“When we attempt to say, ‘I’m not like this other person, therefore, I don’t have the right to be confident.’ We sell ourselves short.”
In this episode, Coach Jill Farmer talks with Kim Bolourtchi about all things confidence! Most of us can agree confidence is a powerful attribute for a physician. But, when does it become over-confidence? Many physicians have had experiences with arrogant colleagues or bosses. That can create a boomerang effect where doctors shrink from their power in order to avoid looking like an arrogant jerk. University professor, attorney and confidence coach Kim Bolourtchi has great ideas for better understanding how to stand in your confidence and power without being arrogant or haughty. Tune in for some tips on how to look and feel more confident today!
Kim Bolourtchi’s career has included practicing law, teaching public speaking and organizational and professional communication to college and graduate students, Latin dancing competitively, creating a wildly successful program that empowers others to express confidence under pressure, guiding businesses to create thriving cultures, and mentoring professionals in finding passion, purpose, and a path to happiness. Her book “Truly Inspired: Secrets for Finding Extraordinary Success at Work,” is a roadmap for rising professionals in all stages of life and career transition, and her newest program, UNMUTED, is teaching College students how to blast past the biggest obstacles to success.
Kim has worked in Big Law, boutique law firms, managed a thriving immigration practice, and served as the Director of Leadership and Professional Development for a Top 20 law school. She is a top-rated professor at Maryville University, and has been extensively involved in communication, leadership training and personal and professional development for over twenty years. She also hosts the weekly podcast ” Boldly Stated.”
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Please enjoy the full transcript below
Kim: When we attempt to say, “I’m not like this other person. Therefore, I don’t have the right to be confident,” we are selling ourselves short.
Jill: Hello and welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, one of the lead coaches at DocWorking. Today, we’re going to be talking about confidence and specifically understanding the difference between arrogance and confidence for physicians. And for this conversation, we are really lucky to be joined by an expert in this area, Kim Bolourtchi. Kim, thanks so much for being with us today.
Kim: It is my absolute pleasure. I’m super excited to be here.
Jill: Kim’s career has included practicing law, teaching public speaking in organizational and professional communication to college and graduate students, Latin dancing competitively, creating a wildly successful program that empowers others to express confidence under pressure, guiding businesses to create thriving cultures, and mentoring professionals and finding passion, purpose, and a path to happiness. Her book, Truly Inspired: Secrets For Finding Extraordinary Success At Work, is a roadmap for rising professionals. I highly recommend it if you know anybody that is entering the professional world. She’s worked in big law, boutique law firms, managed a thriving immigration practice, and served as the Director of Leadership and Professional Development for a top 20 law school.
Kim, you come to this conversation on confidence versus arrogance, and this whole idea of being able to believe in ourselves as professionals with a lot of varied pieces of background and information. As a physician coach, often physicians come to me and say, “Yeah, I’ve gotten feedback that I need to be more confident, but man, I just don’t like how arrogant X, Y, Z person is,” or, “I don’t want to be like X,” who they identify as somebody who’s a bit of a jerk. It seems like it’s a no-win situation, because they feel like in order to be confident, they’re going to look like somebody who has an energy that isn’t really in line with who they want to be in the world. Have you seen this before? I don’t think this is just unique to physicians, is it?
Kim: It’s not unique to physicians. I have to say I’m so excited that we’re talking about this, because I think a lot of people believe that the line between confidence and arrogance is a very, very narrow one. And the reality is the gap is tremendous. It’s huge. The difference between confidence and arrogance could not be a larger difference. And yet, people believe that expressing confidence can immediately lead to this judgment of arrogance. So, I’m thrilled that we’re broaching this conversation, particularly in the context of positions where it’s so important to be able to express your expertise and your knowledge and your belief in yourself in a way that is confident. It’s important to understand the difference.
