Speaking Truth to Power

Speaking truth to power.

This is an often-used statement and to actually speak truth to power one has to have what I call courage-based confidence. Speaking truth to power means we understand how to use our humility, vulnerability, and courage in confident ways. It is not easy because it is about our inner work.

Courage-based confidence comes from an internal belief that we are strong, persevering, and resilient because of the struggles we have experienced, not those we try as heck to avoid. Stress-tested, we become confident in our ability to navigate what we need to navigate in spite of the bullies and dangers that live both outside of us and within.

At the age of thirteen, my son told me he wanted to go to boarding school. I wanted to say “over my dead body”, and yet the words that came out were “tell me more.” He knew what he wanted and needed. Even then, more so than me, he could be brave. He said, “I need a hero’s journey. I need to know who I am apart from you.” Really. He did say that.

And so he went. During his boarding school experience, he woke up to parts of himself he needed to examine, and parts he needed to celebrate. And we both, years later, are still pulling from that courage-based confidence and watching it grow one messy, triumphant experience at a time. 

Courage-based confidence gives us a sense of contentment, self-acceptance, and endurance; it shows us that whatever life throws at us, we can handle it with honesty and graciousness. This is not a sugary sweet, overly simplistic, falsely positive approach to life’s frustrations and heartbreak. Rather it comes from knowing you can trust yourself because you have triumphed over adversity before and know you can rise again. It is about being real and leaning into the struggles in a way that is authentic. It teaches us to trust our internal reserves as we walk in faith. And in turn, it helps us to be more trustworthy.

This work is not for the fainthearted. Facing our fears and unpacking how we have kept ourselves defended yet defeated will free us, but not before it dismantles the comfort zone we have hidden within. Claiming our gifts in humble, life-affirming ways is part of this recipe, too.

This week my Saving You a Seat podcast features a young woman, Meg Felton, who is part of a transformative movement in the beauty industry. She is clear, vulnerable, smart, and energized. She is all the things we need in those leading from the front. She embodies courage-based confidence and get this: she took on Brad Pitt publicly with a cohort of her colleagues. Talk about speaking truth to power! How she did it is the epitome of graciousness, honesty, and invitational humility.  

I am delighted to see that HBR ran two articles recently that discuss how the traditional concept of confidence is keeping us all stuck. One talks about the importance of demonstrating humility and vulnerability as a way to enhance psychological safety and relatability in the workplace versus the traditional definition of confidence (view article How Confidence Is Weaponized Against Women). The other one discusses how our messy life experiences are exactly the thing that we need to celebrate as a way to build confidence (view article How to Build Confidence at Work).

We must focus on the very things that build the type of confidence that flows from our hearts and souls, not just our resumes and quarterly goals.  This is how we transform leadership and workplaces, relationships and home. This is how we connect to our own hero’s journey.