“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ~Benjamin Spock
My confidence is a delicate thing. I’ve had more disturbances in my life than I’ve had reassurances, a handful of betrayals, and enough playground cruelty to last me until the day I die.
I am still living with some difficult health conditions that I wake up and go to bed with every day, with no respite. I’m an introvert to the core, no matter how eloquent I am with the written word, or articulate with the spoken word.
Some of us are more fragile than others, but that’s okay.
I’ve been running on empty in the confidence department since some life events I’ve had no control over. I lost a friendship months ago, which still hurts. It was rejection in its most potent form, and being rejected is the main thing that makes me question myself, and doubt my thoughts and feelings.
My mother died five years ago and I never got the chance to patch things up with her. It’s a real kick in the teeth, the guilt.
It lowered my confidence in being able to manage difficult relationships, any relationships, effectively, and it could prevent me from developing relationships to begin with. I always think I could have done better in the past, which means what I did was insufficient. I am insufficient.
I’ve been going it alone with my novel for nearly two years. Since finishing my studies, I’ve lost the intellectual connections that I thrived on. Self-depreciation runs wild, and I find myself struggling with my book and resenting the resources I no longer have access to.
Without them, I am nothing. At least that’s how it sometimes feels. But I know it’s not true.
Life is all about the change–big and small; epic and unseen; incredible and horrific. Confidence crumbles when we start to reinforce feelings of uncertainty and insecurity.
The more we believe those empty feelings in our guts, the harder it becomes to go through life with all systems running normal.
And then our version of “normal” becomes undermined, we start questioning ourselves in everyday situations: Do I slouch? Maybe it’s better that I don’t bother my boss with a new idea I’ve had; I’ll take a different route on my jog today because the one I usually take involves jogging with other people who are pros.
These may seem like little things but they’re symptoms of bigger issues—the lacking foundation of your confidence. Have you had enough yet?
I’m not super brave by the way. The thought of following through with the ideas I’m about to propose to you all is making my stomach turn. But I’m willing to work at it to increase my self-esteem.
Three things. Three easy things that we can all do to start rebuilding our confidence and have that sense of belonging again, that feeling of “Yes. I am worthwhile and capable.” Ready? It’s okay to feel nervous; I’m feeling that and more. Here we go:
1. Ask for help.
I did this earlier today by emailing my mentor and telling her that I was struggling. I took a risk and expected to be rejected or ignored. Instead, I got an email back within hours (which is remarkable for full-time lecturers at the best of times) with exactly what I needed to hear to reassure me that I not only can I write, but also that I should be writing.
Asking for someone’s help isn’t easy and it takes a lot of courage to reach out, but give it a try. If you’re finding a project at work more than a handful, get some fresh perspective from a colleague.
Not everyone is going to reject you.
2. Educate yourself and share what you’ve learned.
I find that the root of my confidence is in my perception and knowledge of the world around me.
Through reading, we come to know and understand so much: emotions, current events, culture, scientific developments, relationships; ourselves. By picking up a book, magazine, journal, or newspaper we absorb the world and are better equipped to engage with it. And after we’ve read about something, we may feel motivated to apply and share what we’ve learned.
What can be more confidence-boosting than reading about a new recipe and then sharing it with a friend who’s bored to death with their evening meals? Or instead of sitting in silence as your mates discuss the intricacies of the financial problems we all face, you find yourself joining in and providing valuable perspectives.
Through learning and applying your new ideas, you’re connecting with others and the world.
3. Take time to appreciate your successes.
You need to develop a certain level of pig-headedness in order to make the feelings of assurance and satisfaction stick.
Even though I am looking at material I have written for my novel so far and despairing at it, I have to sit back every twenty minutes or so and say to myself “Sam. Darling. You may be having structural issues, your ambition may be a bit much to handle all at once, but damn, have you read that last paragraph? That is sizzling. And it came naturally…”
Whenever you have that “yes” moment, like landing that job you didn’t expect to have a shot at, don’t slip into old thinking patterns; don’t beat yourself up with old worries. Prepare for new opportunities in the knowledge that you have the skills you need, the capacity to learn, and the drive to seek out new and fulfilling things.
It’s your confidence. Own it.
Rebuilding your confidence isn’t easy. I don’t expect to have myself up and running again for a while but if I can put my own ideas into practice, even on a minimal scale, a couple of times a week, I will regain the things that I have lost through hard times and hurt feelings.
Dare I say I’m confident that you will too?
Photo by heather aitken
About Sam Russell
Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.