So, yeah, of course, I’ve seen it. Who doesn’t know arrogant lawyers? Who doesn’t know arrogant everybody? At some point, it’s very off-putting when somebody comes across as just this really kind of bull-in-china-shop person, and nobody wants to be perceived that way. And being able to confidently show that you believe in yourself and your abilities is really, really important. So, yes, this is a huge, huge problem issue, and one I’m excited to talk about with you.
Jill: Let’s start with the difference. What is that gap? What’s the difference between arrogance and confidence from your perspective?
Kim: Confidence really comes from an internal place. When you are confident, it is a belief in yourself, in your abilities, in your expertise. It doesn’t mean that you know everything. But it means that you believe, you have the ability to either gain the knowledge that you need, or you have the ability to work through whatever happens. So, it comes from this internal sense of, “I’ve got it. I’ve got what it takes. And if I don’t know it, I can get it.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum is arrogance, which actually comes from a place of fear. “I don’t really know if I’ve got it, but I need to make sure everybody believes that I’ve got it. So, I’m going to just put it out there as strongly as I can, as loudly as I can to make sure that everybody thinks I do, so nobody actually looks to see if I do.” It’s a very, very big difference. The people who we consider to be most arrogant are often people who have this very deep fear of not being enough. Arrogance is external. It’s, “I need to prove to you that I’m okay. I need to prove to you that I’m the best.” Usually, it’s an extreme of, “I know what I’m doing all the time. I’m better than everybody,” which nobody is. There’s no such thing as the best of all things or perfect in every way. But that’s what arrogance manifests itself as. The difference is very, very remarkable when you look at it that way.
Jill: Yeah, I love that. If you even just go to the dictionary because I’m a dictionary nerd sometimes, confidence, as you just said, is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. It’s a firm trust. It’s a much more intrinsic energy almost about that. Of course, arrogance is about haughtiness and conceit, and it’s really about ego, which is extrinsic, which is the external things. How am I looking? How do I appear? There’s often a level of dominance of trying to at least appear better than somebody else.
The reason that people don’t want to be arrogant, even though when people are acting arrogant, they believe somehow that it’s giving them some status or stature but the truth is, when you’re talking to anybody, things that they admire in leadership, it’s never arrogance. Making people feel less than or trying to pretend you’re better than, doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s really the opposite. I think it goes back to what you just said.
Kim: Yeah, it’s always off-putting. One thing that is consistent about arrogance is that people who are demonstrating arrogance are very focused on themselves. There’s a lot of ‘I’ statements, like, “I do this. I do that,” and so I think that’s one of the reasons why it is so off-putting is that the focus is always back on that person. Everybody’s like, “Okay, and then what?” “So what?” Whereas confidence tends to be focused on how you use your skills, your strengths, your abilities to do good work or good things for other people, how you contribute to the collective, how you are enabled by what you have to make a contribution in your profession, with your patients, with your colleagues? That’s one of the very, very big differences.
One of the things I struggle with when I teach this is, people are reluctant to talk about what they’re good at or to share their strengths. The difference maker is when you connect it to how your strengths enable you to do your work well, it no longer has even the possibility of sounding arrogant, because you’re basically saying, “I’m really good at doing this because I’m able to help people. I have this skill that allows me to save lives in this way.” That’s completely different than being like, “Yeah, I’m the best. I know everything.”
Jill: Yeah, I know I learned this from you, that arrogance is really never of service. But confidence is always of service, because you’re building bridges, you’re building connection, you’re building trust, and that, especially in a physician-patient relationship is definitely of service. I think it’s really important to recognize that being confident is not separating yourself or making look better. It’s being of service to your highest ideals, which is important to everybody.
Another thing that comes up a lot, we talk about a lot on the podcast and in courses that we teach is this idea for physicians of imposter syndrome. I find that some of my physician clients say, “Well, it’s hard to be confident, because I’m not the best.” They can always identify who is the number one in the class or who’s considered the best in the field. And if they’re not that person, they make that mean that they shouldn’t be as confident because somehow, they’re the imposter or they’re not as good as people think they are. How do you address that imposter syndrome-confidence relationship?
