How Practicing Creative Confidence Can Help You Embrace Risk

Guest: Maria Molfino, Women's Leadership Coach

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about personal advancement. I started out by posing the question: Are you asking for permission to advance? This was followed by: Are you in a culture that values enforcement or empowerment? Then last week I wrote about why we don’t go after what we want.

The grander theme I’m exploring with all these posts is risk and our willing to embrace it.

Risk can mean a number a number of things. It could mean speaking up, or striking out on your own.

But taking a risk is hard.

What’s easier is following a known path. Creating what we’re told to create. Doing what we’re told to do.

So why not just go for the easy path?

Because it doesn’t always lead to us to feeling fulfilled in our careers and everyday lives.

What does feel fulfilling is pushing our creative limits, and that’s where risk comes in.

The reason risk is hard is because it’s surrounded by fear.

Anytime we want to take a risk by sharing ourselves or pursuing a new experience, our inner critic—that little voice inside our heads—stops us dead in our tracks. It fills us with fear: fear of criticism, rejection, and failure.

It’s hard to put the inner critic in its place because of the way we’ve been educated and conditioned: to not make mistakes.

So what does it take to get over our fears and take a risk?

Creative confidence.

Creative confidence is a mindset, a way of being, that comes from design thinking. Design thinking allows you to be experimental, make mistakes, let go of perception, embrace testing to see what happens, and be detached from outcomes.   

In this new episode of FemgineerTV, we’re going to be talking about how to manage the various fears we come across and gain creative confidence.

To help us out, I’ve invited my good friend Maria Molfino, a women’s leadership coach who helps women gain the creative confidence to lead. With a Master’s in Design from Stanford, she has worked with top managers and professionals at companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and IDEO.

Maria says, “If you care about growing and expanding, then you have to find out how to relate to your fears. If fear isn’t coming up, you’re not playing at your edge.”

As you watch the episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why the fear of failure is bigger than actually experiencing failure;
  • Why we’re sensitive to feedback and how to remove the sting of it;
  • How to deal with criticism from ourselves, bosses, peers, and loved ones;
  • Why it’s important to create space between yourself and your creative work; and
  • How to reframe self-promotion.

This is a must-watch episode if you find want to grow, but feel stuck, and especially if you are looking to help others grow!

In the episode, Maria shares her Creative Confidence Playbook to help you overcome obstacles such as perfectionism, comparison, and more. You can download her playbook here.

Maria also recently launched a podcast called Heroine where she interviews creative women leaders in art, business, design, science, and tech. Check out the podcast here.

Listen to the episode on iTunes!

You can listen to this episode of FemgineerTV on iTunes. Please take a moment to leave us a review. Your positive review will help us get featured in News & Noteworthy and bring more exposure to the work we’re doing, as well as the talented guests we feature!

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How Practicing Creative Confidence Can Help You Embrace Risk: Transcript

Poornima Vijayashanker:

Welcome to the 16th episode of Femgineer TV, brought to you by Pivotal Tracker. I’m your host, Poornima Vijayashanker, the founder of Femgineer. In this show, I host innovators in tech and together we debunk myths and misconceptions related to building products and companies. While it’s easy for us to follow a known path and create what we’re told to create, that doesn’t always translate to us feeling fulfilled in our careers and everyday lives.

What does is pushing our creative limits, but that often requires us to take a risk and that can be scary. We worry about receiving criticism, getting rejected, or just failing altogether. In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about how to manage these feelings and gain creative confidence. To help us out, I’ve invited a good friend of mine, Maria Molfino.

Maria is a women’s leadership coach and helps women gain the creative confidence they need to lead. Maria has a master’s in design from Stanford University and has worked with professionals and managers at companies like Facebook, Twitter, and IDEO. Thanks so much for joining us today, Maria.

Maria Molfino: Thanks, Poornima for having me.

Poornima Vijayashanker: You and I have been friends for a number of years, but for our audience out there, let’s start by talking about why you decided to go to Stanford and get your master’s in design and then how you decided to apply your design learning to what you’re doing today.

