Confidence is Contagious

by Dori Schurr

If you have read my string of posts thus far, you have no doubt heard me use the acronym ‘BDE’.  It is basically a way for me to say the word ‘confidence’ in 3 letters (efficient!). I write about confidence in debate so often because I truly subscribe to the idea that confidence is what wins you debate rounds.  It has certainly pushed Oliver and me over the edge when the question ‘did you win on the flow?’ doesn’t exactly swing in our favor.  

Just a couple of days ago, I was having a discussion with my coach about how to whip some of our less committed novice PF-ers into shape before the end of this year.  She gave me some advice and food for thought which, since I have been a part of Beyond Resolved, had escaped my mind. My coach reminded me of just how difficult it is to be a woman in novice public forum.  Unlike the community which we have so recently built, the novice division has a much smaller, more exclusive community. These women are new to speech and debate in general, and lack any confidence in their skills.  Just this past weekend, when my novice gal got first speaker, she was confused and bewildered as to how on Earth she might have earned that honor. This lack of confidence is why most women in debate quit before they reach varsity, and why I was left as the only girl in my grade willing to give PF another chance.  

Confidence is the only thing my novice women are missing.  My novice ladies have self-esteem issues. It sounds pretty simple, but it is instrumental to one’s performance in debate.  Without confidence, it is very difficult to win a round as a woman. Men, biologically, have an easier time dominating women with their deeper, stronger voices.  We must speak up, and make them take the room away from us, all of which requires confidence. We make friends, win rounds, and are simply much happier with an extra ounce of confidence.  After my last post, I received a myriad of positive comments from people who were swooning over my confidence. It really pays to be happy with yourself, and it has a domino effect on your confidence in the future.  

If I am confident with my performance in a round, I will do much better in said round.  When – not if, when – I win that round, my confidence goes up again. This continues, making me a happy, confident, successful debate gal.  I wish all of my novice gals could understand just how much happier their debate lives would be if they’d just embraced their imperfections, and gone into each round ready to rule the room.  

Nothing feels better than having your opponents in the palm of your hand, regardless of their gender.  This does not mean that mercilessly bullying your opponents is acceptable. What it does mean, however, is that the feeling of control in a room full of people is unlike anything else.  I will admit though, it feels especially satisfying when you’re in a room full of men. When you have an audience, and people are laughing at your jokes, and admiring your debate style, everything gets even better. I have made countless friends on the circuit because I admired their confidence, or they admired mine. It becomes a powerful friendship, rather than one built on insecurity and a shared feeling of inferiority.

Beyond Resolved’s motto “Connect, Debate, Empower” is not one that encourages relationships created to share inferiority. It was created to encourage women to become more powerful, and share their power amongst other women in debate. When you adopt a more confident attitude, even if it’s just on the outside, your skills improve dramatically.  My coach always tells Oliver and I to strike “power poses” before we go into rounds. It makes us laugh and feels a little weird, but by exhibiting outward confident behavior, we are more confident on the inside too.

I encourage all of you to do whatever it is that might bring you more confidence before you leave your home or hotel room. Take a power pose, tell yourself how well you’re going to do that day, give yourself an extra spritz of perfume, whatever it may be, do it. Make yourself feel unbeatable before you walk into the room, and I promise, you will not be beaten.

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