You already are outrageous. You are a woman leader! For many years I've been facilitating a workshop entitled “How To Be Outrageous.” Although the workshop has morphed over the years, the goal has always been to help participants understand how we are all outrageous, gain some ideas for increasing one's own confidence and those of others, and invite action steps toward positive change and outrageousness in your life.

Come on in, we all deserve a standing ovation!


Why be outrageous?

  1. Top of page
  2. Why be outrageous?
  3. What do you mean by outrageous?
  4. Being more outrageous
  5. Next steps… and a snowball fight

You may be thinking, “Do I even want to be outrageous?”

Have you ever seen yourself or a friend held back from trying something due to a lack of confidence? Or not spoken up or not tried something when you really wanted to?

Most people answer “yes” to those questions. This workshop teaches some skills to turn that around.

I began exploring the topic of women and self-confidence in the early 1980s, having read that people with higher levels of self-esteem are less fearful and less prejudiced against those who are different from them.

In my work against sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism and all kinds of prejudice, it seemed that teaching about ways to increase self-esteem was a critical tool that wasn't yet being used. Later, I read that children with higher levels of self-esteem succeed at a higher rate in school and out, and that young women's self-confidence falls significantly after age 12, and then again in college!

A few years later, I learned of the “imposter syndrome,” which describes highly competent women (recently expanded to include people of all genders) who, though they are successful, believe they are not good enough and fear they will be discovered as “imposters” at any time.

During women and leadership workshops, I have heard many discussions about how women are afraid of our power. This information motivated me to put together a workshop for leaders on increasing self-confidence in one's self and others.

Then Sue Fink, a former touring women's musician and extrovert extraordinaire who is now the artistic director for the Angel City Chorale, visited my campus. As I was telling her about this work, she told me that she was thinking of putting together a workshop on “How To Be Outrageous,” and we decided to do it together.

Although we presented a few workshops together, it was difficult because we lived in different states, so I inherited the title. The workshop has changed quite a bit since then, but I still think of Sue in every workshop and repeat her story of how she increased her personal outrageousness.

More recently, the movie Alice in Wonderland featured the same theme. The Mad Hatter tells Alice, “You've lost your muchness in here.” After viewing the video clip, participants talk about how to illuminate their muchness, or courage, to move toward their dreams.

What do you mean by outrageous?

  1. Top of page
  2. Why be outrageous?
  3. What do you mean by outrageous?
  4. Being more outrageous
  5. Next steps… and a snowball fight

Here's my definition: “Outrageous is exceeding the bounds of the expected, unconventional, violating accepted standards, boldly courageous and confidently standing up for others.” Many of us know women who went above and beyond, surviving a difficult time or doing something that took amazing courage. That is outrageous.

I believe women being leaders, inside or outside the home, still fits this definition. Getting a bit academic, we present definitions for self-esteem and self-confidence, making the point that everyone questions herself once in a while. At this point, I emphasize that outrageous does not mean egotistical or extroverted We talk about how being self-confident is different from being egotistical.

I offer examples of amazing leaders whose quieter style has been very effective—living boldly doesn't mean living loudly—and then read a quote by Mary Anne Radmacher in Living Boldly (Conari Press 2008):

  • Courage doesn't always roar.

  • Sometimes courage is the quiet voice

  • at the end of the day saying,

  • I will try again tomorrow.”

  • So it is to live boldly. The impact is somewhat

  • counterintuitive. People tell me that they think of living

  • boldly as living loudly. Not so.

  • Think of the breath a wind instrument player uses. It

  • must be full. Bold. That doesn't mean it produces a loud

  • sound; it produces a full sound, as the musician intended.

  • Of course, loud is always an option.

What I've learned is that many women hold themselves back from making positive changes in their own lives and the world because they are worried about seeming unconventional.

A few of us have discovered how freeing and healthy it is, and we are seeking to become even more outrageous!

Being more outrageous

  1. Top of page
  2. Why be outrageous?
  3. What do you mean by outrageous?
  4. Being more outrageous
  5. Next steps… and a snowball fight

After receiving and giving standing ovations, participants create and share parts of their bucket list. I find that it helps everyone to dream bigger as they are invited to spend individual, quiet time creating outrageous, powerful, planned goals to make their lives and those of others simply phenomenal.

With their life goals in hand, participants become “New Yorkers,” helping each other to dream bigger and to offer connections and advice. An exercise I always use is adapted from Barbara Sher's work Wishcraft (Ballantine Books 1979), and I often repeat her wisdom: “Isolation is the dream-killer.” It is truly amazing to watch people feel stronger and more motivated to work toward their dreams—sometimes ones they had all but forgotten long ago.

Depending on the time allowed for all this outrageousness, I lead participants in reviewing and practicing affirmations, visualization, personal branding and assertive communication.

Most participants report a big difference in their careers, their leadership success, their personal lives— and in their ability to be outrageous.

Next steps… and a snowball fight

  1. Top of page
  2. Why be outrageous?
  3. What do you mean by outrageous?
  4. Being more outrageous
  5. Next steps… and a snowball fight

As in every workshop, I remind participants that what gets in the way of our goals is not taking the small steps needed in that direction. I ask each person to write down one step they will take toward their dream in the next week.

Since they know what their lives are like, it could be as small as reading one chapter, setting up one informational interview or choosing a graduate program or as big as writing a book chapter, setting up a painting studio or finding an internship at the local zoo.

After they write down their step, their name and work phone, I ask them to squash the paper into a snowball.

Next comes friendly indoor snowball fight! A lot of laughter ensues, and after a few minutes, each participant finds a snowball and we read aloud a few of the proposed steps. Then the snowball finder agrees to call that person in one week to ask them how it went and offer additional support.

We end with affirmations of our outrageousness and, of course, a standing ovation!

I love this workshop! Participants leave having clarified their dreams and goals, gained some skills to work toward them, learned that many of us feel like imposters at times, laughed aloud, and committed themselves to a next step, knowing there will be some accountability and support for their progress in one week.

As Nelson Mandela has often quoted from author Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love (Harper Collins 1992):

  • Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?. . .

  • Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do….

  • And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Over the years, hundreds of workshop participants have gained the confidence to become downright outrageous I hope you have too.