Maria Molfino: Sure. My whole life, I’ve been a good girl, always follow the rules and did really well in school. Part of that, in order to do that, I had to value analytical logical forms of thinking and I devalued creativity and intuition. Part of it was just with the culture and society and school systems supported. Where that led me to is jobs I really disliked, so I worked in a cubicle in Washington, D.C. doing research and felt that was really soul-sucking.

Then I was in a lab crunching data in a windowless room all because I thought I was supposed to and that’s what I should do. Then I had a series of realizations over time which led me to shift and want to focus more in creativity. That is a part of who I am. Interestingly, my father is a doctor and my mom is an artist so it was really a return to the more feminine side of things.

I went to school so I applied to Stanford because they had a really cool design program that looked at the intersection of design and learning. That would allow me to express more of my creativity and explore that part of myself that I felt like I had suppressed or done away with. I enrolled in the program. It was wonderful. It was one year. It was really intense and through that process, what I would say that program gave me more than anything is creative competence.

Poornima Vijayashanker: That’s great. What do you think they taught you there specifically?

Maria Molfino: One thing is through the design school. I learned something called design thinking, which is a way of designing anything and experience a product of service but it’s a framework, it’s a process, and one of the things about design thinking is being experimental, allowing yourself to make mistakes, allowing for many, many ideas, not being precious about your ideas. That allowed me to have more creative confidence and realize, “Wow, school in some ways kind of screwed me over, right or wrong answer.”

Then there was an unlearning that happened through design. That’s one big piece of the portion. The other is that I’ve taught stress management through a medical school and that’s where the understanding of how to manage your energy, yoga and meditation was a big part of my journey as well. After I graduated, I combined those tools. Imagine design as a tool set, yoga meditation as a tool set, and the goal or the thing I wanted to work on was women and women’s leadership specifically, so how can we leverage these tools like design thinking and creative competence as well as what we learned from yoga and meditation and really support women in rising and empowering themselves to be better leaders.

Poornima Vijayashanker: You had talked about how when you started your career prior to being at Stanford and prior to going for your degree in design, you had mentioned that you were very analytical, and so how did creativity become important to you and why do you think it’s important to everyone else out there?

Maria Molfino: I think creativity is the state of nature. If you look outside or if you look at a forest, what do you see? You see regeneration, you see creativity. You see that things are constantly being born out of nothing. Nature is an example of creativity. The realization that I had is that I’m a part of nature and when I had that realization that aligns up, I’m naturally creative. How couldn’t I be? I am nature.

That’s where the understanding of creativity came. Now, as our society, you have to understand the school system is built on the industrial revolution. What does that mean is disconnection from nature and the assembly line right or wrong, yes or no, black or white kind of thinking. Naturally, that’s what was strengthened and I see strengthened in a lot of both boys and girls than in women. Women have particular challenges with this that I can go into. I think because of that school system, we’re having to shift into understanding and appreciating nature and seeing creativity as a part of that.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Most of us in technology are creating products or services and we know that creating is not a solo act. In fact, in one of our previous episodes we had Maria Giudice, who is the VP of the experience design at Autodesk, and she talked a lot about the importance of co-creation, but the problem I’ve seen when co-creating is very, very easy to defer your creativity to somebody else like a boss or a teammate.

Even for myself, earlier on my career when I was a software engineer there would be times I would be sitting in a meeting and I’d have an idea for how to improve a product or a process, but I didn’t say anything because I was always concerned about people saying, “Oh, what does this junior engineer know about building a product or even a feature?” I held back and I didn’t feel good about holding back, but I also wasn’t sure enough to speak up. Why do you think that that happens? Why do you think that even though we’re creative, we start to hold back?

Maria Molfino: I think we hold back because we’re afraid of making mistakes and part of that comes from our conditioning. Our conditioning of we can’t speak up unless we know the right answer. We can’t speak up unless we’re 100% sure that what we’re going to say is valuable. Where did we learn that from?

Poornima Vijayashanker: I don’t know. You tell me.

