Can an hour change your life?

Last January I gave a series of Confidence for Women presentations. I believe in this information, and want to spread the word to as many women as I can. My talk explained what Confidence really is, and how to get it.

Before my presentation started, a woman named Tanya slipped into the back row and tried to disappear into the wallpaper. Intrigued, I kept an eye on her, and I’m glad I did. At one point during the presentation, she teared up and looked away, hoping no one would notice her emotion.

After the presentation, Tanya ran off to collect her children, but we kept in touch. Turns out, Tanya had a goal. She never learned how to drive, despite having her learner’s license for about twenty years. Others things took priority, like getting married and having four kids, but there was also a lot of fear and a lack of confidence.

Living in a small town it’s quite easy to get around without a car, especially when Tanya’s husband has a flexible career and her parents live nearby. Driving is more than transportation though. It’s a mark of freedom and confidence. If Tanya could drive, then she could prove something to herself.

Shortly after the presentation, Tanya texted me with some exciting news. During a family vacation, Tanya drove on a quiet secondary highway. She was scared, but also thrilled. This might look like a small step, but it was massive, because it was the first step that lead to Tanya’s goal.

For those of us who have driven for years, it’s hard to remember those first heady days of driving. The fear of doing it wrong, trying to keep a constant speed, being self-conscious, and remembering all the rules of the road. Now imagine learning all that in your thirties!

After a few more highway drives, Tanya graduated to driving in town. She started by looping her residential streets over and over, usually when the roads were deserted.

Each time Tanya drove, her fear decreased a bit, and her confidence grew. A friend offered to teach Tanya how to drive, and soon she had weekly sessions that took her into traffic, and taught her how to park her minivan.

I would get random updates from Tanya, usually telling me how she had scared the living daylights out of herself while driving. One time, she had driven home from a family gathering in Saskatchewan, and unfortunately hit the afternoon rush hour traffic in Calgary. As there was no place to pull over and switch drivers, Tanya had to do it.

I told Tanya this was a good thing, because now driving through her small town would be so easy in comparison. Anything she thought was scary in town would pale in comparison to driving through rush hour traffic in a big city. After thinking about that for a moment, Tanya agreed. It was a while since I heard from her again. She was confident.

Six short months since attending my presentation, Tanya was ready. She booked her drivers exam for September 30th, and was in desperate need of help to control her fear. Like most small towns nothing is a secret, and it’s well known that the driving examiner fails everyone. I think Tanya was more scared of facing him than taking the test.

I gave Tanya breathing exercises, helped her visualize being calm during the test, and to practice her driving while pretending her friend was the examiner.

Tanya failed. It was heartbreaking, but it didn’t break her. She had made some mistakes during the test that could easily be put down to nerves. Worried, I told her not to let it get her down. She surprised me by proudly announcing she’d already rebooked her test for two weeks later.

She was scared, but thrilled. This was step was massive, because it was the first step towards her goal.This time Tanya passed, but not until she had it out with the examiner. He was excessively critical, and said she wasn’t doing certain tasks when Tanya felt she  was. Tanya found her backbone, stood up for herself, and challenged him on his criticism. He backed down, acknowledged she was right, and was quite pleasant for the rest of the ride.

I don’t think anyone was more surprised than Tanya’s husband who had no idea she’d been taking her driving exam. This shows what Tanya is made of, and how much her confidence had increased. She made this goal, and then made it happen herself.

Here’s the thing about confidence – it doesn’t stay contained. As Tanya grew more confident in her driving abilities, she also grew more confident in herself. She knew she was a good driver, and so could stand up for herself. I’m not sure the woman who slunk into that presentation six months ago would have done that.

After Tanya got her driver’s license, I asked her what inspired her after all these years. She said it was a story I shared during the presentation about my own confidence journey. You see, I used to be so terrified of public speaking that I couldn’t even talk during a work meeting. It took me twenty years (!!!) of hard work, constantly pushing myself to find new ways to practice speaking in public, taking courses, and trying again.

Seeing me give a public speech and knowing that I was a presenter at various functions and seminars, Tanya realized that I wasn’t born confident, I had to work at it. This gave her hope, because if I could do it, so could she. And she did!

Can an hour change your life? It changed Tanya’s.

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What was your first small step that lead to something wonderful? I’d love to hear your stories so please share in the comments below.

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Posted in Case study, Confidence

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