No matter where we go we meet people who say to us, “If only I had more self-confidence I’d be just fine”. There does not appear to be an age limit, a gender, affluence or comfort boundary either. Even people we coach who are at the top in their business constantly express their perceived need for more self-confidence.
So what is this thing we call “self-confidence”? It’s a blanket term sure enough and one that tells us precisely nothing until we start to look underneath the blanket to find out what bugs (fears, negative beliefs, smallness and weakness) cause a person to feel unconfident or at best ‘a need for more’.
What does the average human need in order to be able to have self-confidence? A way to unravel this conundrum is to take a look at the meaning of confidence.
CONFIDENCE: Noun. 1. Full trust; belief, trustworthiness or reliability of a person or thing. 2. Belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance. 3. Certitude; assurance
FULL TRUST or BELIEF: How do we get to a place where we can trust ourselves (for this is what we are talking about if we are talking “self-confidence”) to do or be like what? Every single one of us at all times does the very best we can in light of what we know and believe. Recognizing and accepting this would be a great first step toward increased self-confidence, wouldn’t it?
If we could go a bit farther and believe at the deepest level that we really are doing the best we can, our trust in ourselves would be even stronger. It would quiet those negative voices that come up in our heads, the ones that tell us that “we might not be good enough”, that “people might not like what we are doing”, etc. Everyone has their own particular version of mind chatter. It goes by many different names: negative self-talk, the gremlin, the inner critic, the saboteur, the ego. It doesn’t matter what name we use; what does matter is knowing that we can control these self-defeating thoughts. They most definitely do not need to control us and what we believe about ourselves.
RELIABILITY: Hmm, how does that sit? We all like to think of ourselves as ‘reliable’ and probably in matters concerning our friends and family, we are. However how reliable are we with ourselves? Can we rely on “the real me” to come shining through no matter what is happening? What causes that real and strong person to shrink away and hide?
Usually it’s some form of fear. One of the biggest is the fear of being wrong or of failure. It’s worth remembering here that we always have to fail in order to learn. The simplest example is learning how to walk. Wouldn’t we be surprised if a child suddenly got up off its bottom and walked perfectly with no falls or trips? So it is with adults: every time we try something different, something new, something that is a bit of a stretch for us, we are naturally putting ourselves up to fail and hence to learn. The biggest lesson of all is to remember that failing does not make us a failure! It simply makes us more knowledgeable, more experienced – and more likely to succeed the next time. The only way you can “let yourself down” is by running away. The only person you are running from is yourself and at a deep-down level you are aware of this. The inner you knows the outer you is not “reliable”.
SELF-RELIANCE: Most of us look for the approbation of others. Why is that? Well, simply because we do not trust ourselves. Learning to become independent of what other people think or believe about us is one of the richest resources we have. Again posited on the fact that we are doing the best we can, we need to add the next ingredient: each person’s life is totally unique. No one is travelling exactly the same road as you; no one ever has, nor ever will. Therefore only one person is key – and that is you. You are the only person on whom you can totally rely to know what is best for this particular life you are leading.
This is one of the reasons we believe so much in coaching. Going it alone can be tough. Having someone who is non-judgmental yet has our greater self at heart is a great boon. We are naturally social animals and yet we only truly have ourselves to rely on. This form of reliance is less tangible than relying on your neighbor to look out for the parcel delivery man because you won’t be home; or relying on your spouse to remember to bring home a loaf of bread. Those are examples of receiving help and we are not talking about refusing to ask for it. What we mean here is knowing that you can ask yourself whether your actions, beliefs and behaviors truly honor who you are. Only you will know.
BELIEF IN ONE’S POWERS: Has any human ever reached their full potential? It may be claimed that some of the great spiritual masters have done so yet for the ordinary “man in the street” it is a most unusual occurrence. Quite a staggering thought, isn’t it? As humans we are potentially more powerful than we care to believe and yet “being powerful” is not something that gets a good press. This is mainly because “power” is perceived to be used negatively. The times we hear of power is often in despotic terms.
Because of that view of power, we naturally become reluctant to allow ourselves to be as powerful as we are or even to “believe” we could be so powerful. If we let our power flow, will we be shunned, will we lose our friends and be alone? Actually, as humans we are powerful beyond our comprehension and that in itself is a scary prospect to most of us.
Yet we are talking about having the power to influence, to help, to develop, to support, to draw forth not only our own potential but also that of others. These are all positive, not negative. As with most growth, however, it does have to start with ourselves before we can give our best to help others.
We are all blessed with a range of powers. Some of them are easily recognizable – most of us are gifted with the powers of sight, of hearing, of speech, of smell, of touch. Then there are the less tangible powers such as love, caring, intuition. Learning to value the powers that we have and to use them gives a huge boost to what we call “self-confidence”
If we summarize what we’ve said, lack of self confidence is based on the belief that we are not enough and at the same time we deny how powerful we actually are. What a paradox.
Here are some affirmations to use daily that combat those bugs that live below the blanket of self-confidence:
• I naturally always do the best I can in all circumstances.
• I am always at liberty to change how I choose to see my circumstances so that they work more positively for me.
• I need to be reliable to myself before I can be reliable to others.
• I have inner strength that gets more powerful the more I use it.
• I can fail at doing things from which I can learn.
• I am not a failure.
• I am powerful and have gifts to share with others.
• I am enough—I am more than “enough”.
Copyright 2008 Lynn Hull and Julie Molner