LEAD Intern Mary Motch interviews Christen Shefchunas, Confidence Coach & Author of Naked Confidence.
What did you aspire to be when you were younger?
So I’m 43, so younger for me is your age. Like when I was little, I don’t remember. Once I started swimming I was all about swimming. During my freshman year, they used to have media guides, they don’t have them anymore. First year it said I wanted to be a college coach, second year a counselor, 3rd year I wanted to be a social worker, and 4th year I wanted to be a coach. So, I think deep down I always wanted to be a coach.
What was the most powerful advice you received during your career?
I think it is to speak. I am such a big believer that when you keep it all in - when you keep in all the fears, doubts, all our disappointments, hurts, failures - when you keep that all in, it is like an anchor in your soul. So, when we try to take a step forward, we are stuck and we can’t move. So, it’s really about your courage to speak your truth to someone. Not to the whole world, but just one special person. To speak it out and get rid of that anchor, so that we can reach what we are capable of doing.
What would you tell your younger self about your life now?
It’s funny that you ask me that, because someone asked me once what would you tell your younger self, and I was thinking about it during my run. But [I would tell myself] that you are worthy of so much more. I used to search for my worthiness through men, but you are worthy of so much more. When I ask former female athletes what their biggest regret was, they tell me they struggled with fear, doubts, and struggled with confidence - and that they never did anything about it and they pretended that they were fine, but it never was [fine]. Stop pretending that you are fine and keeping it in; find help and speak about it.
What other sports did you play when you were younger?
I didn’t start swimming until I was 12. I have an older brother, and I did whatever he did. I played baseball and basketball as well. I even tried cheerleading for a couple years. But once I started swimming I just fell in love with it.
What is your favorite thing about confidence coaching?=
It’s funny because I was just thinking about this on my run as well. During my coaching career, I look back and I am proud that I helped people reach their potential. Some of my biggest regrets were people not reaching their full potential in swimming. In 16 years as a swim coach, the things I am most proud of are the women that had eating disorders and trusted me enough to be able to talk to me about it. And we got help for them, and now as adults they are moms, wives, and thriving in life. Or women that were raped and didn’t tell anyone, but that trusted me enough to talk to me, so that we could get help for them. The foundation for what I do is always to help women to thrive and to be proud of themselves. Sure, I want them to reach their full potential in sport, but the foundation of everything I do is to help them become the women that they are capable of being.
What brings out your confidence when you’re feeling low?
When I’m feeling low, this is the time I want to isolate myself and to not speak. So, I make myself not be alone and not to isolate myself and speak. To be honest with you, the most confident I feel is when I have nothing to hide. I think that that is the key to confidence. That is why I named my book Naked Confidence. When I went back and shared everything, it took a long time, but I remember when I released the last chain that I was holding in, which was my sexual past. I remember sitting there with someone I trusted, and when I finally spoke my truth and I got it all out, I remember thinking no more lies, I had lied long enough. I put it all out there, and I remember that it felt like my guts were showing, For the first time in my life, someone was finally seeing it all and that was the most confident I had ever been. I stay consistently confident when I consistently speak my truth and when I don’t have anything to hide. There is not one thing in my life that not one person doesn’t know about. So, I think that being able to stand behind the blocks confident is saying “Yes, I’m afraid, yes, I’m having doubts right now, but I have admitted that, and I know how to handle these doubts.” When you don’t admit it, how can you do anything about it to fix it. So, let’s be real, let’s talk about the fears and doubts, because when you are behind the blocks they are going to come out. So, you might as well be prepared for them and know what to do when they do come.
Who inspires you?
The ones that inspire me are the women that I work with and that keep me doing what I do.
What do you want to say to the next generation of Young Women Dreamers?
You know, it’s ok to be afraid; it’s ok to have doubts; but again if you don’t talk about it you can’t learn how to handle it. Because it doesn’t matter if you are behind the blocks or going into an interview for a job or asking for a raise from your boss. It’s in the moments of pressure and the first things to come are fear and doubts and the first thing to go is your confidence, you know. So, having the courage to admit it and then learn how to handle it, because I think that women are not great at taking risks because we are so afraid of the fear of failure. And to do anything great we must risk failure. So, we have to learn how to handle the fear of failure, because we are always going to feel it when we are risking.
Name one woman who you think embodies confidence?
Who was your role model at age 10? Was there a woman you looked up to?
What is your favorite song to build your confidence?
I like R&B - that is my favorite. I also listen to Christian music, and it helps me when I am struggling.
What is your favorite way to relax?
Hanging with my boyfriend. We both work really hard, and watching a movie with him fills my soul.
What is your Starbucks order?
I don’t drink coffee! I drink water, diet coke and Le Croix.