Why I’m Giving Up On Self-Confidence

5 years ago

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett


Like many women, I suppose, I’ve always wanted to be more confident. And not just more confident, but more capable, more self-assured, more certain that I was always doing the right thing at the right time the right way for the right reasons. I wanted to be a black Jodie Foster – that woman seems like she can handle *anything*.

Over the years, I’ve read countless books, gone to workshops, joined clubs, practiced public speaking, meditated, visualized, etc. – all with the hope of increasing my confidence. My skills have improved over time, and it may even seem to other people that I’ve achieved this confidence I seek, but I haven’t. Not by a long shot. I still get butterflies in my stomach whenever I have a presentation or a performance or a meeting with a new client. I must admit that I’ve held out hope that one day, I’m going to  wake up and Be Confident™, as if it’s an arrival point, a destination that - once achieved - will never again need to be conquered.

And yet, after having written that statement, it’s clear to me that it’s a ludicrous position. I’m *never* going to feel that way! I’m never going to feel as if I can handle any situation without nervousness or fear. No matter how confident I might feel in the moment, another moment will soon follow in a different situation where it all goes out the window, and I either need to start over or try something other method to gain the same level of confidence.

It’s time to give up on the idea that confidence is a permanent achievement. The process of trying only frustrates me, and then I get on my own case for not visualizing/reading/meditating enough on the subject – evidently there’s some magical element that I’m missing that more research and meditation will reveal. I cannot make myself more confident, so I’m giving up on that approach.

Into that lack, I’m going to install this new idea: just show up and do the work. To be a more confident speaker, stand there, suck down the butterflies and open my mouth. To be a more confident networker, smile warmly, put out my hand first and say hello, and try not to stutter. Prepare as much as I can beforehand so I’m at least partially armed, but just do the thing – whatever it is. What I can’t gain by affirmation, I can at least improve by putting in the hours needed to build the skill.

Now, I’m not giving up on affirmations or goals. In fact, that’s part of doing the work. A lack of goals is a lack of vision into my own future, and that’s an equally preposterous idea.  How can I move forward if I don’t know which way that is? Instead, I’m letting go of the belief that I will someday “arrive” at self-confidence – that I will be permanently confident, as if it is a skill that can be completely mastered for every situation.

Just show up, and do the work. The thing that scares me? Try it, and forgive myself if and when I fail. Then, try it again, and fail better

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