Where’s My Confidence?

I had dinner earlier this week with two of my good friends. Both were full-time moms whose last child had just left for college. Their families were feeling the pinch of the economy and they were lamenting the fact that they had very few options for re-employment. ‘I’m so old.’ ‘I’ve been out of the workforce so long.‘  ‘I don’t even know where to start.’ One was applying for a job making one-tenth of what she had made twenty years ago.

One of these women was a CPA when she left the working world to raise her children. The other, an attorney. Both extremely smart.

Why do we women lose so much self-confidence when we leave the office for a few years? We may step out of a courtroom but we go on to lead PTAs and start foundations. We organize troops to pass laws, we change the face of education. We make city-wide connections that render us much more powerful and well-connected than before. These are resumes a 2os-something would covet.

As a graphic designer, I’ve had the opportunity to work out of my home while raising my three children. But even so, I’ve been out of the business mainstream. I must admit, I also feel grossly insecure about my worth. Yes, I’ve maintained a nice list of clients, done some award-winning work, and made a damn good living. Just last week, I went from a very successful meeting with our mayor to a meeting with my 25-year-old client. When she answered my question with, ‘Yes, ma’am’ I went straight to a fetal position.

As one who thrives on learning, I’ve stayed up-to-date with the new direction of my business, advertising — I twitter, I design websites, have almost as many Facebook friends as my children. But get me around a bunch of young professionals and I question the clothes I wear, the language I use, even the work I produce.

So why the insecurity? Is there prejudice in the workforce? Is the problem within us? Are we no longer brave enough to take chances?

Probably all of the above. In the meantime, it’s a painful place to be. I’m sure hoping my trip back to school — and my 30 nights of quiet time, alone in my apartment — will bolster me to a place where I can hold my professional head high again and give me the confidence to follow my passion.

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