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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Willey

In Her Shoes (or Beekeeper Boots)

Every week in my blog, you'll find stories, advice and inspiration on five core pillars I believe we all need to focus on developing, to accelerate our growth at work and in our personal lives: Confidence, Communication, Connections, Control and Courage. Wet Cement content, curriculum and workshops feature insights and exercises in these 5 areas to help teams and individuals achieve their potential.

Today may be the first day you use the term 'Live bee acupuncture,' after learning about this ancient practice in the last 24 hours through news coverage or social media outrage (with the exception of BuzzFeed, ironically. Get it--BUZZfeed? I digress). But it's not the first time for me. While I am sorry a woman lost her life seeking pain relief, I won't be jumping on the negativity bandwagon... because surprisingly, I have personal experience with 'live bee acupuncture.' In fact my story was one that contributed to building my confidence. And I'll share how it can help build yours. But first, please be patient as I share my story. Or rather, please 'bee' patient.

The "Live Bee Acupuncture" procedure is a type of apitherapy (alternative medicine that uses various honey bee products, such as honey, bee wax, and pollen), and is usually referred to as "Bee Venom Therapy (BVT)." The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published research on it. And there is a American Apitherapy Society featuring other evidence-based research, if you are interested.

Now, for all those folks saying it doesn't work, I can vouch it does.

Photo courtesy WENY-TV

Let's turn back the clock to 1996. I was a relatively new TV reporter at WENY TV. My videographer and I were doing an evergreen, feel-good story on a local Apiary (Bee Farm)... when I saw something peculiar. As we were shooting B-Roll (the video that you see over the voice track)... or rather in this case, Bee-roll (OK, I'll stop), I saw an older man being pushed in his wheelchair into the back storage room. I asked one of the employees what was going on and he said, "Oh, he's just here for his Bee Venom Therapy treatment." Since I had not hear of that before, I dug in further and learned that the Apiary provided BVT for several local residents with chronic, debilitating illnesses at no charge.

Being the judgmental, skeptic I was when I was younger, it took all the professionalism I had to not laugh out loud.

I asked if I could speak with the BVT "patient." I quickly learned that several strokes left him wheelchair-bound. Traditional medicine and therapy didn't work. He could barely move any of his joints--but after trying BVT, he could stand up and walk out of the Apiary after being stung a few dozen times. I saw another woman who suffered from terrible MS transform before my eyes.

I spoke with the apitherapist, who shared his story of traveling to India to learn from BVT masters, who used BVT to help cure or help relieve pain for hundreds of people who would line up each day for a variety of conditions.

Now keep in mind, this is before the internet was widely available. And I can assure you the Apiary staff was NOT looking for any PR or attention about their BVT efforts. In fact, it took quite a bit of prodding and they were clearly uncomfortable talking about it.

Being the judgmental skeptic, I did a test to see for myself. Despite many efforts over 10 years to have a wart on my thumb removed, from specialists trying to freeze and burn it off, medications, masking tape, cutting it off, you name it, nothing worked. I asked the apitherapist if BVT could help minimize my wart and he said we could try.

The apitherapist took a frozen can out of the freezer, held it on my thumb, grabbed a bee with a tweezer. I squirmed and prepared myself for the worst as my thumb went numb. Then he stung me one time in the center of the wart.

Disclaimer: Yes, the bee died when he lost his stinger. If you can't read any further because an innocent insect was harmed in the process, so bee it.

The apitherapist told me to return in 2 weeks for a second sting. I did.

A week later, my boyfriend at the time (who I ended up marrying, thanks to stories like this) asked what happened to the wart. I had totally forgotten about it. Why? It COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED. I couldn't even remember exactly where it was--despite the fact that it altered my fingerprint for nearly a decade.

On that day, a giant crack emerged in my judgmental shell. That crack continued to grow each time I tried to listen and learn something new, understand something I didn't, or walk in someone else's shoes. I fully emerged when my second son, Carter, transformed from a perfect baby tucked into my sling like a Joey attached to his Mama Kangaroo (or as I said, the cutest purse I ever owned) into a wacky kid (or 'spirited,' as I was informed was more appropriate)--to the point where I questioned whether as a baby, he would end up on Death Row, as the MVP in the Superbowl or with his own TV show.

What the BVT story also did for me was teach me to trust my gut. When I first told my News Director about my interest in reporting on BVT and how it was changing lives of local residents, he thought I was nuts. But he let me go with it. And it ended up being a moving and helpful piece.

Following your instincts helps to build confidence. And when you look back and see that 'going with your gut' resulted in something special, meaningful, or powerful, it's like steroids for your confidence.

Psychology Experts like Jim Taylor PhD agree: "...confidence is a skill that develops with awareness and practice. Think of confidence as being like a sports skill." Taking time each week to look back on those moments where you proved to yourself that you could do something or took a risk that paid off builds confidence--just as doing push-ups builds muscular strength.

Back in the 90's it wasn't common for a 22-year-old to be bursting with career confidence--but I learned that taking stock of your achievements can put pep in your step while making it easier to trust yourself and try something new the next time opportunity arises.

Until you've walked in someone else's shoes, don't judge. And if you need to build your confidence, walk far in your own shoes. Especially the ones that may feel a little uncomfortable. Once you wear them in, they may take you farther than you ever thought possible.

Next week I'll share my proprietary method for putting the concept into practice and "Cataloguing Your Achievements." Until then, please feel free to share YOUR story of how you put yourself out there, listened and learned, and came out stronger on the other side.

P.S. "You're Welcome"--I knew you would appreciate the Beekeeping photo.

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