Confidence is a work in practice-after all, practice makes perfect, right? As a new entrepreneur I am working on my confidence every day. Having taken the leap into a world of self-reliance and exercising my new muscles of courage, I find myself building confidence in the same way I have done during earlier challenges I have faced.
One pivotal lesson I learned in building confidence was when I started taking ballet. By all standards I had started late in life. I was twelve. Most of the girls in my class had started much younger, some at three years old. I had taken modern dance, where dancers are allowed to not have their shoulders pushed down, and toes didn’t have to be perfectly pointed. Where I could lift my leg as high as I wanted AND lift my hip too! I found myself in a world where total body control was expected, and realized quickly that this expectation of precision and conformity would be a daunting undertaking. In the mirrors I watched my peers move with their bodies in perfect alignment, with their hands shaped identically in a dainty half-grasp. They held their heads high (and lifted their legs without any hip movement at all!). Those mirrors. I was always looking in those mirrors! Observing others and myself-would I ever measure up? I was amazed and intimidated. The peer pressure in ballet is fierce and when combined with a stern Czech teacher, counting out each step, pointing out every mistake, I was overwhelmed. I wondered if the reflection in the mirror would ever ever provide a glimpse of hope. Would I ever be able to let go of the barre that was steadying me? There were so many times I considered quitting. But I didn’t- I kept practicing and practicing.
Repetition was the teacher. Every class was the same routine-plies, releves, and adages over and over and over. For a long while I was mediocre, easily identified by my trembling muscles, by the wobbly pirouette and the leaps that made audible sounds upon landing. The practice, practice, practice was the key to learning the skill. Did I mention practice? All the while, through every practice and rehearsal I was learning the intricacies of each move. Holding my head up high as my feet and confidence hesitated.
After years, I was finally chosen for toe shoe class-a goal in dance for sure! I couldn’t wait to put on the light pink shoes with the satin ribbon and be in the group that was elevated to this status-the “badge of confidence” had been bestowed on me!
If you’ve never worn a pair of toe shoes here is a peek at the experience-THEY HURT!!! These shoes are fitted to your foot without a centimeter to spare. Rising up on the toes created a shockingly stinging, burning pain that sometimes went straight through my spine. Again, I was looking in the mirror-none of my classmates showed any sign of pain-stoically holding their heads up with assurance and grace. I came to realize that all of us had bleeding toes that ached and throbbed. Regardless, we would all rise again on top of the toes that already had oozed with agony-over and over and over again. Practice. Practice. Practice. Push through the pain. Do it again.
Today I feel that same kind of pain-sometimes that sharp, burning pain-learning to navigate my new business has me looking in the mirror again. Am I measuring up? I’m new in this class of entrepreneurship. I got a late start (again). The muscle that trembles is all mental, and I have wobbled through navigating the dizzying pirouettes in all of the roles I have taken on in the classroom of business, while steadying myself on the barre that that I cling to- the calling to share my passion for empowering others and bring hope to the financially challenged universe. To let me be the example in the mirror. To let me count out the steps. To help my clients practice the practice of practicing. To remind them to hold their heads up high, no matter the pain.
Step by step we build our confidence. I am raising the barre for myself, looking in the mirror, knowing that these early days of entrepreneurship are the dress rehearsal for the years to come. My confidence is on the move, growing with each step I take.