The Opposite of Madeleine Albright’s Hell

 “I’ve always been mixed up about attention, enjoying its warmth but not its scrutiny. I swear I’ve spent half my life hiding behind a couch and the other half wondering why no one was paying attention to me.” ­– Sarah Hepola

Right around the time my first blog on the site went live, I was reading Sarah Hepola’s new book, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. (As an aside, I highly recommend the book and I learned a lot from it – like, um, that it’s humanly possible to drink an entire bottle wine and a six-pack in one night by yourself. Am I the only one who didn’t know that? Don’t answer that.)

But it wasn’t the descriptions of how much Hepola drank or the one-night stands with guys she couldn’t remember meeting that struck me the most. Rather, it was her arresting narrative explanation of what it’s like to be terrified to let your true self out, to doubt yourself into inaction, and to wonder “why me?”

And, frankly, when I started getting notifications that people were sharing my blog post, I felt like the women in the Amy Schumer I’m Sorry skit who can’t stop apologizing even when they are brought drinks they are allergic to or their legs are burning off from hot coffee.

Then something really important happened: I got support from other women. A few colleagues, founders of this site, friends on Facebook. Not hundreds, just a handful – but enough. Because then? The fear, the doubt, the questions were gone.

This scenario is exactly what Madeleine Albright was hoping for when she cautioned us that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

(Anther aside: we’re talking about real help here. It’s easier to talk about supporting other women than it is to actually do it. Which is one reason I love this blogging site – actual women posting, reading, sharing.)

So, meaningful support helps. But – unfortunately for me – external reassurance isn’t enough. It also takes practice. Which means when it feels awful, hard, scary, impossible – you have to do it anyway, because otherwise you’ll never get better at speaking up in that meeting, writing a blog, expressing your opinion at the dinner table for Pete’s sake. (Which is, basically, why I am writing this post even though I’m also trying to convince myself to go curl up on the couch.)

Because it’s also like Mindy Kaling said: “…confidence is like respect; you have to earn it.” And while positive feedback can help and, I would agree, getting encouragement (especially from other women) is critical, ultimately it’s up to you to do the work and earn your confidence.

So this post is partly to say thanks to the women who verbally and actively supported me and partly to encourage myself to keep going. Importantly, it’s also to encourage all of you to keep going.

We can do this, ladies. Work hard on your own confidence and authority, and give other women a shoutout when they put themselves out there.

(And please, proceed nicely.)

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Stephanie (Harig) Prause

Stephanie Prause is a corporate communications, sustainability communications and investor relations professional, juggling a career she thrives in with being a mom and wife. She is also passionate about staying active (as in, she’ll lose her mind otherwise). Other interests include sampling craft beers, cooking from scratch and reading voraciously (at least for about 20 minutes before she passes out mid-sentence).

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I truly believe that confidence is a muscle. You have to keep flexing it to build it. Keep going, Stephanie. (And I may have “accidentially” drank a bottle of wine and a 6-pack at one point. (Put-in-Bay is a marathon, not a sprint)!!

  • So glad you chose not to curl up on the couch-which would have been easier, but not nearly as satisfying, right? Excellent post. Appreciate your having the courage and confidence to put yourself out there…

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