One Saturday afternoon not long ago, Kate Karpilow, a friend and colleague from Berkeley, California, was visiting relatives in San Diego and stopped by my house to say hello. I had not seen Kate in many, many months even though I am on a number of boards with her. As we sat in my living room chatting about her work and this book, Kate stopped me in the middle of a sentence and said, "Marjorie, you've changed. Not that you were such a wimp before, but I've noticed as we were talking that you seem much stronger, more certain, so assured about yourself. What's going on?"
With no time for reflection, I found myself saying: "Really? I hadn't noticed any change, but now that I think about it I have never felt better about myself, more powerful or more in control of what happens to me. Writing this book has literally (forgive the pun) changed my life."
Kate and I then went on to talk about other things. After my friend left, I began to think about my comment that writing The Confident Woman had changed my life. For the first time I began to appreciate how true that statement was. (Isn't it interesting how personal truths have a way of popping out of your mouth when you least expect them.)
Then I began to reflect on why writing this book had been such a life-changing experience. I thought about the hundreds of hours I had spent scouring research papers and books looking for new materials on the issue of confidence. I recalled how people had told me to stop wasting my time doing all of this research. They kept saying, "Write a KISS book ("Keep It Simple Stupid"). People don't care about research. Give them sound bites like they get on radio and TV. Just tell women what to do in the simplest possible terms. And for God's sake, don't use footnotes!"
Well, to begin with, the "write and run" approach is not my way of doing things. I want to respect readers by giving them the full benefit of whatever research information and current thinking is available. I didn't want to "dumb down" The Confident Woman. In fact, my hope was that through reading this book readers might develop some of the attitudes and actions that would help them to put an end to the sound-bite life.
Before I engaged in my research, I pretty much knew about the whats and hows of confidence, but I had never quite put together the whys. In other words, I had never solved the mystery of why, and in spite of changed laws, new options and unparalleled opportunities, women, including myself, continued to act in non-confident, self-sacrificing, self-neglecting ways. As I sifted through all of the research materials, I began to unravel the puzzle. I saw how and why the pattern of historical and current cultural messages has taken such a toll on women's minds.
That was just the beginning. Not only did I learn about the research on optimal health, I began to practice its tenets. I saw how taking good care of yourself is one of the least selfish things a woman can do. I found compelling evidence that having a strong, defined "self" is not narcissistic, but key to making a difference in other people's lives. I carefully examined the research on negative thinking including that which leads to guilt, worry, and self-criticism. I learned how easy it is to gain control over one's negative thoughts and about the power of focusing one's actions on the positive. What a relief it is to feel that you can handle life's negative challenges. How reassuring it is to know that accepting less than the positive and less than quality does no one any good.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of writing The Confident Woman was how I found particular books and research pieces. I believe something that writer Phil Cousineau calls "synchronicity" was at work. Following the thoughts of Carl Jung, Cousineau says that synchronicity is "a meaningful coincidence...." As an example, he says that every once in a while "the 'Library Angel,' brings us "the right book at the right time and the muse is invoked...as if on wings from heaven, the right words...appear and change our lives."
That's exactly what happened to me: the gift of Cousineau's Soul Moments was one of the first examples of my "Library Angel" at work. Other examples included, a friend calling to tell me out of the blue about research on what motivates people to do (and not do) what they want, a major issue in confidence. In response to an Internet request for information on optimal health, a professor from Harvard led me to a series of works that became critical for the book. After giving a talk in Seattle and deciding on a whim to spend the day on Whidbey Island, I stopped at a delightful little bookstore where I stumbled upon a book on quality environments. It, too, became an important part. And the examples go on and on. The right quote, the right person, the right concept seemed to drop into my hands just exactly when I needed one.
I don't know how you heard about The Confident Woman, or how the book happened to come into your hands. At the very least, I hope that you find the ideas and thoughts interesting and useful. But my real hope is that there is a bit of "synchronicity" in your finding this book, that your "Library Angel" has provided you with The Confident Woman, the right book at the right time to make a real difference in your life.
Who This Book Is For
If you are a woman who feels utterly lacking in confidence, this is a book for you.
On the other hand, if you are a woman who has a fair amount of confidence, but could use a little more, this, also, is a book for you, too.
Even if you are raging with confidence and can't imagine needing any more, I think you will find some of the insights, information and suggestions useful to pass along to girls and women who may not have as much confidence as you have. This is a book for you, too.
Finally, this is also a book for men. After all, there are few men who don't work, live with and/or love some women--mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, perhaps even colleagues. Over the years I have found that men who are fathers of daughters are particularly interested in knowing how to raise them to be strong and confident.
As I looked at the research and interviewed women, what I came to understand was this:
In our culture, women learn to:
love, nurture, take care of, clean for, shop for, cook for, pick up after, organize for, plan for, transport, tutor, type for, call, write, arrange for, buy presents for, make appointments for, do errands for, complete projects, follow up on, help, attend with, sort, budget and balance, pay, gather, deposit, water, wash and dry, put away, edit or write for, check on, straighten for, change for, test, go through for, move, remove, weed, spray, and fertilize for...
boyfriends, spouses, significant others, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, other relatives and distant cousins, in-laws, friends, neighbors, bosses, co-workers, people we run into on subways, trains, buses or airplanes...and anyone else we happen to meet along the way.
what women don't learn how to do is love, nurture, and take care of themselves.