What is confidence really?
I’ve been thinking about confidence, my own and others perception of what confidence is. To me, having more confidence is about self-trust, inner belief, courage and vulnerability. Which doesn’t mean everything will be perfect and turn out as expected, although it can. It’s more to do with having an inner confidence or trust that we can handle it if things don’t go to plan.
I think we build resilience, trust and confidence by having the courage to try things and not be perfect. Taking small consistent actions to face our fears, actions that stretch us without breaking us. In taking those actions we can transform the energy of fear into confidence. If the rubber band is stretched too far, too quickly, it breaks, we need to slowly stretch it and feel when the rubber is reaching its limits.
I also believe there’s an element of risk involved in developing more confidence, we don’t always know for sure what the outcome will be. We can’t really develop more genuine confidence without moving through fear in some way. When we take a risk there’s bound to be some ‘failures’ along the way. Which is why I think vulnerability and trust are at the core of real confidence. The kind of confidence we grow into, that helps us expand and show up being more of who we really are, not who we think we should be.
Our perception also depends on our influences growing up, some of us might see confidence as being ‘too big for our boots’ ‘cocky’ or something else. This is very different to thinking about confidence as being aligned with trust, belief and appreciation in our own abilities, qualities and potential. (The dictionary definition is pretty much that). Confidence isn’t really a static thing – we grow into it in different areas of our life and it can change depending on our circumstances, life experiences and even hormones!
The same thing that’s a stretch for one person could break another or be a walk in the park for someone else. It’s essential to focus on ourselves and let go of comparison and judgement of where others are at – let’s stay in our own lanes. What is our personal stretch? What makes each of us feel that mix of excitement and curiosity in our hearts? Even if it doesn’t seem particularly logical, we might not know why!
What if we took one small step towards that feeling and explored it a bit more, learn an instrument? Sing? Dance? Go on a challenging hike? Or maybe it’s simply walking out of the house around the block every day.
My mum had agoraphobia for most of my life and for her to be able to walk around the block or go and see a friend was a huge stretch for her. However, when she did, she glowed.
I remember becoming more aware of my health and fitness around the age of 17, but still not being able to swim and neither could my mum.
I decided to go and get lessons at a local pool and suggested mum went too. She did want to learn how to swim but didn’t want to go, and resisted massively. Eventually, the only way I could get her to go was to spin it around and ask her to keep me company (she wouldn’t do it for herself you see). I said I was super nervous and didn’t want to do it on my own. It worked.
She came along for the first 3 sessions, intending to do the course but the pool was too hot and in her last session the heat triggered a nosebleed. Then the inner ‘upper limits’ came up and she didn’t want to go back, which is totally ok, she reached her full stretch at that moment and it was enough.
However, I will never forget the smile on her face as she bobbed about in the water for those first 3 classes, she looked alive and happy, she broke through those first resistances and achieved something that she doesn’t forget and yes it did give her more confidence.
If we’d focused on the end result to be able to swim and complete the course then that expectation could have led to disappointment. Instead, she has the confidence to know she did it once and could do it again.
I did complete the course and can just about swim! Enough to give me the confidence to at least get in the ocean slightly out of my depth and that’s good enough for me. The point is to take the stretch that’s right for you, be honest with yourself. Don’t let anyone else compare their stretch and wins to yours and don’t compare yours to theirs. It’s all relative, the less judgement we have about others the less we’ll have about ourselves.
Ok, so my challenge to you wonderful reader
Take some time and feel into something you’d love to try or do and haven’t been able to yet. Is there one small step you can take? Is it booking into that art class or going on a hike, visiting a place you’ve not been to, or is it speaking your truth to someone? Notice where the resistance is and see if you can stay with that feeling but take some small action anyway.
What’s the worst that can happen? Deal with the worst case scenario in your mind first, and have a plan of action if you need a backup. Taking responsibility for our own actions and feelings without relying on something external is a path towards inner peace, something we need more of in this world.
Start by writing down all your accomplishments, small and big, whatever they were to you, fill at least a page! And be in that feeling for a while as you reflect on what you have done. Take action from that place, pin the list up somewhere, take a photo on your phone, keep this as a reminder for when the inner critic or not enough feelings come up.
Trust yourself and build on that, feeling vulnerable and moving through fear is part of the journey. We can’t get to a place of self-trust and inner confidence without that bridge. There’s always another bridge to cross anyway, so we may as well begin.
Oh and I write about this because it’s part of my journey too and something I’m consciously working with day by day, step by step.
Feel free to comment or email me back and let me know how it goes. I read all my emails and comment back and would love to know what your small stretch is or what accomplishment you’re most proud of big or small, it’s all relative. Happy journalling.