Oh boy. This is a tough one. I think we’re all born with an ability to feel confidence; however our life experiences determine the strength of this confidence. I personally have spent the majority of my life with extremely low self-confidence. Over the past few years I’ve done a lot of work to learn how to value my own self-worth. Just typing that I feel exposed and fraudulent, which means even though I’ve come leaps and bounds from where I was there’s still a lingering voice of self-doubt. Perhaps this voice will never leave. But I’m ok with that, because I realize now I do not have to listen to that voice. I do not have to identify with or define myself by that voice. And neither do you!
We all have that voice. The one which is quick to point out our shortcomings, our failures, the one that taunts us and whispers cruel things. Even though that one voice has many hurtful words, the message is always the same. For me, the message has always been ‘you’re not good enough’. One day I remember feeling happy, and then the voice crept in. For some reason at this particular moment I decided not to give in to the voice. I asked the voice ‘Why? Why am I not good enough?’ and you know what, the voice didn’t have an answer!
The voice isn’t evil. At one point in life the voice may have helped protect us. But somewhere along the way, we stop needing this protection. Our brain doesn’t automatically turn it off, we have to do this. The longer we’ve let this voice ‘protect’ us the harder it can be to retrain our brain that this protection is no longer needed. It’s not impossible, just takes practice. You’ll need to find what works for you. Maybe simply questioning the voice will be enough to quiet it. Perhaps you’ll be more successful by visualizing a character for this voice. Someone once shared with me that they would picture the voice as a little devil on their shoulder and visualize flicking the little bastard when he was unwanted. There’s no right or wrong here. The key is to realize this voice only has power if you allow it to. We all have random thoughts throughout the day, how many of these thoughts define us? How many of these thoughts do we even remember having once they’ve passed? For some reason it’s just easier to believe the negative voice must be the right one. But I assure you, it’s not.
There are a number of traits which may also be preventing us from building our self-confidence. Fear of failure is a big one. When we are afraid to fail we become undisciplined, we let procrastination take a lead, we may even isolate ourselves. None of these traits will help build confidence, in fact they do just the opposite. Self-discipline goes out the window when we think success is out of our grasp. How many of you have set your mind to a new workout routine, only to give up a week in? It’s tough! And there’s no instant gratification. It takes time, and over time we feel better about ourselves, but it takes discipline to get to the gratification. Procrastination is similar. We put things off to the point where we become overwhelmed and thus feel nothing but failure. Fear of failure may cause us to put off completing a task, but confidence is built by taking responsibility and finishing in the face of that fear. Viewing ourselves as a failure can cause us to shy away from others, especially others we identify as successful. (I assure you these folks have their own demons). When we isolate ourselves, were left with only ourselves and that negative voice starts making sense. It’s important to be around others that help build you up. People who love you can help you see yourself in a different light.
Homework: I am an avid watcher of Ted Talks videos. Take a look; the two I’ve listed touch me deeply every time I watch them.