I speak to so many young college students and also young entrepreneurs every week. It's a beautiful opportunity for me to also reflect on my own life and my own youth. I learn a lot about human nature in these conversations. We all go through so many moments that are exciting, scary, anxious and of course also free, light, and confident.
The work confident is elusive. It means different things to different people (haha, like most words :-)
Whatever it may mean to you, the truth is that every one of us would like to feel more confident.
To be able to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation.
To be able to spontaneously get up and dance or sing a song.
To be able to make a speech at a friend’s wedding or birthday.
To be able to stay calm in the face of rejection.
To be able to create a success of projects you take up.
To be able to accept failure with clarity and determination.
To be able to stay consistent and not give up when faced with difficulties.
To be able to speak your mind freely.
To be able to ask for what you need.
To be able to grab new opportunities that are exciting but scary.
Just to be able to not feel alone.
This is as basic as it gets.
Where does confidence come from?
It is a kind of a chicken and egg story. All these things I have written above create confidence in us when we do them. They are sources of confidence. But, we need confidence to begin with in order to do them!
It’s like having an empty petrol tank in your car. You need to drive to the petrol pump in order to fill up the tank, but in order to drive to the pump you need to have fuel in the tank!
This is a conundrum that often has us in a flap, without us even realising it.
And then we feel that we are not confident.
Or worse, we start labelling ourselves as "I am like this only", "This doesn’t work for me…", or "I am a XYZ person..". XYZ could be ‘lazy’, or ‘analytical’, or ‘boring’, or ‘slow’ or ‘haphazard’. We start labelling not our behaviours, but who we are. We do this in order to reduce our own inner identity crisis. Once I call myself as "Someone who cannot draw" then I no longer feel bad about not being able to draw. After all, I cannot draw.
But this labelling is dangerous. By calling ourselves X, or Y or Z, what we are doing is ‘boxing ourselves in’. Yes, it makes us feel comfortable, but it limits our growth. We become like a bonzai plant - one that could have grown to 30 feet tall, but remains at 2 feet tall.
True confidence comes from having the inner strength to tolerate uncertainty and discomfort.
As simple as that - the ability to not become restless when things are chaotic.
From this is born the grittiness required to learn and grow.
When I can learn and grow, I believe I can face anything.
I don’t limit myself to how ‘I think I am’.
I can create myself.
I feel confident.
When I don’t get shaken, or when I get shaken and I can center myself quickly, my mind can think clearly. My heart opens to new possibilities. Confidence happens.
So, how to not get shaken?
Haha, thats the million dollar question.
Here are a few thoughts I am exploring for myself. May be you will find some of them interesting.
Practise living in your body.
We live too much in our mental thoughts. Move into your body and away from your thoughts. Practise becoming aware of your physical sensations.
Think about all the challenges you have already faced in your life.
If you can overcome them then you can overcome many other challenges that life throws at you too.
Faith is about understanding and feeling the presence of a higher intelligence. The universe does not function based on your and my intelligence alone. We are a tiny part of the universal intelligence. Faith is knowing that there exists a greater intelligence that knows what I don’t know. It knows how to handle things that go on in the universe. You and I are in the universe, so it knows how to handle us also.
Stop labelling yourself as this or that.
Label your behaviours if you like, but not who you are. You are a river, ever flowing and ever changing.
Stop thinking of challenges and difficult periods as unwanted things.
Work to change your perspective to look at challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
Practise watching yourself.
Just watch. Because when you can watch yourself in everyday situations, then you will be able to watch yourself when things don’t go your way and you feel shaken up. When you can do that, being shaken up won’t shake you up so much anymore 🙂
Here is a beautiful short story I found about self-confidence.
A tired bird landed on a branch. The bird rested, enjoying the view from the branch and the protection it offered from dangerous animals. Just as the bird became used to the branch and the support and safety it offered, a strong wind started blowing, and the tree swayed with such intensity that it seemed the branch would snap in half.
But the bird was not worried for it knew two important truths.
The first truth – even without the branch it was able to fly, and thus remain safe through the power of its own two wings.
The second truth – it also knew that there are many other branches upon which it can temporarily rest.
This is faith.
Faith is the confidence that new options will open, new possibilities will emerge, and I will find a way to keep learning and growing.
The worst that can happen is that I may fail, I may get laughed at, I may struggle, I may face difficulty. But this too shall pass and better things will come.
That is all that is needed for us to feel confident.
Songs, books, and talks by cool people always help me fill myself with the energy I need to prime my confidence pump.
Here’s a song for you that is sure to give you a boost…
Confidence is a feeling. Feelings are things inside us. They are chemical reactions cause by our thoughts. You can change your thoughts and therefore change your feelings.
Do you have a favourite hack that works for you and boosts up your confidence engine?
Sending you lots of warmth and positivity and looking forward to hearing back from some of you. Thanks for reading my letter.
In friendship and with gratitude,