Maria Molfino: Yeah, school. We learn that from school. You don’t raise your hand unless you know the answer. You don’t just speak and figure out your thoughts as you speak, you have to have a good reason to speak. I think that kind of conditioning carries over to the workplace and so my guess is when you were a junior here, just fresh out of school, you may have felt more you’re not supposed to. “I’m not supposed to.” I think that’s really common.

Poornima Vijayashanker: We don’t want to take this risk because we feel like we’re not supposed to until we have a formulated, 100%-sure thought, but are there other things? Like I know we talked about in the beginning there is criticism, rejection, failure. Are all those things also wrapped into that?

Maria Molfino: Yeah, absolutely. I think the fear of being criticized and judged is huge and that comes from making mistakes. What happens when you make a mistake? You look stupid, you feel embarrassed. People laugh at you. People think things of you. They have opinions. I think it’s like a conglomerate. They come hand in hand, the fear of being rejected, the fear of being criticized, and the fear of there being mistakes. They’re kind of a trio.

Poornima Vijayashanker: How do we move past that? Especially for somebody that’s inexperienced, how do we move past that and then finally decide to speak up?

Maria Molfino: I think it’s really getting to know your inner critic, which I think you and I have talked about in a bit. The inner critic tends to show up when we are expanding, when we are at a growth edge. When we are going to take up more space than usual or more time than usual, when we’re going to become more visible, for example, when we’re going to share a part of ourselves that maybe we haven’t shared before, that’s when the inner critic likes to get the loudest.

I think being able to be aware of your inner critic and recognize when it’s coming up, so know the signs of your inner critic is the first step. Awareness is the first key. In fact, I would say recognizing the inner critic reduces its power on you quite a bit.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Let’s just play devil’s advocate. What’s the big deal? Let’s give in to our fears, let’s give in to our inner critic and just keep collecting that paycheck. As creators, we’re just going to say “yes” to our boss or our teammates and defer to them. So what? So what if we do that?

Maria Molfino: I think most people don’t even get to that stage. Most people are not even aware their inner critic is driving the boat. I think the first step is if you get to the stage where you say, “OK. My inner critic is running this show, but I don’t care. I’m still going to go on,” then the case I might make to you is, do you really care about growing and expanding? If you want to stay stagnant and continue to play small, then don’t worry about your fears or just, you know.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Sure.

Maria Molfino: If you want to expand and grow in your creative work or as an entrepreneur, as a leader, you absolutely have to learn how to relate to your fears. Just the key distinction I want to make, I’m not talking about abolishing or eliminating fears—I’m talking about coming into relationship with fear, which is I think a key part of the creative process.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Let’s dig into that. Let’s start with those three fears and let’s start with the first, the fear of criticism. This is multi-faceted because there is the criticism of ourselves which probably originates from the inner critic, but also the very visible criticism of others are teammate, our bosses, etc. Let’s start with the first, the self-criticism. How can we handle the self-criticism?

Maria Molfino: I deal with self-criticism every day.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yeah. I wake up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror, “Hey, you.”

Maria Molfino: “Hey, this isn’t right. This isn’t right.” I think it’s an ongoing process is one thing to be aware. First of all, you’re not alone. The second is it’s an ongoing process. It doesn’t really go away. I think what I was alluding to before about the inner critic, being able to recognize when the self-criticism is emerging is the first step, recognizing the signs of self-criticism.

The second is having self-compassion, which is a life-long journey, and I think there are specific tools and techniques for self-compassion that are really wonderful, that I still use. In fact, I used this morning, I wrote my inner critic a lovely thank you letter and it was really powerful, because one, I externalized my feelings and two, I was able to reframe a lot of negativity into positivity. I was able to transform that emotion.

Poornima Vijayashanker: What was the example? What caused the inner critic to knock on your door this morning?

Maria Molfino: I think we talked about when you’re at a growth edge and you’re about to be seen, when you’re about to share a part of yourself—

Poornima Vijayashanker: You knew you were going to be on Femgineer TV.

