My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #216: Self-Confidence and Reaching Your Potential

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 01-05-2011 03:11 PM 3936 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 215: Taking Care of Business Part 216 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 217: Do I EVER Learn? »

In reading some of the responses to yesterday’s blog, it started me thinking. (Uh, oh! you say!) The final comment by TS really hit the nail on the head. He spoke of self-confidence and realizing one’s potential value and how important it is – especially for someone who is in business for herself.

I realize that I have had trouble with self-confidence issues. I attribute that to many circumstances in my life. Although I write here every day and open my life and experiences up to all of you, I have chosen to keep certain personal information out of these conversations. This is a woodworking forum and I want the main focus of my blog here to be on the daily ups and downs of my woodworking business. As I said many, many entries ago, because I am so personally involved in my work and my business, there are going to be times when I get too emotional or speak of personal things that affect my daily life. I am not going to apologize for that because it is a part of me that isn’t going to change. I don’t think that I would be very honest or interesting if I filtered out all my personal aspects of my life. After all, my business is very personal to me, as it should be. I look at it with a passion that drives me every single day and I believe that is why it has achieved the success it has (so far!)

I don’t mind speaking about these issues and sharing them with you because not only does it help me sort through them, but it also makes me feel good to know that I have helped others deal with similar issues, as many of you have told me. It is all part of a learning process to me, and I have always thought that teaching and learning go hand in hand.

With that said, I will speak of self-confidence for a minute. I find that there sometimes is a fine line between what one will perceive as self-confidence and what one perceives as arrogance. Both behaviors seem to focus on achievement, however the self-confident person seems to work hard for a more global cause whereas the arrogant person’s main purpose is to spotlight themselves. My own personal belief on the matter is that ironically, the arrogant person has very low self-esteem, and therefore needs to overcompensate for that low self-worth by continually pointing out his/her successes.

So how does one come across as being self-confident without being thought of as arrogant?

When I first met my partner, I was trying to explain to him what exactly I did. Like many people, at first he didn’t understand. There is quite a difference in making a project and designing a project. At first he thought that I made wood items to sell at sales and such. I needed to explain to him that not only did I physically construct them, but I also drew up the plans and designed the packets so others could make them etc., etc. When I showed him the magazine with one of my projects and also my picture and name on the mast head page he said to me “Well – La-De Da!” (He likes to use that phrase to tease me when I talk about or do something ‘big city’) At one time early on he asked me why someone came to me with a question about something or other and my quick answer to him was ‘because I am good and I know what I am talking about.’

“Well, la-de-da Miss ‘I’m better than everyone else’, he teased. and I realized that I perhaps came off as being pretty arrogant. This was, by the way, when I was just pulling my business out of the basement and sales were dismal and my designing had come to pretty much a standstill due to some personal circumstances in my life. I was still in the magazine, but that was just about it. The wholesale sales were largely due to patterns that were several years old and only came trickling in. Perhaps I was feeling guilty about letting my business digress to such a state and that I was overcompensating for my own guilt. My answer to him was probably more defensive than anything.

His teasing was good-natured and not mean spirited, but it made me realize something. If I were so ‘good’ then why was my business such a mess? Sure, I could draw and yes, I knew woodworking and scroll sawing. But if I didn’t use my abilities to the fullest, then what good were they? Talking about past achievements, and resting on them DID make me arrogant. It was a real wake-up call for me to get my butt in gear and do something or things would not improve. Actions DO speak louder than words after all.

This was at a point in my life where my entire life was changing. I was coming out of one of the most difficult times I have lived through and I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had two choices: to abandon the business and do something else or to fight for it to the bitter end. You all know what I chose.

Since that day, I have rededicated myself to make my business the best it can be. I try my best to do that with honesty and integrity and a genuine concern for others. I have also focused on teaching others and helping them through their own tough times, as my partner has done with me. I want to reciprocate the support and help that others have given to me.

Little by little over the past two years I see the tables turning. It is a slow process and I am patient. I know there is no such thing as overnight success. I have watched my partner go from not knowing what a scroll saw is to making some incredible designs and learning every single aspect of the business. I truly attribute much of my success to his dedication and support. On the days I want to quit, he tells me to keep fighting. On the days I am discouraged, he points out the positive things that we have accomplished. He did this just the other day when I was upset about how things were going with the magazine. While we were talking about it (and I was rather sulky) he pointed to my screen on my computer where I had received a couple of emails just that day from people who I had helped in one way or another. “That”, he said “is what you should focus on” as he pointed to the emails. And I know he is right.

