“Your overwhelm is showing.” I was juggling a lot of things, assuming greater responsibility, and feeling like I wasn’t measuring up so I saw the truth in this feedback when I got it. There were other comments, too, indicating that my insecurities and waning self-confidence were visible to others.
This hit me hard. At first I didn’t really understand it. Lack of confidence is not a way that I would have described myself. Believing in myself and seizing challenging opportunities had led me to many accomplishments in my life.
- Where does confidence come from?
- What role do others play in our self-confidence?
- What makes confidence expand and grow?
- What diminishes one’s self confidence?
My self-confidence has very deep roots: it started with the unconditional love of my parents from the time I was nothing more than an idea. Many others are the water and sunshine that enable my confidence to grow strong, most notably my husband, who has the clearest view, and always lifts me up to keep me soaring. Yet, here I was, in a place of self-doubt and uncertainty.
As I explored the questions, I realized how complex confidence is. It’s about who we are and deeply personal, and it’s about our interplay within a larger community – how we impact others and how they influence us. Someone who believes in you helps you open up to what you’re capable of. Likewise, if those around you doubt you or see mostly what goes wrong, your self-esteem can be negatively impacted. In the end, it is you and believing in yourself that matters. And, it is incredibly helpful to have a web of supporters who point you in the direction of your greatness. Initial questions led to more:
- What makes me feel confident?
- When am I confident?
- Why am I confident?
- What does confidence look like? for me? to others?
- What is possible when I am confident?
- What is the impact of my confidence or lack of it?
- What actions can I take to grow in my confidence?
I realized that I had been acting out of fear. I had succumbed to it by trying really hard to control things. I was behaving the way that I saw others around me behaving, or at least responding to my environment in the way I thought would make others happy. I was working non-stop as if 24X7@work were some kind of merit badge I had to have. I was going right back up to my desk after dinner to finish work instead of relaxing. Some days I didn’t even take the time to shower. I had not been to my yoga class in over a month. I was running only about once a week. My morning reflection time had completely disappeared. My journal hadn’t been opened in weeks. I was declining lunch dates with my girl friends. My volunteer work was completely off the radar.
I was not taking care of myself, and I had effectively removed all the things that support me in having clarity, feeling gratitude, gaining perspective – the very things I needed most at this challenging point in my career. I was definitely off track. Not only did I not feel confident, I was stressed and unhappy. I was out of alignment with what I believed is important. I’d lost integrity with myself.
One by one I have started to reclaim all the things I need to feel good about myself and to support me as I stretch into living my dreams. I am getting grounded again and seeing what I need to see:
- The root of believing in myself is CLARITY – to be confident requires understanding what I want to accomplish and create in the world.
- ACCEPTANCE is fundamental – to believe in myself I must not only understand but also appreciate who I am and what I am a stand for.
- INTENTION is the path forward – to set a clear path and make conscious choices about where I am going and why I am headed that way is important.
As I reflected back, I could pin point where fear had shown up. When the tape replayed in my mind, I could also see many courageous moments. A light came on! Ah, this confidence thing is not all or nothing. You can be confident about this and not so confident about that. I was reminded that I’m typically a little shaky when trying something new and stretching beyond my comfort zone. Mmm…this overwhelm, this uncertainty, this waning confidence…it means I’m growing. How wonderful!
* I took this photo at Playa San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico of this talented pup, who exudes confidence as he wanders around town and plays on the beach. On this particular morning, he decided to be my walking companion and delighted me with his frolicking and games.