Maria Molfino: Yeah. I knew I was going to be on Femgineer today. Yes, and I’m also on a growth edge with my own project. I’m about to launch something big. It’s a reflection point of my own business. Of course, the inner critic is going to be very close by.

Poornima Vijayashanker: You decided to take a moment for yourself?

Maria Molfino: Yeah. I also meditated and that helped a lot.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Wonderful. Now, let’s dive in a little bit deeper, because even if we are good at managing our own self-criticism, there are those wonderful folks out there that we work with on a daily basis and, unbeknownst to them—because they want to improve, we’re all innovators so we want to improve products, we want to improve services, so we’re always giving each other feedback and sometimes that feedback is perceived as a criticism. How do we manage those critical moments where we say, “Hey, take a look at this piece of code or this design that I’ve done,” or whatever it is that you’ve created and how do you have the courage or how do you manage that process?

Maria Molfino: I love this question. It’s really about filtering feedback and knowing how to do that and I think women have more trouble with this. We are more empathetic and also emotionally empathetic. We can read facial expressions more easily and body language more easily. What that creates is a type of sensitivity to how other people respond to us. It’s important to learn how to filter feedback and I would say there are three things you have to ask yourself when you are confronted with someone else’s criticism or feedback. The first is, “Is this person close to me?” It’s just one layer or consideration. For example, if I get feedback from an internet troll, which happens.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yes, we love those people.

Maria Molfino: Should I filter that out or keep it in? Probably filter it out. This person has nothing to do with my life. The second question, is this person experienced in the area that they’re giving me feedback in? Let’s say I start a business and my dad calls me up. I make a business decision if my dad calls me up and says, “You made the wrong decision, that’s not the right decision.” My dad’s a doctor, he’s never even ran a business, so I might have to say, “OK, he is close to me, I care about his opinion, but he has no experience in the area.” I have to filter that out as well.

Then the third question I would say is, “Is this person a fan or a user of what you’re building or creating?” For example, let’s say you start an online course and you get an email from a close friend and they’re like, “I’ve taken courses like this before,” so they have, they’re close, they have the experience. “But I think you should do this and why don’t you do that.” Surely you’ve gotten feedback.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Oh, you’ve been reading my emails.

Maria Molfino: At that point, you have to ask yourself, “Is this friend my target audience?” Often they’re not. This is really helpful for me because I have really experienced talented close people in my life, they want to give me their opinion about how I’m running my business and what my branding decisions are. The truth is not they’re not my target audience so they really don’t know. That’s another way to filter it out. I think those three questions help filtering out the system.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Good. Then once we do the filtering then how do we process the feedback? Let’s assume they’ve passed all the checks. OK, great. Yes, you are an expert. You’re close, like we’re co-workers. We know what you’re talking about, but in the moment, it’s still stinks, especially if someone says, “Oh, look. You’ve made a bug here or your design is not quite pixel perfect. The way that you did that presentation you had a lot of ums in it.” How do you manage that?

Maria Molfino: I think if it stings, you got to feel that sting.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Good. Sit with it and be OK with sitting with it.

Maria Molfino: I think you got to feel the sting. I think the other is you got to create some space between you and what you’re creating. This is the artist dilemma.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Let’s talk about that.

Maria Molfino: We just get so attached to what we create and this is our baby and it’s so precious and it’s an expression of who I am. It’s my soul and say there’s this intense attachment and so I think creating space. Being able to start to depersonalize yourself from your creative work and see that in some ways you are worthy no matter what and it’s not attached to you. The creative work is helpful. This is why I like design and design thinking because when you think like a designer, you’re able to say, “Hey, this is a design process. This has nothing to do with me.”

This is just, this target audience member isn’t resonating. There isn’t resonance. I think that’s a good framing, just to see it as maybe there’s a lack of resonance here. It has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with them. We haven’t found a fit yet. Thinking of it in terms of fit like product market fit is maybe a way to start depersonalizing as well.

Poornima Vijayashanker: That probably also helps with rejection, right?

