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. :)
-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"