My UPFRONT Experience
Six weeks ago I embarked on Lauren Currie’s UPFRONT online course. I joined for a few reasons: I wanted a boost of energy and inspiration in this most gruelling of years; I’d seen Lauren’s content online and I wanted to learn more; and I recognised that my lack of confidence in professional settings was holding me back.
It became evident very quickly that this was going to be more than a list of tips to project confidence outwardly. This was an opportunity to reflect deeply on the experiences that shape our confidence, to make long term commitments to ourselves, and connect with a community of like-minded women.
Here are a some of the things I learned:
No woman is an island
Is it just me.. who finds writing online scary? Who feels embarrassed when they cry in the workplace? Who holds onto unkind comments for years and replays them over and over again? No.
Every confidence struggle I have shared with the UPFRONT bond (the collective noun for a group of women) has been met with kindness and solidarity, and throughout the modules and conversations I’ve been able to dig into the source of my anxieties and self-blame.
It has been immensely reassuring to know I am not alone, and that many of the under-confident behaviours I now recognise in myself (e.g. working long hours endeavouring to ‘prove myself’, apologising for making entirely reasonable requests, crossing my legs to make myself physically smaller) are part of a system of social conditioning which we are all affected by.
Confidence takes practice
I am a musician, a crafter and a dancer. I know how to build a new skill through regular, intentional practice. I’ve quipped in the past that it takes me three years to learn a new creative skill, and if I can persist through being rubbish and screwing up repeatedly for those three years I will become proficient.
Despite knowing this I don’t always allow myself the same patience with my professional skills. This course has shown me that I can conduct small experiments to test new skills, for example tweeting every day for 25 days to make publishing original content less intimidating. (Surprise surprise, it works! It’s emboldened me to write this entire post, my first long form writing on the internet since *checks notes* October 2019).
A healthy dose of perspective
Each Monday Lauren hosts a live call with the bond to discuss our questions and challenges. Some of the stories that have been shared in that circle have brought me to tears. Some because they are close to my own experience, but many because they speak to an entirely different perspective. These women have flawed me time and time again with their honesty and vulnerability.
Hearing their stories has been a prompt for me to reflect on all the advantages I have, and how I can use my power and my voice to elevate those who don’t share those advantages. How I can work towards dismantling sexism, racism and other forms of prejudice where I contribute to them and when I see them.
Lauren speaks often about building ladders and lifting others up by sharing what we’ve learned. This blog post is my first ladder.
Start small, start now
I’m currently riding the adrenaline high of finishing the course, but that veneer of invincibility will fade and I will come across new things that scare me. These things will not cease to become scary with time, so my only choice is to start somewhere. Small steps towards those bigger, more audacious goals.
I’ll close with these words from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They featured in the final module of the course and resonated strongly with me:
I am experienced enough to do this.
I am knowledgeable enough to do this.
I am prepared enough to do this.
I am mature enough to do this.
I am brave enough to do this.
Enrollment for the next bond opens in January 2021. I would highly recommend signing up if you are able. The course is free for women who are on maternity leave or have no income.