When I was in grammar school, we had to diagram sentences in English class. We were asked to identify the noun, the verb, and the various modifiers (adverbs, adjectives, etc) in each sentence. At the very least, each sentence had a noun and a verb, an action and a “doer” of the action.
As someone who loved words, I liked this exercise. I loved looking for verbs. I liked action words, and wanted to read, write and hear about characters who took action. The action was where the power was. I wanted to be active, moving, making things happen. I’ve always wanted to be the doer.
Then I hit high school, and started to doubt my actions. What if people didn’t like what I did? What if they objected? How would my action be received? When I expressed these doubts, people told me I needed more confidence. But confidence was a noun. I didn’t know where or how to get it. . No one could point me to a place to buy it or a person who would give it to me. I looked in books, courses, and majored in psychology to find this thing that was so important, especially for women. It was nowhere to be found.
Then I decided to take back my power. Rather than searching for a thing, I’d take action and do a thing. Confidence was a noun I may never find, but believing was a verb I could practice. I decided to believe.
‘Believe’ is a verb, and verbs are skills you can learn, practice and improve. I could learn, practice, and improve my ability to believe. I had some control. So I went to work. When I was in college I started getting better at believing. I’d decide what I wanted to believe and I’d practice. But I didn’t have a system for getting better at believing until I became a lawyer. In the courtroom it was my job to help juries believe what I needed them to believe. After a few years of honing that skill, I had an epiphany. If I could help a jury believe, I could use the same tools to help myself.
I came up with a simple five part system to get better at believing.
1-Ask myself what I wanted to believe.
2-Ask myself what stories I had that would help me believe that thing.
3-Ask myself what evidence (data) I had that would help me believe that thing.
4-Collect and create more stories and evidence if I need them.
5-Make the case for the thing I wanted to believe.
It worked. This process has helped me believe my way into becoming a partner at my law firm and one of the Top 50 female attorneys in Pennsylvania. It’s helped me believe my way into appearing on TV shows like The Today Show, The Dr Oz Show, The Dr Phil Show, and networks like CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. I believed my way into writing two books, one of which was an Amazon bestseller, and starting a popular podcast, The Elegant Warrior. I believed I could start a business where I help teams and individuals use the tools of a trial attorney to help their clients, customers, teams and stakeholders believe, and I did. As I got better at believing, I collected more wins.
Learning to believe was fun. Believing was a skill I could practice and ultimately master. And it wasn’t as dangerous as confidence can be.
We’re discovering that confidence is a loaded concept, especially for women. In a recent study, researchers found that 33 out of 36 senior female leaders raised confidence, or lack thereof, as something that got in the way of their success at work. The same study found that for women the focus on confidence was linked to self-criticism, self doubt, and overall poorer mental health. Researchers further concluded that the focus on confidence doesn’t always allow for humility and vulnerability, which are equally as important in some work settings.
Confidence is a thing, and not necessarily a good thing. Some may have it, some may not. But believing is something we can do to get all of the things we want and need. Believing is an action like working, running, and moving. It’s an action anyone can learn, practice and master.
‘I believe.’ That’s a sentence that gets things done.