persuasively what you do and why you do it. Clarity is also very attractive!

      Also…be prepared for plenty of people NOT to look at it (the vomiting part is unlikely, no?) That’s what art is…divisive. I now have 26 amazon reviews of Malled — in one month after it appeared. Some HATE it and are really nasty and personally attack me as a princess, arrogant, entitled, etc. Nice! (They can’t tell WHO took your photos at leas and make ad hominem attacks. Enjoy this!) You know what? Whatev!! If people are reacting THAT viscerally, the work has power and they’re still taking the time to crap on it. They didn’t yawn or ignore it.

      You cannot ever control people’s reactions to your work. You can only hope to expand the circle of those who love it. And you will!

  10. Pingback: Another Secret: “Forget About It” « Woman Wielding Words

  11. Farin

    I had a lily-livered moment last night. This guy I’d been set up with and didn’t really hit it off with called me after months of silence (and relief on my part!), and because I didn’t recognize his number, I picked up. I wanted to run away screaming, but I decided to do the adult thing and deal with the situation instead. It was extremely awkward, but I feel much better now.

    Oh, and I saw a blurb for Malled in a few-weeks-old edition of People that was lurking around my office and got all excited for you.

  12. Brave post, thank you.

    People say I too seem confident, but it’s all show. Like you, there are days where I have to whip myself into a frenzy (and that’s just for fun…did I really say that?…moving on with the rest of the sentence) just to go down to the post office. And I LIKE going down to the post office! It’s a beautiful old building! Most days I’d simply prefer to talk to my chooks. They don’t criticise. (There are days when I avoid talking to the cat, because he DOES criticise.)

    Aren’t human beings fragile creatures?!

    1. Oh, we are indeed!

      Your voice on your blog IS indeed very confident — which might be one of the appeals of blogging as it forces us to behave like (and be) brave bunnies even as we feel like nervous nellies…

      You have to do something about that cat, Nigel! 🙂

  13. I think you summed it up best for me in one of your earlier comments where you said: “Rejection hurts!” That is typically when I am my most “lily-livered”. I’ve had my share of scathing rejection and well-meaning, but artistically damning praise from my friends. I think Monica Wood had the best recommendation for balance as a writer in her book “The Pocket Muse” where she said we should keep one of each: A person who will tell us like it is, and a person who will sing our praises.

    We need both as writers, even as people, but I think a third person we need to add to this mix is someone who will always tell us to “Go for it!” That constant affirmation that the decisions we hem and haw about aren’t bad ones and that, yes, the risk is sometimes worth the reward.

    1. I like to have a board of directors, the way a big multinational does, and each has a specific sort of expertise, whether a skill or the way they handle me and my work.

      Malled might never have been written had it not been for the VERY strong early insistence (long before I found the agent or sold the proposal) from two writer friends that it was indeed a great subject for a book.

      The great challenge is to keep plugging, but not place too much expectation on outcome. I find that very difficult.

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