Kim: I want to first acknowledge that imposter syndrome is a real thing. Some of the people who we admire most, and we think, “Oh, my gosh, this person has everything. They are everything,” will confess to having the same issue. Part of that comes down to this linear thinking around what makes somebody really good at something. Everybody comes at the idea of best from their own experiences. From our own place, we’re going to look at something and say, “Okay, well, I think this is the best. If I’m not it, then therefore I’m less than.” But here is the reality. No two people on this earth are alike. Identical twins are different. We each have our own set of gifts and talents. When we attempt to say, “I’m not like this other person. Therefore, I don’t have the right to be confident,” we are selling ourselves short.
What I always try to remind people of, is that you have this incredible blend of gifts and talents that nobody else has. It’s a losing battle all the time to be trying to measure yourself against somebody else. Absolutely, somebody else is going to be better at something. Okay, so what? You’re also going to be better at something, but this better game makes absolutely no sense because your form of brilliance, what you do remarkably well, which by the way, you probably don’t even realize half the time that you do remarkably well when you’re paying attention to what everybody else is doing, is your special sauce. It’s your magic.
Worrying about how you measure up compare to other people tends to never create that entitlement or that feeling of like, “I deserve to be confident.” But when you look at what you contribute and your own gifts and how you put them into the world to help others or to contribute to what you’re doing, you never ever have to compare yourself to anyone, you can just own your strengths and your gifts. And you always have the right to be confident in that space to own that power, because it’s yours, it belongs to you, no one ever gets to take that away, and no one ever can measure themselves against that either.
Jill: Right. That’s really a powerful, practical tactical tip to start with, which is don’t try to get confidence from the outside. It’s got to be fueled from an understanding that you are supposed to be different than somebody else, and what you’re bringing to the situation is exactly what you’re supposed to be bringing because you’re the only you there is to bring it.
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What are some other ideas or tools that people can use when they are having trouble feeling confident, to be able to embody that confidence and be in that place of service?
Kim: The first one, this is my favorite. This is actually, I think, the best tip. A lot of times people are worried about saying the right thing. Even when you don’t know what to say, this is your go-to, the first thing you do is the way that you use your body. I want you to think about a time when you watched somebody walk into the room, and they didn’t even open their mouth, but they just walked into the room, and the way they walked into the room caused people to just turn and notice that they walked into the room. There is a way that you hold yourself, you pick yourself up from the floor– I know podcasts are audio and not visual, but this is also going to be on YouTube. So, if you check into this on YouTube, you will see what I’m doing with my body right now. I’m picking myself up completely, and pushing into the floor to make myself taller. I don’t have to say a word.
If I exist in the space of just holding my body up, and my head lifted, and my spine really long, this is a confident posture. Even if my mind is saying, “I don’t know what the heck to say right now,” or, “I’m not completely sure I’m ready to join the conversation,” by holding your body up and tall, you look confident. And this is the best part, there is science that says your body informs your brain. When you pick your body up, and you hold yourself in this powerful position, your brain starts to believe that it should feel more confident. So, the powerful posture is also really important.
I’ll give you just this little tip. When somebody is being arrogant in your space, they tend to take up a lot of space. It tends to be loud and it tends to feel the energy gets taken out of the room. It can be hard to find a way to put a word in edgewise. But if you stand tall and pick your body up, and you pick your head up, you actually take your space back, and you take your power back, and it tends to diminish the impact of what is happening around you. So, putting power into your body is the number one tip for expressing confidence, even if you’re not really sure what you want to say.
Jill: Absolutely. You’ve taught me. Again, hold that space that you’re in, it’s not in a defensive or an aggressive way, but it allows you, in my experience, to be more open. So, I’m less clenched and shrunk, “What am I going to say next?” And just more open to somebody else starting a conversation, to letting something just come to me that’s meaningful in the moment, instead of feeling all tense about that. So, it has a dual benefit that when you just really take that second, to take a deep breath and stand up and think about holding that space around you to be open and solid.
