Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Edges of Confidence

by Miki Kashtan

In my last post I alluded to having discomfort when asked by a group of people on a conference call to share my own vision. I said I was planning to write a post about the incongruity of that discomfort. Now, sitting down to write about it, I am feeling it.

I chose to write about this for a variety of reasons. Primary among them is the desire to make my humanity, fallibility, and limitations known to you who read this blog, so as to increase the possibility that you would trust yourself to take on more visibility. Another is to create companionship for me and for those of you who identify. Another is to continue and deepen the practice of exposing and undefending my own vulnerability for my own growth and inner freedom. Lastly, related to the previous one, choosing to be on the forefront of the epochal movement towards a different kind of leadership that’s more transparent and less idolized.

I am connected to all of these reasons. And I am nonetheless struggling with why I might want to write and then post something so personal that may, after all, interest only a handful of people.

This is where I stopped a few days ago. Now coming back I see even more clearly where and why the challenge arises. I lose my sense of something being of value to others when it’s about me, or when it’s very radical in terms of vision. The intensity of it is so high that often enough I literally can’t tell whether or not I like what I wrote until someone else reads it. The experience of having a blog and posting things without running them by someone else first has been stretching me considerably in this area. So far I have overall gotten enough positive feedback that I keep finding the inner resources to continue. And still the discomfort persists.

Why is this discomfort incongruous? Because it shows up when I want to share what is most precious to me, my biggest visions for the world, my hope and faith in the actual practicality of creating systems based on caring for needs, it feels absolutely tragic to me. I so much want people to know about it, I so much want companionship in holding a sense of possibility, I so much want movement in that direction – and still I lose my confidence when asked to talk about it. That’s the incongruity for me.

This speaks to me of the depth of the needs for belonging and acceptance, both in me and in others, and of the anguish in moments when they seem to be in conflict with authenticity. I know many people who choose to let go of authenticity in order to gain acceptance and belonging, and who nonetheless suffer because they ultimately don’t trust the acceptance. For as long as acceptance depends on hiding the truth about who we are it remains suspect, temporary, elusive. What if people found out the hidden truth? I also know the experience of losing belonging and acceptance because of choosing to be authentic in ways that can be challenging for others. This is still work in progress to me. I have the contours of a path, without full clarity on where it leads. I know I want to grow in my flexibility about what feels authentic to me. I also at the same time want to grow in my willingness to risk losing everything for truth. I know how to grit my teeth and express truth anyway. What I want to learn more and more is how to remain relaxed and soft in my expression when I am stretching my limits.

I see now that I am re-discovering an insight I had a few months ago that I wrote about (Making Room for Being Different). For a moment I felt a wave of embarrassment and an instant urge to delete all I have written above. Then I realized that this is just how life happens. We cycle and circle and loop and spiral, learning things again and again, falling and getting up, and eventually something gets fully integrated and becomes a seamless part of who we are.

Most of the time I both appear and feel relaxed and confident about what I have to offer. I can do public speaking often without even preparing much. I can work with individuals and groups and facilitate intense conflicts. I can easily share ideas, insights, and visions. Still, the discomfort in writing or speaking about me and my visions can get paralyzing at times. Even in the course of writing this piece, and surely as I get closer to the actual posting of it, I have experienced waves of profound uncertainty about the value of sharing all this. I am happy to see that I am willing to take the risk without contracting inside. I’d like to believe that in addition to my own strengthening, exposing my discomfort and trying to make sense of it may support you who are reading this in gaining more courage to move closer to the edges of your confidence, so that more and more of us choose to bring forth our gifts and vulnerabilities. I have no doubt they are all needed for the immense task of making the world work for all of us.


  1. Miki - thanks so much for sharing your vulnerabilities. When I doubt my own authenticity - and whether it would be accepted in the world - I know I tend to compare myself to all those 'sorted' leaders out there and then imagine I need to wait until I am 'like them' (ie 'sorted' before I can lead the changes I want to see in this world). It is people like you that give me heart and trust to go forth without being 'sorted' (whatever the hell that means!!). PLEASE carry on sharing your vulnerabilities with us so that you role model being human and not being a 'guru'. That gives me and no doubt others too, the confidence to go forth with our own gifts without waiting for that elusive state of perfection. I can then have the courage to role model leadership with my vulnerabilities transparent too. I love Joanna Macy when she talks about moving towards wholeness (width) as opposed to evolving towards 'truth' or 'light' or 'perfection' (height). Thank you for sharing a bit more of you. Penny

  2. Dear Miki,

    I have given up authenticity many times to meet needs for safety and acceptance. The cost, as you point out, is that if acceptance comes from others having a narrow, skewed, incomplete picture of who I am the acceptance I feel is based on shaky ground; and I still can't embrace it or this illusive safety I yearn for.

    Because of this lifelong struggle I've often venerated leaders like yourself who speak out for me. The vulnerability and transparency you express in your blog, the tenderness of your inner struggles, help me see, and feel, our sameness, our connection. As Penny said, "I can then have the courage to role model leadership with my vulnerabilities transparent too."

    Actually, in my case, I've avoided leadership whenever possible. Your blog is giving me the hope and strength I, too, can gain more visibility and take on more responsibility in 'the world'. Writing this response is a step in this direction. Posting feels like balancing with one foot on the edge of a deep precipice. Is comforting being reminded this is simply a human feeling that often accompanies being seen...that even the boldest of leaders share it.
    Thank you,

    Margery Prickett