It was 16.30 and I had been waiting outside for more than 30 minutes.
“It feels like their time is a lot more important than mine” was what went through my head. But hey, these were the norms here: senior financial teams were way more important than guests they invited.
At last the door opened and I could come in. In front of me a long wooden boardroom with matching wooden table, heavy curtains on the windows. Fourteen serious grey-haired faces swiveled my way – and along the wall I spotted oil portraits of late CEO’s that seemingly looked down at me.
Don’t get me wrong – I was prepared. I had done my home work, had contracted well and I had a sponsor in the room. And yet, the whole setting, the atmosphere, made me feel smaller and smaller.
“So, what do you have for us?” was the opening question. No hello or welcome.
What I had for them?
I panicked. They should have something for me, something they needed help with.
I put on a brave face and made something up in the moment. It went downhill from there. Everything they had said they wanted help with, they rejected. I got more and more insecure. At some point something snapped.
I finally spoke my truth: that I had come because they had asked me to do a certain job and that now that I was here they made it totally impossible to do it. A deep uncomfortable and loooong silence fell, the legacy CEO’s at the wall seemingly frowning at me. It was an uncomfortable exit. After my adrenaline rush died down, I felt like crying.
The next day I ran into one of the people that had been in that room. I turned red faced and wanted to run away. I felt shame.
She stopped me and said: you never guess what I just did?! I just told the CEO that he does not enable me to do my job. Because I thought: if you can do it, then I can do it too.
In that moment my whole experience of the day before turned upside down. Self-confidence is a strange concept. I always thought it was a fixed thing, that you either have it or you don’t. That when you do have it, you are successful, and when you don’t you simply fail. But now I realize: it is so much more nuanced than that.
It is a beautiful multi-faceted concept worth unpacking.
Go back to the last moment you felt small. What did you tell yourself? And can you tell yourself another story?