Kim: Absolutely. The other thing too, right now with having to wear masks, we don’t have the full range of facial expression. What I typically would say is make sure that your face is open and that you have an approachable look on your face, but you need to watch your eyes. If you have a mask on and you can’t have that approachable look on your face, I say smile with your eyes. Which means, even if your internal dialogue is happening, having an alert, present, curious look on your face says, “I’m here, I’m engaged, I’m paying attention, I’m in this conversation.” As opposed to the, “Oh my gosh, what is happening?” look on your face, or, “I’m not sure if I belong here” look on your face. You need to check your face, and especially being aware of your eyes, as you’re picking your body up, let your face relax and lift your chin just a little bit. Nothing too extreme but, again, you’re holding that presence.
Jill: Eye contact just can’t be underestimated. I find often with people who are just really big thinkers, their eyes are often going someplace else, is their brain is working, which is totally great. We want all your brains to keep working. A way to elicit meaningful connection, which is confidence is really about is creating a meaningful connection is to make sure that you just really take the time, again, take that deep breath and look somebody else in the eye, that’s a really good way to embody that confidence as you said.
Kim: 1,000,000%. Another tip that is really important in expressing confidence is to watch your language. One of the things that happens when we want to be confident, but we don’t want to be arrogant, is that we know what we’re going to say, we trust our expertise, we know what we’re talking about, but because we don’t want to come across as a know-it-all, we’ll qualify what we’re going to say of, “I could be wrong, but,” or, “Let me just interject here, if it’s okay with you,” or, “I think this might be right,” or, “It could be.” Listen, if you know what you’re talking about, then you need to own that you know what you’re talking about and remove those qualifying words.
Instead of saying, I think or it might, if you know, then you just begin with what you know. “This is where we are today.” “This is what’s happening.” “Here are the results of this.” “This is how we’re going to approach this.” “Here’s another perspective.” These are examples of how you just jump in without qualifying at first. You don’t ever ask for permission to speak, “May I interject? “May I weigh in?” No, you don’t ask anybody if you may interject, you just do it. Not in an aggressive way, again, but it’s coming from that internal place of, “I belong here. I know what I’m talking about. I know what I’m doing. I have something to add. So, I’m going to add it.”
Jill: Yeah, I think that’s really great. I know there’s been a lot of conversation about not doing that thing, that apology, “I’m sorry,” but it’s that starting everything with the apology. I think it’s intended as a way to relate to other people. The reality is it ends up getting in the way of often us expressing things as clearly and meaningfully as we mean to. And so I think you’re absolutely right. A lot of people think the opposite of having these kinds of apologetic qualifiers is to be aggressive, and it’s not. It’s to find that middle space between meek and aggressive of just clear, direct confidence. Is that what I’m hearing you say?
Kim: Absolutely. When you’re thinking about what you’re going to say, this is a really a helpful tip. I always like to ask myself, why am I saying it in the first place? In other words, if I’m trying to help somebody, then I want them to feel confident and comfortable that they can trust me, that I know what I’m talking about, that I’m on their side, that I’m here to be of service to them. So, the more clear I can be, the more comfortable I am in the way that I convey that information. The more confident I am in the way that I convey that information, the more easily they can process that information and take it and benefit from it. If I’m worrying about how I’m going to be perceived in my communication with them, and I’m meek or uncertain, and I come across that way, they’re going to question what I told them. And I’m actually not in service as I could be if I would just stand in my power.
