June 3rd 2022 will live on in my mind as the day I was rescued from my chaotic and overly critical thought patterns regarding my performance as a professional in architecture and comforted with the warm feeling of being understood and accepted.
The event was held at the San Jose Women’s Club, a California Revival Style-building on the National Register of Historic Places, which is so beautiful it took my breath away. I could hardly take my eyes off its striking tiled features. Acknowledging friends and colleagues while enjoying the beautiful banquet as the evening began set the mood for the exciting experience to follow, yet I never expected the influence the speeches would have on me!
The opening speaker, Kim Walesh, did a great job of introducing us to the key elements of “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Then Kate Purmal, the author of “Composure: The Art of Executive Presence”, talked about the research that led her to write the book. These speakers played a pivotal role in opening my eyes to the possibilities a changed outlook would bring to my life. These two ladies took our hands as caring mentors, shared their wealth of knowledge, and demonstrated the sharing, vision, and conduct that leads to self-assurance.
As if getting a shot of their immense optimism, the session encouraged me to remain composed, to respect my achievements thus far, to set goals for myself, and to focus on what’s needed to attain those goals. I came away inspired to believe that, as difficult as the path might be, I’m enough for the journey, to accept myself as I am, and to develop a higher opinion of Shadi. It encouraged me to plant my feet solidly on the ground instead of jumping around like crazy from task to task in a frenzy to make up for never feeling good enough. I came out of the meeting shaken but also revived; I’m ready to do the work needed to know myself better, to become active with eagerness instead of wallowing in the quicksand of hopelessness and self-doubt, and to proceed with a concrete understanding of how to survive in the fast-paced environment of today’s success-driven rat race. I realized happiness is a choice to be made intentionally and purposefully and that making this choice would help me move from thinking to acting and achieving. I deduced that optimism feeds confidence, and confidence, in turn, is the fuel that runs the accomplishment machine!
The highlight of the event for me was learning about The Imposter Syndrome that plagues so many women professionals. If these highly educated professional American ladies were familiar with the pains of The Imposter Syndrome, why should I expect to be immune to it? Naming it, and realizing I’m not alone in experiencing it, helped me to jettison the embarrassing feeling of inadequacy and lift the painful weight of shame that I had been dragging behind me. I recognized The Imposter Syndrome as my personal lifelong enemy, one that had been poisoning my soul for so long and fooling me into the belief that if I just operated quietly and stayed under the radar, no one would notice my incompetent existence! Understanding and accepting that there are indeed environmental factors contributing to my lack of confidence—such as social expectations, peer pressure, and my specific life experiences as an immigrant—has helped me see how my self-confidence has failed to flourish and what I need to do help it grow.
I learned to forgive my shortcomings, to climb down off the hamster wheel, to calm myself, and to understand that I might need a break at times, and that’s okay too. It doesn’t have to be the end of my story! The next step in my journey should involve working toward being consistent more than speedy and creating the story of my life the same way I tend to my flower garden, with patience and love. Rather than flagellate myself at the end of each day with anxious thoughts of “Did I do enough?” and “Did I cover all the bases?”, I should do as much as I am able, participate actively in it all, and be happy with the journey instead of succumbing to the competitive rivalry game rules that so many of us feel obliged to follow.
The “Closing the Confidence Gap” event made me feel included, showed me that I’m not alone, and gave me a sense of camaraderie, healing me as I parted a different person: a hopeful and energized doer and believer! The session helped me find myself and make peace with the poor stranded soul in me, allowing calmness and analysis to propel me back to my senses. I benefited tremendously from the efforts and care of the WIA, its mentors, and its support group, and I am profoundly grateful. I found their directions an antidote to the frustration and exhaustion that I’ve experienced on the way toward my professional goals as an architect.