The Confidence Tug of War

I’ll never forget sitting in West Virginia, alone in my apartment, staring at myself in the mirror. I had just gotten off the phone with my agent. 20 tapes returned 20 no’s to move to the next big gig.

I asked my agent, “Well, why did ‘so and so’ say no?” She said, “Shelly, they don’t like your eyebrows.”

So there I stood. Staring at the eyebrows I had never taken note of before, now wondering, were they too arched? Too curved? Too thick? Too thin? Surely, if my eyebrows were right, I would progress in my career.

That was the first of many confidence hits I would take in just one month’s time at 23 years old.

But it’s interesting. Being beat up actually built me up… over time.

I remember being pregnant and getting the daily feedback. One tweet would come in at 5:01 saying, “Shelly, you’re the cutest pregger ever!” Then at 5:02 (and this is word for word), “You are borderline disgusting. Go have that baby.”

Or this one. “That shirt has to go. You’re so much more professional than that.” Only to get literally one minute later, “I love your top. It looks great on you.”


This tug of war on a day in and day out basis gave me the greatest gift of my life. Clarity.

I’m me. Forget all the nonsense. The moment I really owned that – the rest got easier.

I went from worrying about viewer emails to laughing and sharing them aloud on air.

Owning my flaws gave me confidence. But for each of us, the root of confidence is different.

I recently interviewed Admiral McRaven, a decorated Navy Seal, the man behind the capture of Osama Bin Laden. I asked him, “What is the one thing that built such unwavering confidence in yourself?” He said, “I don’t give myself the option to give up. Don’t quit.”

So I pushed back. “That’s it. Just don’t quit? ”

The Admiral responded sharply and fast. “Yes. Don’t quit,” as if he was saying, “Yes, the sky is blue.”

To him, it was a fact. No quitting. That’s what builds a leader. Just knowing he would finish the task gave him confidence. But it took jumping out of airplanes, army crawling in mud up to his mouth, and holding his breath underwater with weights on his legs to find that ‘it.’

You see, it’s not an aha moment. Confidence is layered in small moments overtime. We just have to put ourselves out there enough to find it.

Hone it,