If I say to you, “Jill, I want to talk to you about confidence, and here’s what I know about body power. If you use the floor and you stand up and you are really, really strong, you’re going to feel so great when you walk into that room,” you’re going to think, “Okay, I might give that a try.” But if I say to you, “You know, listen, I think this might work for you. I sort of have an idea. I’ve got a little bit of experience here that might be good. Why don’t you give this thing a try? It may or may not work for you, but it’s worked for some people,” already you’re thinking, “What are you talking about and why should I believe you?” When you think about why you want to talk to people in the first place, if you’re trying to help and be of service, you actually help them by being confident, that is your motivation for stepping into your power. It’s not just to make yourself look good or feel good, but you’re better at what you’re doing when you communicate that way and when you act from that place.
Jill: I agree. That’s so powerful for us to hear, and I think you just said it so clearly. I also find, as I’m getting older, the more willing I am to say, “I don’t know” when I don’t know, the more confident I feel. I used to have so much stress around like, “Oh, somebody’s going to think I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Then, the coping mechanism for me was then to get a know-it-all-y mode. I’ve learned I’m much better at owning what I do know, which is lot, especially in my subject area expertise. When I don’t know, to just own that as well, but not apologetically, not in an excuse-y way, not in a oh-no, Chicken Little, the sky is falling way, because a lot of times not knowing is just fine. It’s not the end of the world.
Kim: Well, here’s the reality. How many times has somebody said they know something and you know they don’t? You just know, because our body kind of gives us away when we’re full of it. So, that’s the other thing. I think that we build confidence by saying, “I don’t know.” Either I will try to find out, or I’ll connect you with somebody who does. That’s part of connection. That’s part of building credibility. And also, nobody knows everything. So, it’s unreasonable to think that we’re supposed to know everything. So, I completely agree with you. I find it very empowering to say I don’t know, but I also do not feel bad for what I don’t know. I’m just super grateful to have a network of people who know lots of things, and I’m very, very happy to introduce somebody to someone who does or to do the research to find out what I don’t know. I think that’s part of what makes community wonderful. Then, also, again, confidence is standing in your power, but also feeling comfortable in saying, “I don’t know this, but somebody else does, and that’s okay.”
Jill: Yeah, really important point. Wrapping up. What else do our listeners need to understand about confidence in order to starting today, show up in service, using confidence, building trust, creating connections,
Kim: I would say more than anything else, when you think about the work that you’re doing, when you think about why you do what you do, and the impact that you’re hoping to have, I would love to challenge everybody to just think about your unique skill set, the unique blend of gifts and talents, even the things that don’t always feel like a blessing, the things that sometimes challenge you, but that allow you to do your work your way, and to embrace that. And to say, “This is what I do and how I do it,” and to own it, and to appreciate it and to stop comparing yourself to anybody else but to realize you have the right and the ability to be confident right now, but it comes from within. So, if you’re looking externally for somebody to tell you that you’re okay, you need to stop. If you’re looking for something to happen to make it okay for you to be confident or to give you permission to be confident, you need to stop. It is within you right now, this moment, and the first step is to pick your body up and to think about what you’re doing, the impact that you’re having, and the gifts you possess that enable you to do that. And that immediately shifts things. So, that would be my suggestion.
Jill: Great ideas. Circling back around to the beginning of that conversation. Such a clear understanding of the differences between arrogance, which can show up in the world of academic medical training, it’s just the nature of the beast in many ways. If you’re trying to avoid arrogance, great, but don’t do that at the cost of understanding that confidence is really important and matters, and is vital to doing the incredible work that you all do as physicians. So, you’ve really, really helped us understand that. I know you’ve helped thousands of other people understand it through your book, through your podcast, boldly stated, Kim through the work you do as a university professor and then as a practicing immigration lawyer as well. It’s always so fun to share ideas with you and have conversations with you. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today.
Kim: Thank you so much for having me. It was a complete pleasure.
Jill: For the rest of you, make sure that if you are loving this podcast, which you are, because you’re here, share it with colleagues, go to whichever service you’re using to listen to us, give us five stars. That really helps us be able to bring these podcasts to you and get out to a larger audience as well. For DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, I’m Jill Farmer. Thanks for being with us.
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