Maria Molfino: Yeah. One other thing about rejection is to think…what helps me with rejection is actually thinking about conversion rates.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Tell me more.

Maria Molfino: When you think about what is the actual conversion rate for something, it’s very small percentage. It’s like I don’t know.

Poornima Vijayashanker: One percent, sometimes less, sometimes like .1.

Maria Molfino: Yeah. Yet, we operate like our conversion rate should be 100%, like I just went up to this one-person data point of one and maybe to fully accept me and love my project. There’s something around going for breath and allowing yourself this, again, thinking like a designer. Allowing yourself to really open up and get many people’s opinions or put yourself out there in front of many multiple people and expect a low conversion rate.

I think that helps frame rejection instead of feeling like, “Oh my god, 50% of people rejected me. That’s so high,” and feeling bad about that thing. Actually that’s—

Poornima Vijayashanker: Great. It’s 50% of people I don’t have to deal with anymore.

Maria Molfino: Yeah, 50% of people I don’t have to deal with anymore. I know you felt this too as an entrepreneur. You can’t reject it all the time. Only a portion of things move forward and that’s why you have to keep putting yourself out there. You have to go for a breath.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Very good. Let’s talk about the last and biggest fear of them all, fear of failure. We do something, we try something, we put ourselves out there, and not only do people reject it, but it might just not even 100%, nobody accepts it, not even 1%, not even .1%. How do we move past that or how do we even move past that thinking? Sometimes people don’t even fail but they have that fear before they’ve done something right. A lot of times they do and they fail but a lot of times it’s like they haven’t even stepped up to that yet.

Maria Molfino: I also feel like not a lot of people have failed. I mean I’m just trying to think, again, like you said the fear of failure is bigger than the actual experience of failure. A lot of people talk about the fear of failure and I feel it’s very conceptual. It’s like in the realm of imagination because a lot of people have not even gotten close to that.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Sure.

Maria Molfino: There’s a reframe or a questioning that I have, which is let me ask you this. When people fail, what are they afraid of after that? What are the consequences of failure for them?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Mostly it’s ridicule. It’s ridicule and the criticism again of their closest friends, family. There are some who are concerned about, “Well, if I fail, I’m going to lose my house or I’m not going to be able to put food on the table,” but that’s a very small portion in our industry and the way we are positioned like we have a lot of comforts so we don’t have to worry about that as much but we do have to worry about ridicule. “My startup didn’t exit or I had to shut down or got dead pooled or our product didn’t take off or we had a huge turn rate of customers who left or someone badmouthed us on Twitter.” It’s mostly around ridiculed.

Maria Molfino: Yeah, I agree. When you probe your failure, it goes back to you, what we talked about the trio, fear of criticism, rejection as a result of making mistakes. I like to frame fear of failure as fear of making mistakes. If you could get some more practical kind of concrete way of thinking about it is more immediate and people have more experience within their day to day. In their day to day, they might not feel like they’ll fail but they’ll feel like, “OK. I made a few mistakes. It just keeps it more concrete.”

Poornima Vijayashanker: Let’s assume we’re ready to face our fears and we want to move forward with the creative pursuit, but we’re not 100% confident yet. We’re dipping our first toe in, tell us about how we can go about practicing creative confidence?

Maria Molfino: Let’s define creative confidence.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Sure.

Maria Molfino: Creative confidence is a mindset. It’s a way of being that comes from design thinking, which is allowing yourself to be experimental, make mistakes, letting go of perfectionism. It’s a way of testing. It’s a mentality of, “Let me test this to see what happens.” It’s also having a detachment from outcomes. It’s a mindset that encompasses all of that is what I think of as creative confidence. For women specifically, I’ve outlined 10 blocks to creative confidence that you can journal around. It’s in a playbook that I have available in my website.

I think the first way we deal with fear is being able to acknowledge and recognize that it’s there. The second is to be able to pinpoint it in the body, so fear often exists and lives in the body. We don’t think of it that way. We think it’s a mental construct. It is, but it’s a mental construct that’s tied with a physical attribute as well. Often times, when we’re able to notice our fear in the body, it can really help diminish its power. So an example as I was talking in my group coaching session, a woman, she was sharing about her inner critic and she said, “You reminded of your example.”

