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Reach Out and Touch Self-confidence

Updated May 6, 2022
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Reach Out and Touch Self-confidence essay

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So is it really possible to be self-confident without having confidence included as an inborn trait of one’s character? People often think of themselves and others in terms of character, which always seems to be something independent from us, something given and fixed.

Someone’s shy, someone else is self-confident; the former person can envy the latter, but they think they “can’t change their character anyway.” If you still think about yourself in terms of character, then you give yourself very little ability to change. It’s really hard to engage in changing something you consider very hard to change, or not prone to any change at all.

If you’re tempted by the thought of much higher confidence, it’s a great idea to quit thinking about yourself as of a collection of permanent character traits, and focus on certain behaviors instead.

In this approach, your “self-confidence” is a state accompanying a certain behavior and specific events or circumstances. Sometimes you have more of it, other times not so much, depending on the situation you’re in. With this approach, you’re not a person doomed to being uncertain and you can start pursuing the goal of broadening the range of circumstances in which you normally feel confident.

Just reflect a little bit on your life and think about yourself in the perspective of the last ten or fifteen years. You will see how your self-confidence has changed as time has passed. If you think about it long enough, you will find situations that caused feelings of uncertainty in you in the past, but that today are just everyday routine that you don’t even think about.

I remember how a long time ago, freshly after receiving my driver’s license, I used to feel a clenching in my stomach every time I realized I was about to drive a car alone. I remember all the mental maneuvers I used to perform just

to avoid the driving. In Europe, as opposed to the US, it takes many long months and often a few tries to pass the driving license exam; about 98% of cars (apart from those with big engines) have manual transmissions; often there are not traffic lights everywhere and the infrastructure can be extremely complicated in some places, especially in towns that were build a long time before people even started imagining cars.

Roads are often very narrow, especially in mountainous areas or cities with a plethora of tram lines along the main roads, so fresh, inexperienced drivers have to figure everything out on their own after they finally receive their driver’s license. I often felt the fear that the consequences of every single error I could make would be irreversible and I was afraid of taking responsibility for myself, my vehicle and other people on the streets.

Today, driving a car is a pleasure and something so trivial and banal I don’t give it a thought at all. I just start the engine and drive to my destination. This is one of the circumstances where my self-confidence has grown exponentially.

What was the rocket that boosted my self-confidence in this particular area high into the sky? Think about all the everyday things you do, about places you often visit and the people you know well.

Imagine you are walking around your house, down the familiar street in your neighborhood, when you’re alone or surrounded by people you know and like. See the confidence with which you act, how you tie your shoes, walk your dog, pour the water into the kettle or maybe talk with the vendor on the gas station. Most of these things you do unthinkingly, passively, almost automatically. You probably don’t think that what you then feel is the mythical “self-confidence,” because you’re not used to analyzing your

behavior in such situations. You are in your comfort zone.

Again, self-confidence is a signal that you’re “at home,” in a familiar space, or you’re doing something you are experienced in and that you can do well. You are in the safe zone. In the very moment you are leaving the zone, when you are taking a step into the unknown, that’s exactly when uncertainty appears. You don’t know what awaits you; you don’t know how your actions will end.

Years ago I was leaving my comfort zone when I was sitting in the driver’s seat and starting the engine. I was entering the unknown, even though I had spent many hours driving with the instructor beforehand. But still, the feeling of uncertainty was fully justified in this case. Uncertainty is completely appropriate when you’re inexperienced at something.

Confidence is assigned to those areas that are “yours,” the areas you know well or have mastered in a way. Leaving this comfort zone always triggers doubts, uncertainty and even fear. But the more often you do something, or go somewhere, the more experiences connected to this situation you gather, and the more familiar with it you become. The more you own this situation and this sphere, the more you become self-confident, and it has absolutely nothing to do with your character or inborn traits.

Now comes the hard part: the road to self-confidence leads through the experience of uncertainty and facing this uncertainty, again and again, until the uncertainty disappears completely. Either you are willing to accept this and get through some discomfort for a while, or you will remain stuck.

That’s what I did with my lack of self-confidence while driving—I would drive and drive and then drive even more, until one day I found it was as natural as walking or brushing my teeth. That’s exactly how I overcame my

fear of heights as well, to the level of being able to go parasailing or climb high structures with no protection. I started climbing small trees, then going higher and higher, until, after a few years, my fear of heights disappeared almost completely and stopped at the level of common sense and reason (or maybe slightly beyond it…).

The same goes for meeting strange people, making public appearances, going to the gym as a skinny guy, speaking and writing in English and all the other experiences for which the feeling of self-confidence wasn’t inborn in me.

Why do people fail in becoming more self-confident? After all, the recipe for self-confidence seems to be fairly easy—start in one area; explore, learn, exercise and experience until you feel confident in that area. Then reach for the next one. And the next one. And so on. The more areas of self-confidence you cover, the more confident a person you become. So now we come to an important question—if all of this is so simple, why do so many people still complain that they lack self-confidence and that they seem to be powerless to change that?

It happens for a number of reasons, but the most important is not accepting one’s uncertainty and expecting to somehow induce self-confidence solely by the effort of a strong will. But life simply isn’t that way, and in order to feel confident, you need to gather a whole bunch of experiences related to a certain area, which means that it’s necessary to leave the safe harbor and sail to deep waters, thus facing uncertainty.

If you demand self-confidence from yourself, then you focus on what you are feeling at that moment, which results in a tendency to make yourself feel guilty (because you’re not self-confident already), which in turn makes the whole thing much more difficult. Then the risk related to taking action on an unknown ground rises, because now, not only do you not know what the effect of your activity will be, but you are also paying too much attention to how you will feel, and not knowing if you will start feeling confident soon enough upsets you.

Then, apart from the uncertainty, you could also start feeling angry at yourself; you might start criticizing yourself, and thus start thinking that other people are or will soon be criticizing you as well. Now, your attention is not focused solely on the task at hand or your mission, but also on all your unnecessary or even detrimental thoughts and feelings. Your brainpower is being wasted on making a big problem out of a little problem. It is really difficult and discouraging to keep encountering the same situation again and again.

So the first step to self-confidence is, paradoxically, accepting your uncertainty!

You must see it as reasonable, strictly necessary and… transient.

When you’re entering unknown ground, trespassing in an area which is not yours, into unknown activities, it’s OBVIOUS and unavoidable that you will feel uncertain and doubtful. Instead of demanding from yourself that you start feeling confident right now, just continue taking action and pursuing your goal.

People so often give so much weight to the feelings accompanying new activities that they postpone action until they magically start feeling confident one day, which equals postponing action forever, because self-confidence is a result of taking action, not a prerequisite for it!

Reach Out and Touch Self-confidence essay

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Reach Out and Touch Self-confidence. (2022, May 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/reach-out-and-touch-self-confidence/

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