Confident Women: Jennifer Long
Originally from London in the UK, Jennifer now lives in Five Dock in the Inner West of Sydney with her partner, Fergal, and their two young sons. She founded her own company, Seven Hats, in May 2016 and hasn’t looked back. Seven Hats offers a variety of services to start-ups and small business including branding and graphic design, marketing and social media strategy, copywriting and administrative support.
What does confidence mean to you?
When I was younger I used to believe that confidence was an outward thing. It was people who spoke clearly and loudly (and sometimes over the top of others), who wore bold clothes, took risks, that kind of thing. As I’ve grown older and wiser I realise that it’s not so much about extrovert versus introvert. You can have extroverts who lack confidence and introverts who are very quietly confident. To me having confidence means that I (as well as my clients) have faith in my decision and actions.
Where did you learn how to be confident, or how are you learning now?
I do have memories of being a real chatterbox when I was very young (whether that meant I was a confident three year old I don’t know). Also, my outward appearance during my late teenage years was certainly one that could be mistaken for confidence (pillar box red dreadlocks, bright, bold, colourful clothes etc). But during this time I was probably the least confident I’d ever been. I suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and the depression that goes hand in hand with them from around 18 to 24. I labelled myself as weak and lacking in confidence during this period and it took a while, years in fact, to convince myself that it actually wasn’t true.
What I did learn from this period was that I was resilient. Even though I felt so low at times I never gave up and was focussed on finding ways to overcome my anxiety. I reluctantly took the medication prescribed by my GP. At the same time I researched various natural therapies, had counselling (NLP was extremely useful but I didn’t have that until I was about 28), read numerous self-help books, exercised and eventually found a way to disrupt the cycle.
Knowing that I was actually resilient and resourceful helped to instill a sense of self-confidence. It’s not that I believe that every decision I make will be the right one but rather that, if things don’t work out, I’ll still find a way to turn it around and make it work.
What do you think makes it difficult for women to love themselves and own who they are?
Even a short while ago I would have said that women’s self-doubt was, to a large extent, down to nature, but since having my children (two boys) I can see how early the gender divide starts. Toys, colours, hobbies, gender generalisations; we really make the division early on. I could write a huge amount about this but instead I’ll just share a link to an amazing TED talk I saw recently. It says it all really.
What challenges do you face that dampens your confident levels?
I honestly think that my main challenge is my lack of sleep/rest. My boys are still pretty young (2 and 3) and when I don’t get enough rest I find my whole outlook gets much more negative. I’m not as productive, I procrastinate and find I just go round in circles in my head. When I’m in that state my self-confidence wanes and I start to question my choices. I had a little wobble like this just a few weeks ago and really questioned my decision to start my own business. However, after a few days of looking after myself my confidence returned. You have to try and ride out those wobbles. I needed some external reassurance so a hug and a few words from my partner as well as a wine and a chat with a friend made me feel much better until I felt like myself again.
Who is the most confident person in your life and what qualities do they have?
Probably my three year old! Seriously! I watch him and he is often so self-assured. A little too confident at times but sadly I have no doubt that his future life experiences will erase some of his natural confidence and self-doubt will creep in. For now I watch him interact with children he hasn’t met before and he just wears a huge smile, says hello and joins in with what they’re doing. He doesn’t question it, or wonder what the other kids might think about him. It’s very rare that someone doesn’t want to play with him and it’s a pleasure to watch.
When do you feel your most confident, powerful, or beautiful?
I find it varies. Sometimes it can be when I’m immersed in some art or design work. It’s very meditative so life just flows beautifully at that particular point in time and you don’t question anything. Sometimes when I’m sitting back and just watching my partner and boys play together. Or at the end of a tough workout or yoga class, especially if I’ve wanted to stop halfway through. There’s the raw, stripped-back moments of life when there are no inhibitions such as making love or giving birth. But it’s also the small things like when a meal comes together beautifully or receiving an email from a really happy client. If I derive confidence, power and beauty from the small things in life there’s not so much reliance on having the big things work out.
Do you have any quick confidence tips when you want to boost your self-esteem?
Talk to a good friend. I always find mine reflect back a brighter image of myself when my own self image is a bit flat or warped. Even though I’d love people to have an innate sense of self-worth sometimes we all just need some external reassurance and that’s fine.
Is there anything else you would like to share or advice for other women who may be struggling with their own confidence and self-worth?
I think it’s so important to start with the basics; sleeping well, drinking lots of water, eating well, exercising (a short walk is enough in my book), making time for the people who matter most. From my experience feeling well in yourself is the best foundation from which to build on anything else. Create a strong, infallible core that you know can support you no matter what. Aside from that try and align everything you do (especially in a business sense) with your own core values. If you truly believe in what you do and how you do it people will believe you too. You can lead a much more authentic existence.
A dear friend bought my youngest a beautiful book for his second birthday the other day (In My Heart by Jo Witek). It explains how our heart is like a house full of feelings. We all need to be reminded that our feelings shift and move all the time. Even the most confident person doesn’t feel confident about every aspect of their life 100% of the time. We all have our insecurities. Everyone! We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t but the times when our hearts feel strong we feel like we can conquer anything.
“…Other times, my heart feels strong. I stand up tall, as if I can touch the clouds. New people and places don’t frighten me. I can do it! Watch me go! This is when my heart is brave”.