A Galaxy of Gold Stars
Kate McGuinness was a golden child. From a young age, teachers praised Kate for her intelligence, and she came to rely on that recognition for her sense of self-worth. She collected gold stars from her superiors even after she graduated from school and became a corporate lawyer. Kate worked on cases that garnered both local and national recognition, and her work did not go unnoticed. This was back in the 70s when there were few female corporate lawyers, which means that other people viewed Kate’s wins through a female lens, for better or for worse.
Eventually, the biggest, shiniest gold star of all presented itself to her in the form of the general counsel position at a Fortune 200 media company.
A general counsel is the chief lawyer of a company’s legal department. They oversee legal matters, identify potential legal troubles, and report directly to the CEO. In other words, Kate’s job was mostly to say, “No.” Though there were several disagreements between herself and the company’s executive board, the relationship felt par for the general counsel course. Nevertheless, two corporate executives came into Kate’s office out of the blue land told her to clean out her desk.
Kate was devastated. She spent a lot of time looking inward, examining the span of her life. At that time, she enrolled her son in a boarding school in the Santa Inez valley that best suited his needs. Kate hated the distance between them, so she bought a ranch nearby the school. The ranch was adjacent to a 6,000-acre nature preserve, and Kate basked in her time in the country with her two rescue dogs, her horse, and her goat. She practiced a little bit of transcendental meditation and eventually married her instructor.
When the 2008 recession hit, it took a chunk out of the severance that served as Kate’s primary income source. She had no choice but to sell her ranch in a terrible housing market. Her husband wanted to practice transcendental meditation at the discipline’s hub of Fairfield, Iowa, and Kate moved with him. “It seemed as good a place as any,” she says with a laugh.
In Iowa, Kate was lonely. Her only son was in college, and her husband meditated seven hours a day. She decided to write to pass the time. She wrote to educate women on workplace harassment and decided the best format would be through a legal thriller. “I figured the best way to educate people was to give them something to read, but it had to be something entertaining, or they wouldn’t read it,” she explains.
After a while, Kate decided that living lonely in Iowa wasn’t where she would spend the rest of her life. She thought about her career. The confidence that prompted her to pursue law came from the gold stars she collected as a child. While she received some criticism from those who didn’t think she could keep moving forward, her confidence cushioned the blows. When she was fired, though, doubt took the reins. She grew from that pain in ways she didn’t anticipate. Now, “the authentic Kate McGuinness” meant the person she was on the ranch, and in Iowa as well as the high-flying L.A. lawyer. She wasn’t the same, and she realized she didn’t want to go back to being the same.
Kate moved back to California, determined to take the new sides of herself with her. By embracing herself as a complete, flawed-but-capable woman, she grew much more comfortable expressing herself. She decided to enroll in a coaching school. As the saying goes, we teach what we most need to learn, and Kate wound up as a coach who specializes in recovering lost confidence.
Confidence Lost, Confidence Found
A little while ago, Kate gave a keynote address to a group of women lawyers in North Carolina. Kate spoke about the behaviors that can erode confidence, like perfectionism. The event organizer bought everyone a copy of Kate’s novel and set up a room for Kate to autograph the copies after the event. Afterward, two women came in to get the book signed, and they told Kate about their struggles. Their eyes filled up with tears as they told her how difficult confidence was for them. When Kate returned home, Kate thought, “I really want to help these women.” After a year and a half, she finished her book Confidence Lost, Confidence Found. The book is a collection of stories and exercises that offer insight into building and maintaining confidence.
Mastering Your Inner Critic
There are endless opportunities to build confidence, Kate says. Confidence is taking action, no matter if it’s baby steps or leaps and bounds. It starts by doing one small, brave step every day.
She advises starting a success journal (like the one Heather made) to document evidence of your success. You could also start a folder of your professional accomplishments—What Kate calls a “pride kit.” You deserve to feel confident in yourself, and no matter what you do, you can take one step closer to a more authentic life.
Kate likes to celebrate by sharing it with someone that she cares about, like her partner her son. She shares good news because it both expresses gratitude and builds positivity in your life and the lives of others.
Learn more about Kate
Kate is a certified coach and the principal of Empowered Women Coaching. Her newest book, Confidence Lost, Confidence Found, is a collection of stories and exercises that offer insight into how to build and maintain confidence. You can read more work from Kate on her blog or through her novel, Terminal Ambition. Be sure to follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter.