As I confidently guide my clients toward feeling confident and directed themselves, I periodically think about what builds real self-confidence. In my research and exploration, I often look to myself and to my own experience first to find the answers to what I am looking for. When I asked myself this question as recently as this morning I realized that although I feel very confident in myself right now, there was a time in my life that I was not all that confident.
I used to doubt myself and question my capabilities. Others around me, including my good friends, would probably never guess that I lacked this confidence. I knew how to hide it well. But on the inside my doubts and questions about my abilities plagued me. Out of a desire to solve this problem, I attempted to build my own self-confidence the only way I knew how. I focused on the things I was interested in and the things that I was good at. I comforted myself and my ego by telling myself that these are the things that make me special. Focusing on these things worked for a little while, until someone else would come along and have the same interests or were doing the same things as me. I had a thirst for being different and unique, so once I met anyone else with similar goals, interests or capabilities as me, it knocked me off the superficial confidence pedestal I had built myself. Landing on my backside, I picked myself up again by telling myself all the other things I was better at than others, or I would search for the next self-proclaimed interesting and cool hobby. I continued with this pattern in an effort to build my own self-confidence because I did not know a better way. It was not the best tool, but it was the only one that I had. Until one day when a very dear friend of mine showed me that there was another, much more dependable and sustainable way to build my self-confidence.
I had just found out that one of my ex-boyfriends from college had gotten engaged. Learning that this ex-boyfriend found happiness, and from the sound of it, was getting married to a wonderful women, made me angry. Why? Because I was still holding on to my anger at him and the unhealthy relationship we had. [Click here to read more about how I successfully got rid of that anger for good.] I couldn’t stand that a person I was in a bad relationship with could potentially be in a great relationship or that this woman he was marrying was potentially better than me.
Naturally I called a good friend to vent. Naturally I expected her to be in my camp and abide by the unwritten woman-code of ‘rank-on-ex-boyfriend’s-new-woman.’ But she didn’t. She did the opposite, in fact. My friend asked me this, instead:
“What if she is better than you?”
Better than me?!
Yes, better than you. What if she is better than you?
But you’re not supposed to say that. You’re my friend! You are supposed to be on my team and tell me how great I am!
I am on your team.
So, what are you trying to get at?
Well, why do you need to be better than her?
Because then that will prove that I am awesome.
But you’ve tried that before and it’s not working, so it’s probably not the best way to go about boosting your ego.
What do you suggest, then? I’m listening.
I’m suggesting that you keep telling yourself that she is better than you and see what happens.
It is only because I trusted this friend dearly and knew that she had my best interest at heart that I took her advice. Plus, my friend was right. The strategies I was using to boost my own ego and build my own confidence were not helpful in any way. So, I did what she suggested I do. That whole weekend I asked myself over and over again: “What if this woman is better than me?”
At first it stung to hear myself utter those words to myself (even in my head!) Boy was my ego suffering! But somewhere in the middle of that weekend, something shifted for me. Instead of getting defensive, I became curious. What if this woman is better than me? “Okay,” I told myself. What if she is? It’s possible, I thought. Why not? Great. Now what?
What was left on the other side of “What if this other woman is better than me?” was another woman, and that woman was me. I had to look at this woman and ask her some important questions, like “Who are you when you are not trying to compare yourself to others or trying to be more special, different, or unique?” I realized that trying to be better than others or trying to be the best was an illusion. It is an impossible goal. There is always going to be someone better in the end. Even if not at the moment, then probably at a later time. And so what? What then? Does that mean I give up on myself and my goals?
Once I let go of comparing myself or my accomplishments to others and put the focus back on me (where it needed to be) I finally started to re-build my self-confidence from the ground-up; giving it a strong and firm foundation. I got out of other people’s business and stayed focused only on my business. I then started to ask myself what I wanted for me; for my life; for my marriage, for my family, and for my career. That is all that is in my control, anyway. Since then I know that the only way to build my self-confidence is by focusing on me. Do I get off track sometimes and get flustered when I see someone else doing something similar to what I am doing? Sure I do. I am human, after all. But because I now stand on firmer more reliable ground, I get up quicker, dust myself off, get refocused on me, and forge ahead…with confidence.
How about you?
Have you ever lacked confidence in yourself or your capabilities?
What strategies have you tried to build your self-confidence?
What has worked for you?
I look forward to hearing your answers, comments, or questions. Please be in touch with me anytime either in the comments below or by contacting me here.
In support and admiration,
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