Your health? What others think of you? How happy your lover is? The weather? Your finances? Your future? Your appearance? Your mood? Other people’s moods?
Can you control these things completely, or just influence them to some extent?
If you’re at all like me, the words, “You can do it!” are enough to set off an alarm bell in your head. Your inner voice says: “The last time I fell for that, I broke every bone in my body! … It’s a tough world out there, and I’m not in such great shape in here … I don’t think I’m up for any more of that positive-thinking stuff … Maybe YOU can do it … I happen to know from hard personal experience that I can’t.”
As bruised victims of every program that ever promised 10 easy steps to self-esteem, self-discipline, willpower, or a positive attitude, some of us are suffering from the misguided belief that self-confidence has abandoned us completely.
“Who do you think you are?” echoes in your mind whenever you think about going after what you want. And so you hesitate, procrastinate and settle for less than you are capable of. You tell yourself it is because you lack the confidence to go after your dreams. You simply don’t have the tenacity others in your industry (or world) seem to be able to muster up.
That is simply not true. Evidence argues against it.
When you were young, you knew perfectly well what you loved and what you wanted. And you went after it without hesitation. If you saw a cookie on the table, you didn’t think “Can I get it? Do I deserve it? Will I make a fool of myself?” You climbed after it.
You piled boxes one on top of another, and did everything you could think of to get that cookie. If you didn’t get it, it didn’t stop you from going right after the next wonderful thing you saw once you woke up.
You didn’t feel the need for “self-confidence” when you were young. You had marvelous freedom to be who you were.
By the time you were five or six, however, the right to make choices based on your own wishes began to erode. As soon as you were old enough to control yourself and sit still in school, the honeymoon was over.
You have probably forgotten what it was like to walk into the first grade. You’d just had five years of solid experience – seeing things, knowing things, feeling, hating, and loving things. But schools are not designed to learn from you; they are designed to teach you. Inadvertently, they created the impression that your innate knowledge, tastes, opinions were of zero value.
By ignoring who you were, they cancelled the rich inner world you had brought in with you. Little by little, you forgot about who you wanted to be and started becoming what others felt you should be. Today, you scroll through social media and compare your progress to others (who may or may not actually be telling the truth). In the process, you decided you don’t quite measure up. You are scared to take risks and possibly fail. Avoiding possible ridicule has become more important than chasing your dreams.
When we compare our progress to others, we put ourselves at a disadvantage. We lose our individuality, our ability to be innovative and solve large problems with creative intelligence is silenced. We begin to suffer from a false sense of no confidence.
This behaviour has to stop. Those doubting voices are like a bully boss and it is time to challenge them. When a seed is given good soil and plenty of water and sun, it doesn’t have to try to unfold – it just unfolds. As a matter of fact, it can’t help unfolding. And neither can you.
Confidence is a process not a product. Allow the journey to begin.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.