The Set Up

I joined my fellow MAPP classmates from Bucks New University at the European Positive Psychology Conference expecting some fun and a bit of learning along the way.  Never in my wildest imagination did I think that my classmate and I would be having dinner with Barbara Fredrickson, Lea Waters, Michael Steger, Judy Moskowitz and some hilarious guys from Denmark.  As my classmate and I carefully chose a table at the gala event, an evening dinner on a boat literally sailing down the Danube.  We sat down eager and nervous about our evening ahead.  We wanted a good view in the middle of the action as we sat down at an empty table.  Then, lo and behold Barbara and her crew sat down and joined us.  I just thought “pinch me!”

The Chat

At first I don’t think either my classmate nor I knew what to do, could we talk to her, what would we say, perhaps for the first time both of us outgoing, extroverts were tongue tied. I’m not normally star stuck but I was now, the Canadian in me wanted to keep my polite distance but the positive psychology enthusiast knew I’d been given an amazing opportunity that I wouldn’t get again and so I’d better use it.  We had a wonderful conversation that filled me with joy and gave me hope about the future.  She was approachable and the team of them clearly had a lovely connection.  They were generous and authentic, just as I would have imagined the leaders of our field to be.

The Picture

The evening wore on and I began to feel that if this was the peak for me I’d be just fine with it.  As the pinnacle of my positive psychology experience this would be perfect.  As others filed past us, giving us the once up and down as if to say who are you sitting with them, I just soaked in all the positivity I felt around me at the table.  We’d seen lots of requests for pictures and selfies so my classmate and I courageously asked if we may have one too.  She agreed immediately and said of course, that it was part of her role.  We were thrilled once again but little did I know that the best was yet to come.  As we lined up for pictures, she put her arm around me and whispered in my ear “I love your dress” and all the insecurities and years of challenge seemed to melt away.  Never underestimate what your words have the power to do.

The Dress

The dress I chose to wear was one that I adored but had only ever had the courage to wear once before.  I loved it, but it hung in my closet for years never finding quite the right opportunity.  Was that it or could I just never work up the courage to wear it again? Anyway, I thought about this evening event on a boat, next to a wonderful friend and classmate, surrounded by positive psychology people and I thought could it be?  Maybe I had found the right opportunity to wear it again so I tossed it in my suitcase.  I travelled light so I didn’t have a lot of alternative options to save me when the evening came, so I took a deep breath, chucked it on and ran over to the meeting spot.  I arrived very self-conscious and nervous but it was too late then.  Naturally as the evening wore on I began to feel more comfortable and soaked in the feeling of confidence that I felt having conquered this challenge.  I wonder if this courage I found helped the evening to turn out as magically as it did.  Perhaps positive emotions really do fuel a broadening and building.  Certainly, for the evening to turn out how it did was such a gift and a confidence booster.  It was a treat and a special moment that I will savour for a very long time.

The Morale of the Story

Hope comes to you in the strangest and most unexpected places and never ever underestimate the power of an authentic, well timed compliment.


About the author: Kimberley Wakefield is a MAPP-in-training at Bucks New University, a leadership coach, positive psychology enthusiast and a marketing & communications professional.  Find out more about me at<a

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