She said, “I was in a meeting and I’m a new designer and I felt who am I to share what I want to share right now.” She said she felt that in her throat. She went like this, “I felt it here.” The fear was in her throat. When we can cultivate mindfulness and become aware and pinpoint the sensation in the body starts to diminish.

Poornima Vijayashanker: I wholeheartedly agree with you on the fear and being able to pinpoint it in your body. In fact, one of the things that I do before I do a lot of public speaking is the power pose by Amy Cuddy and it’s been great, but of course, I still get up on stage and sweat buckets. This is just like, “OK. Fine. This is what’s going to happen.” I think a lot of times despite people acknowledging it, there’s still a concern around outcomes because we’re still being compensated, we’re still being given approval and those lead to positive outcomes like the product shipping, getting a promotion, getting a salary increase, all these things. How do we pursue our creative pursuits and put the outcomes in the background?

Maria Molfino: That’s a big question. I know we put the outcomes in the big background.

Poornima Vijayashanker: We know that they’re there but we don’t want to fixate on them because again it’s going to hold us back.

Maria Molfino: Again, I think people don’t even get to that level. We realize they’re being attached to outcomes. I think there’s a step before that which is, “Oh, I’m getting attached here. I’m obsessed with this outcome and they really want it to happen and gripping it tightly and that’s creating this, you might call it feverishness with this anxiety or this fear to come up.

I think the first thing is just acknowledging that there’s attachment to outcomes. Once that is acknowledged, I think that power of it goes down deeply and I think there is a way to engage with that attachment. Some ways that I have found extremely helpful have been, “Are they going to keep coming back to this mindfulness meditation?” Also, journaling and externalizing so being able to write down what are the outcomes that you feel attached to, to be able to again, name them, look at them, and externalize them reduces their power. There’s a theme here which is anything that you keep inside is going to grow. Anything that you’re able to release is going to go down. I think externalizing is key.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Do you recommend we also do this with partners like our managers, bosses, teammates. Is that helpful at all to do?

Maria Molfino: I think if there’s trust in that relationship, you can. It’s nice to have an objective person who can mirror things for you, like a coach or a mentor or guide. I think someone who doesn’t have a bias or is not attached to whatever outcomes you are expressing. Maybe not a boss because they also may have their own agenda, right?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Sure.

Maria Molfino: Having an agenda list person who can mirror something back to you like a coach is helpful.

Poornima Vijayashanker: I think it’s great that you mention that because they can be your safe haven, you can bounce ideas off of them without the fear of, “Oh my gosh, they’re going to judge me or they’re going to use this in a performance or review something like that.”

Maria Molfino: Yeah.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Fair enough. I know there’s a lot of people who harness their creative confidence. They move forward, they pursued their creative pursuit and then when it comes to promoting their work, they all of a sudden clamp up. They don’t want to share it and they’re afraid because they think promoting themselves is like sleazy or slimy and they would rather just not share it. How do you help them get over that hump?

Maria Molfino: I think what you brought up in the question is there’s fear, then there’s clamping up. This could happen in many scenarios. For example, you’re about to go on stage like you mentioned a few examples ago. You felt fear but in your case, you felt fear but you didn’t clamp up. You went on stage and you gave the speech. What was different for you?

Poornima Vijayashanker: I’ve done it so many times. I know what the worst case is. I know worst case, someone is going to boo me and then I’m just going to keep talking anyways because they’re not my ideal audience or they’re having a bad day or they may be a friend just being funny.

Maria Molfino: You thought of the worst case, you accepted the worst case. Would you say that you felt fear? You did?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Every time I go up there.

Maria Molfino: Is that amazing, every time you go up, you feel fear?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Yes.

Maria Molfino: This is the difference between creative, confident people. People who have creative confidence and people who don’t. Both feel fear, but one doesn’t clamp up and the other does.

Poornima Vijayashanker: I see.

Maria Molfino: One clamps up in the face of fear and one doesn’t and it stays open in the face of fear. That’s the key difference, clamping up versus staying open. Most people think this is where people make the error, “Because I feel fear, I shouldn’t do this. Because I feel fear, I shouldn’t self-promote myself. Because I feel fear, I shouldn’t go up on stage. Because I feel this thing in my throat, I shouldn’t speak up at the meeting.”

The example you just gave, how do you deal with it, you say, “I’m feeling fear, I’m going to do this anyways. I’m going to continue to go.” I mean, there’s some amazing stories, anecdotes, top performers who’ve been performing for 40 years before they go on stage, they still vomit. Then they go on stage and they still do it. I think again as being able to be mindful and acknowledge fear is there, it’s normal. It doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong and stay open, to stay open.

Again, it’s complicated. I’m trying to explain it the best that I can, but everybody is case by case, so every individual has their reasons for why they clamp and so finding out what yours are often times it’s conditioning. Conditioning that you have to undo. It’s a lot of work. Conditioning that you do with work through different practices, working with different people can help you undo that conditioning so that you can stay open in the face of fear.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Let’s come back though to the specific of the self-promotion because this happens a lot in people who are extremely creative and are afraid to speak about their work. How would you tell our audience, our viewers out there who are concerned about this? They create, they have the confidence to build but then when it comes to showcasing, there is that next step.

Maria Molfino: This is very common for women. I think the hesitation to self-promote and I would say reframing self-promotion as storytelling. This has been very helpful to me. How can I tell an authentic story about who I am and where I’m coming from is one way. The other is how can I tell a story? Let’s say you don’t want to share it by yourself because you’re like, “That’s too vulnerable and I’m afraid to do that.” You can also share a story of somebody else.

A user that used your product. A client that’s gone through your service. A reader who read your book. A friend that you gave advice to. Tell the story of that person and that’s—for me, storytelling is authentic marketing and I think if we can come back and think of, reframe marketing and self-promotion as storytelling, it becomes harmless. Who doesn’t want to tell and hear stories?

Poornima Vijayashanker: Sure.

Maria Molfino: It’s great and I think we’ve been doing that for thousands of years. It’s the way that we humans find resonance with each other.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Last question for you. For our viewers out there who want to get started and have a creative confidence practice, what would you recommend they do to get started?

Maria Molfino: The first step is to be aware what’s blocking you, so be aware of your blocks. I have a creative confidence playbook. It’s free. It’s on the website.

Poornima Vijayashanker: We’ll make sure to include it in the show notes.

Maria Molfino: It’s my URL, mariamolfino.com/free-playbook. That will basically walk you through what I see are the 10 blocks that we’ve been conditioned to have and form and journal around each of them. I actually go through this playbook often. I created it and still use it.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Good. You’re dogfooding your own.

Maria Molfino: Yes. I’m drinking my own medicine all the time because I’m constantly playing at my…or hoping to be playing at that edge which is a good sign. When I’m noticing a fear come up, I’m like, “Oh, this is great.” In fact, I would say, “If you don’t feel fear or fear isn’t coming up for you, you might not be playing at your edge. You might be playing a little too safe and playing a little too small.” It’s good to feel that. It’s good. I think looking at the blocks again and again and being in relationship to them has helped me normalize and neutralize the fear. Normalize, it’s normal. We all have it and neutralize. Allow it to not have so much power over my actions.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Very nice. Thank you so much, Maria for joining us today. I’ve learned a lot and I know our viewers are going to get a lot of value out of this episode.

Maria Molfino: Thank you. This is great. It was a lot of fun.

Poornima Vijayashanker: Thank you. Thanks for tuning in today and special thanks to our sponsor, Pivotal Tracker for their help in producing this episode of Femgineer TV. If you enjoyed this episode, then please share it with your friends, your teammates, and your boss, and subscribe to Femgineer’s YouTube channel to receive the next episode of Femgineer TV. Ciao for now.

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