Young, Quiet, and Confident.

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

What being the youngest one in the room did for my self confidence.

Life is good.
Being the youngest has its advantages.

Being the youngest one in the room might evoke memories of the holidays or Sunday dinners when you were banished to the tiny, fold-able kids’ table. It might bring up memories of you playing video games or reading in the corner while the “grown-ups” talked. At least, it does for me. In this installment, I am bringing you with me into the boardroom and conference halls when I was in my early twenties. Being able to listen in to the c-suite executives and corporate taste-makers was not only formative and completely changed the game for me. I was forced to develop my speaking skills, going from an uncontrollable stutter to developing a passion for public speaking. I attribute some of my early success to the interpersonal and business skills I learned during that time.

The first event that really altered the dynamic I had with classmates was

a change in environment

Separating myself from toxic and hateful people was a game changer for me. When I stepped away from my high school environment and into another one, a collegiate one, I finally had space to be myself. It was like the exhale after you have been holding your breathe. I tentatively began to participate in class and the more I did, I realize that the feedback was positive and supportive. That energy gave me the confidence to trust my instincts and stand a little more in the spotlight.

Each time I changed my natural habitat, I went through another phase of growth. Apart from getting away from my high school bullies, I also traveled all over. Each destination came with its own life lessons and the more uncomfortable I got, the more I learned about myself and others. I’ve come to realize that the more you get to know who you are, the more comfortable you are in your own skin. And that translate from a life lesson into the business world. How much more calm, dependable, and centered you are when you understand how you function the best, what your triggers are, and how to play to your own strengths.

You might see improvements in your

  1. Resilience

  2. Adaptability

  3. Emotional intelligence

  4. Empathy

  5. Reasoning skills

  6. Networking capabilities

If you look at the movers and the shakers of the world, not one of them would tell you they got where they are today by standing still and that a huge opportunity fell in their lap. They all have stories about the hustle, studying really hard, asking an uncomfortable question, or taking a leap of faith without a safety net.

I think of Florence Nightingale, who is considered the Mother of the Nursing profession. She saw a huge need for order and cleanliness in battlefield hospitals and set systems in place to improve conditions. This didn’t exist before. She simple saw the need and carved a path toward that goal.

Movements go viral when people talk, companies make it past lift off only with intentional, consistent work, and hearts change when people listen not to speak, but to hear what is being said. Sometimes you have to step away from where you’re safe into a place that feels scary and foreign for growth to happen. But be encouraged. That is when life is the richest and most fulfilling.

Maybe we aren’t talking about a movement or something paradigm shifting. Maybe it is closer to home, like making shifts at home or at work. If you’ve reached a place of comfort and safety and nothing makes you nervous or makes your heart race just a little bit with excitement, let me challenge you to step back and assess. Have you reached a plateau? Are you ready for the next big thing? Realizing you’re at this point is very exciting, because this is the moment right before launch. It’s infinite possibilities. This is a time that gets me totally geeking out.

Yes, age comes with experience and wisdom, but you need to gauge who you are taking your advice from. Here are a few questions you can use to evaluate whether or not you should be taking advice from someone:

Have they “walked the talk”. In other words have they actually taken the steps and advice they are giving you and applied it to their own life or position?

Does this person continually seek challenges and growth? Or are they fairly set-in-their ways? If you’ve found someone who is interested in discovering new ideas and encourages others around them to do the same, listen in. This person will lift you up as she climbs higher. On the other hand, if you have someone who is low-vibe, gives similar answers all the time, or ever uses a phrase similar to “that’s just the way things are,” proceed with caution. This person has gotten comfortable and doesn’t believe the world can offer anything more to his experience. This person has stagnated and if you buy into his advice, your growth potential will too.

How are their listening skills? Do they listen and respond, having genuinely heard what was said? Or are they simply biding their time until the other person stops talking to say what they want to say? Listening skills are an important trait in a mentor. Understanding is a key piece of growth.

Especially at a young age, I found it very difficult to be independent in my thinking. I am the type of person who never had to fail on her own to learn a lesson; I’d take the advice from people who had been there and avoid those mistakes before they ever became an issue. For example, I would hear don’t smoke… smoking cost me my voice. Like, yep, check, no problem. I won’t ever pick up a cigarette. Your parents tell you what’s right and wrong, your teaching tell you if your answer was correct or not, bosses tell you whether you performed well at a certain task… you get it. We are ingrained with this idea that the older figures in our lives have all the answers. And we want to avoid pain as much as possible, so we try to listen as best we can.

But there comes a point when you have to start making your own evaluations. And that, for me, was probably the most difficult line in the sand to draw… When do you get to start saying “no” and “you’re wrong” to your elders? Ugh, even saying that now as a fully grown woman makes me cringe. But you get my meaning, right? When do you not accept the “you’re too young, you don’t know yet,” thing? I think for everyone it is probably different. I should have drawn that line in the sand years before I actually did. Something interesting about getting older guys, is that you realize no one knows much more than when they were younger...Like, we all still have no idea what we are doing. No one really has anything figured out. We’re all making this up as we go along. So don't worry about being too young, or too old, or too whatever! Don't trouble yourself with being perfect. Be a perfect troubleshooter.

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