True story: I had a sore throat for two, full calendar years.
I had just left my home in the South for the first time. I stepped off the plane, moved into the big city of Los Angeles, and decided it was time to get real about my life: what I wanted, who I wanted to be, what my calling was, and how I wanted to make an impact on the world. And it seemed like every person I encountered was on a similar journey! Pretty much everyone had a money gig, a side hustle, and a passion project, and they were interested in answering the big questions, like me! I was home.
The came the sore throat. “Smog?” I thought. “Acid reflux? Thyroid problems? Allergies? Dry desert air?”
I went to doctor after doctor, and they were all stumped. They could see the physical evidence that my throat was red and swollen, but no one could come up with a reason why. Test after test came back negative, and I resigned myself to a life of sore-throatedness.
All the while, I was exploring my career options and drowning in self doubt. I wanted to start a blog, found a nonprofit, become a coach! And every time I tried to speak what I wanted, my damn sore throat felt like it was closing up.
We’ve all heard that you should dress for the job you want, but the truth goes deeper than that. You have to act like the job you want, believe that you’re good enough for it, and even talk to people about it, like potential employers or clients.
And I was incredibly awkward talking about it. I was downright embarrassed to share my passions and ambitions. I was afraid I’d be judged or found out as an imposter—a failure when it eventually turned out that I couldn’t do it after all. I desperately wanted to feel confident talking about my newfound creative hustle, but the confidence just wasn’t there.
So instead of trusting the truth that I was meant for meaningful work, I shut down and I shut up, and my throat paid the price.
In the same month that I enrolled in a coach training program and started telling other human beings about my calling, my chronic sore throat disappeared. I know that doesn’t make logical sense; I’m just telling the story as I lived it.
For so many of us, telling the story is the struggle. It isn’t so much your ability to find your calling that matters—it’s your ability to share it that determines whether you’ll “make it” or not.
So naturally, when I work with clients, I can spot this confidence block a mile away. My clients are passionate creators who have a deep longing to make the world a better place. They are mostly freelancers, nonprofit professionals, bloggers, coaches, entrepreneurs, and side hustlers. They are soulful and committed and strong…and sometimes, they are terrified to talk about their burgeoning passion projects with other humans.
Unfortunately, the talking piece is necessary. Fortunately, it’s actually easier than you might think.
Today, I’m sharing the 3 keys that helped me feel more confident when talking about my hustle (which eventually got me the jobs and clients I wanted!).
Confidence Key #1: Understand What You Do and Why You Do It
Have you ever heard the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” This is a Southernism to explain that Mama is the heart of the family. Mama is the glue and the creator, and she makes everything go, so if something is off with Mama, it’s off for everyone. When it comes to your hustle, you’re the Mama. You’re the creator of your work, and if you don’t understand what your creative hustle is all about, no one else will either. If something about your work feels off to you, of course you won’t feel comfortable sharing it!
The two most important pieces here are clarity and alignment. If you struggle with communicating your creative value, it’s time to get exceptionally clear on exactly what you want to do and why. It’s always easier to talk about what’s true for you on a very deep level, so it has to feel aligned and contain a sense of “rightness” in order to inspire that self-assured swagger, or at least keep you from clamming up altogether.
For example, before you share your passion for improving nonprofit culture, be sure you understand why it matters and how you want to do it. Before you approach prospective blogs with a guest pitch, make sure you understand exactly what you’re writing and how it fits into the larger picture of your calling. Before you can feel confident sharing your work with the world, you’ll need to really, truly understand what your work is and how you want it to work with the rest of your life. (Spoiler Alert: I can help you with this)
Confidence Key #2: Get the Right Mindset About Expertise
When I worked as a recruiter, I noticed a huge difference in the way men and women read job descriptions. Men tended to look at a job post and think, “Hmm…I have 2 years of experience, and they are asking for 5, but you know what? I’m pretty good at my job, and I’m pretty good at learning new things. Let’s give it a try.” Women in the same situation tended to skip past the jobs they didn’t qualify for exactly and look for a box they did fit into.
Most of the time in a creative hustle, there's no one telling you whether you're doing it right, so it's natural for self doubt and fear to pop up. If you already feel shaky in your skills and expertise, of course you’re going to pass up opportunities that stretch your confidence even further, like talking about your work. If you struggle to feel like a qualified expert in your arena, it’s time to redefine what expert means.
Age, education, and experience can certainly help you create expertise in your work, but simply being older and having years of experience and tons of letters behind your name doesn’t necessarily make you good at something. Expertise is simply caring about something deeply and being committed to practicing it and learning it. Don’t wait until you’ve been practicing your craft for a decade before sharing it!
Confidence Key #3: Compile An Arsenal of Awesomeness
An Arsenal of Awesomeness is simply social proof that helps other people more easily see how great you are. We already know you're amazing and you belong here, but having something to point to that backs up your awesomeness is critical to building the confidence you need in order to put yourself out there.
Your Arsenal of Awesomeness is made up of two main things: stories and evidence. When it comes to evidence, you probably have most of this already, even if some of it needs a facelift. The evidence piece of your Arsenal should contain some combination of the following: a kickass cover letter template, a resume you’re proud of, social profiles that accurately convey your personal brand, an elevator pitch, and a website or portfolio that displays some of your best work. Most importantly, it should make you feel shiny, empowered, and excited about what you do and what you have to offer.
The story part of your Arsenal is similar, but even simpler. Personally, one of the biggest fears I had about introducing myself as a coach was that people wouldn’t understand what I did, so they would ask me questions, and I’d be at a complete loss for words. I hear this with my clients in the fear that they will freeze up in a job interview or not know how to respond to a client’s questions. Feeling confident is simply feeling prepared. So, prepare yourself by having a few go-to stories that illustrate your hustle well. For example, if you are seeking to move into the nonprofit sector to transform the way food policy works, think about your own experiences with food. What stands out? How have the current food policies helped or harmed you, and what do you intend to do about that? Or maybe you're seeking advertisers for your blog encouraging young girls to be their authentic selves? What were your girlhood experiences with authenticity? How does that shape and inform what you do?
The point here isn’t to be fake or give an overly shiny picture of who you are—it’s to represent yourself in the best possible way so you can best connect with the people you want to help or partner with.
Pull It All Together: Practice
I wish there were a way to shortcut the “doing hard things” step, but alas, at some point, you’re going to have to get out there and do it. Say it. Share it. The ironic thing is that it’s the doing—not the planning—that gives you true confidence when sharing your work.
Confidence seems like this amorphous, intangible thing, but it’s not.
Confidence in your creative hustle can actually be measured in two ways:
1. Action- Are you taking action? Confident people take purposeful action toward what they want to achieve, feel, and contribute.
2. Interaction- Are you okay with sharing your work with others? Confident people share their impact with the world and remain comfortable with the knowledge that it won’t be for everyone.
Bottom line: to get really confident talking about your work, you have to do so much that it no longer feels scary and tongue-tying. Out yourself in small ways at first. Tell the grocery clerk you’re a writer. Whisper your innovating ideas to your dog. Write your business idea down on a piece of paper and then burn it. Tell a complete stranger on the subway about your mission. It’s okay if you’re practicing in safe ways—the important thing is that you keep practicing until it no longer feels awkward.
Ready to feel more confident sharing your brilliance with the world?
Let’s break through whatever’s holding you back.
I still have 2 spots open in my 4-month creative mentorship coaching program, and I’m all about helping world-changing women gain clarity around their impact, get out of their own way, and shine with confidence.
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