I'm back in Saint Louis but on Saturday I was once again on a panel at the USAAA conference. It was back two years ago that I was on my first panel at a USAAA conference and the sense of anticipation and fear was so great it felt as if it was going to consume my entire being.
This year was different. Instead of being so nervous I was shaking I felt no pre-panel jitters at all. Practice is an amazing thing having done so many presentations since two years ago I now don't have any fear before a presentation and the emotion that has replaced it is confidence.
I have said many times that nothing can replace the power of confidence. Confidence, however, isn't something that can be forced or faked. After my presentation on Friday a parent asked me, "What did you mean that, if I saw you outside a presentation, I may not recognize you?" and I explained a good chunk of that is because of the lack of confidence.
In an open-ended social situation I have zero confidence. I don't know how to simply be me and I over-analyze things which makes everything all the more difficult and there isn't a natural flow to my words. Now, this is exactly how I felt going into the panel two years ago. Two years later all the fear was removed so, does this mean it is possible that I could achieve a feeling of confidence in a social setting? Or is this comparing a mango and a carrot? (apples and oranges are overused)
This just reiterates the fact that there is no substitute for confidence. Also, I once again felt the power of Kansas as my Kansas now is raising awareness and understanding for the autism spectrum. From two years ago I have grown so much and have so many more examples that I actually was counting down the minutes to the start of the panel whereas two years ago I was fearing the countdown and I felt as if I was being dragged to it against my will.
So I think this past weekend just reinforced all my beliefs that growth comes within Kansas and that Kansas has strong powers. When we talk about our Kansas we aren't going to be caught off guard and we're going to have, what to us is, a "normal" conversation. This, over time, instills a strong sense of confidence that does seep into non-Kansas activities. Granted, this isn't going to change everything overnight, but a little bit of confidence goes a long ways and I while I may still feel a lack of confidence in an open-ended environment I still stronger than I was thanks to spending so much time in Kansas.