TS is correct in his comments. And all I can say in regard to my own self-confidence is that “I am working on it.” Little by little, with each successful design, article or letter from my customers I am beginning to see that I do have a place in this business. I like the feeling that I have something valuable to bring to the table. It has nothing to do with money either. There are no words I can use to describe how I feel when I help someone meet their own potential. It is the same feeling we get from supporting each other here. And it is one of the main reasons we all keep coming back. We are all teachers helping each other reach their potential.

What a nice place to be. :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

7 comments so far

View BilltheDiver's profile


253 posts in 2852 days

#1 posted 01-05-2011 04:41 PM

Sheila, you are a great designer and an accomplished woodworker. Your are an eloquent writer with an excellent ability to communicate through the written word. You are a very honest and open person with an obvious desire to help others to improve their own abilities. None of us are perfect, and we all have our shortcomings. To me you have every reason to be self-confident. Self confidence comes from realizing your abilities, talents and value. Arrogance often comes from not tempering that self-confidence with the realization of our imperfections or limitations. I have not seen arrogance in anything you have put out in work, product or your blog. Keep it up! You are an inspiration to those of us who toil away at our own woodwork, but may not aspire to make a living at it.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4052 days

#2 posted 01-05-2011 05:18 PM

Thanks for that, Sheila. Your blogs are quite uplifting!


View William's profile


9949 posts in 2809 days

#3 posted 01-05-2011 05:57 PM

I haven’t ever seen you come across as arrogant. That is one of the reasons I make a point of commenting on your posts. I enjoy the back and forth exchange with a pattern designer. I’ve never cut any of your patterns, but I have great respect for what you do. You’ve seen the type things I like to build. I have talked to more than a few designers in the past, over the phone and internet, because I don’t design projects. I just build them. You designers do something that I wish I had the ability to do. (Back to what I was saying) The reason I like talking to you though is that you aren’t arrogant. Several of the designers I have talked to come across as arrogant. They treat people as if they don’t have the time to waste talking to people that don’t design projects as well. These people get on my nerves because of that is how they feel, then maybe they’re on the wrong line of work. You, on the other hand have the ability to talk to people like they are “people”. That is something that is well appreciated by someone like me, as well as other woodworkers I’m sure.
I want to give you a good example of your NON-arrogance. I know you prefer the Dewalt scrollsaw. I think you probably know that I like my “entry level” Delta SS-250. You are the only designer, or for that matter even the only serious scroller, that I have ever talked to that hasn’t told me that I need to buy this saw or that saw. It seems that you enjoy scrolling with your Dewalt and you are happy that anyone, like myself, can enjoy scrolling on whatever saw they use. Believe it or not, this little example shows a quality in you as a scroller and designer that most professional scrollers do not have.
You see, these other people I refer to have judged me by the saw I use. They never once considered that the reason I use my saw of choice is the fact that it is the best saw I can afford. Now I’m going to tell you another story about another designer. I won’t mention names because that isn’t the point of my response. I don’t want to bash someone else because I do have respect for this other designer. I respect him as a designer though, not as a person. I respect you as a person.
Before I started my current project I contact a scroller I know of who I knew had built this project himself. After quite a bit of back and forth communications, he made a few comments about the fact that he like the work I have on my blog. I thanked him for the compliment before the discussion turned to saws. He was really pushing the Dewalt and Delta Q3 on me. These are both great saws, but way out of the price range I can afford. In the end, I questioned him about what he thought of the Delta SS250, just out of curiousity. His comment? “You’ll never be happy with that saw. It’s a piece of junk saw built for beginners. You’ll never accomplish the quality of work that you do with that saw.” I never did reveal to him that everything he had complimented before was cut on that “piece of junk saw for beginner”. I figured what was the use. His arrogance wasn’t going to allow him to believe that.
I’ve gotten way off base I think. I hope I’ve made my point though. I wish to thank you, as a person. As a designer. As a fellow scroller. The fact that you’d even worry about coming off as arrogant further proves that you are not. I truly believe that your lack of arrogance is what will keep you in this business as long as you want to be in it. I liked complicated, detailed projects. I prefer to order directly from designers when possible. The designer I mentioned ealier will not be getting an order from me (the saw thing wasn’t the only offensive thing on the exchange, but that’s another story). Furthermore, he’d be better NOT communicating with customers. If he does and takes his arrogant stance with all of them, I don’t think his business will be around long.


View tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3037 days

#4 posted 01-05-2011 05:59 PM

Sheila you do good work & the thing is that confidence is born out of passion & belief in yourself & your talent while arrogance smacks of superiority & no-one likes that. You fall into the passionate category that’s why you take the trouble to write these blogs. I think that if people do not recognise or appreciate your skill/talent & treat you disrespectfully then you have to stand up & declare yourself. If they don’t like it then they are the kind of people you shouldn’t deal with, for them to promote your business/products they have to value them. If you stand up to them it’s win win first they may take notice, you win, if they don’t you walk away & find someone who does then you win again
Don’t be a doormat you’re too good at what you do

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18248 posts in 3643 days

#5 posted 01-05-2011 08:03 PM

Shelia, I rewrote that several times trying not to sound arrogant. It is difficult to do that for strangers on the www sometimes. The main difference between arrogance and competence is the ability to back up what you say and the situation and manner in which it is presented. There are a lot of factors that affect how people perceive you. I have found professional envy to be a big one! I don’t worry about those people, but I have had some attempt a little back stabbing only to discover technical abilities beyond their comprehension.

At first, it was a bit embarrassing when I met people for the first time and my reputation had proceeded me. I eventually got used to it. I very rarely tell people about me, I listen to them. I don’t need to tell them about my ability, they will recognize it if I still have it. Unfortunately, Topamax overdose has had what is beginning to look like a permanent negative impact on my professional abilities.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View BertFlores58's profile


1694 posts in 2889 days

#6 posted 01-06-2011 01:27 AM

A very nice topics that were mentioned.. self confidence, arrogance, competence …. I think it is beter to apply what I learned and the one I am teaching in post graduate… COMPETENCE is equal to the sum of knowledge and skill multiply with attitude… (k+s)a … This is the essence of having self-confidence…. and of course you need to seek you own level of competence. Additionally, based on this… if attitude is zero and multiplied to a very skillfull and knowledgable person then that is the end of everything resulting to nothing… this is where the arrogance come. Another character of a person is when he/she becomes stagnant on the level of confidence… An attitude of OVERCONFIDENCE comes.. This is somewhat a limitation that we have to consider to be really competent and develop self-confidence… but what we really need is SELF-ESTEEM.

My honest opinion… I have never seen anything with you Sheila a sign of any arrogance. If there are some who misunderstood you… it is always PRIDE. If you insist and prove something in anyway… that will supress those people who has no belief. This happen always in the first time of a design stage. Most of us rely always on the proven facts but not trying the new one. Your design and creativity prove that you are already someone different… go for it and try to raise your LEVEL above from where you are.

I hope I did not offend anyone on this opinion, I am just expressing this… In fact, I am really looking for woodworking competence book to know what are the parameters for every level. I can only see difficulty charts….

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2887 days

#7 posted 01-06-2011 12:59 PM

I appreciate all of your opinions very much. It is good to see such a variety of different ideas and thoughts on the same subject. Especially when we are from so many different areas and backgrounds. I realize that it is also difficult sometimes to express oneself in writing on the internet. So many times it is easy for things to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. I am happy that you all took the time to comment.

I agree that attitude towards others is a large factor in how people interpret us. I always try to treat others as I wish to be treated. That may sound simplistic, but I think it is a good policy. However, I also think there comes a time when after someone treats you with disrespect or unfairly, you need to walk away. I realize that walking away isn’t always possible, and in that case you do have to take a stand and protect your own interests. Doing so goes against my nature, as I really hate conflict, but sometimes it is unavoidable. In that case, I try to be honest and fair and not allow my anger guide my actions. (again – not always easy!) If time allows I take a step back and get busy with other things to take the direct focus off of the problem so I can look at it more objectively.

Sometimes this is viewed as being too passive, which may invite additional abuse, but it is my way of dealing with things. Just as I always remember a kindness, I also remember when someone has wronged or betrayed me. I may not act on my feelings every time, and I feel I have a lot of patience, but once the line is crossed, trust is broken and it takes a great deal to earn it back. Again this can be misinterpreted. I do however, like the policy of “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Learning from experiences and having the self-confidence to act accordingly if necessary.

Thank you for the great points you all made and sharing your thoughts. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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