There are people out there having a tonne of fun.. because they are confident. This is how to get it.
Do you ever feel like you don’t really know what’s going on?
Do you feel like you do a decent job of pretending that you’ve got a good handle on things, when really you’re just fudging it, hoping nobody catches you out?
Do you wish you could hit the notes of your life with more confidence – with more certainty that the choices you are making are the right choices for the right moment?
You’re not alone.
In fact, if you feel like this isn’t speaking to you, my guess is that you are in a vanishing minority.
Nobody knows what the hell is going on.
Even me. I mean, sure, I bring a certain bluster and bravado to everything I do. I hit the notes of my life with everything I’ve got.
But I’m not doing it because I know what I’m doing. My confidence comes from the fact that I believe that I’ll be all right no matter what happens. No matter how wrong I get it – If I launch into an in apporpriate timpani drum solo just as the rest of the orchestra goes into a quiet and sensitive phase, it’ll be ok.
It will be ridiculous, but, I won’t care. It will be just one of those moments where Jon is off beating his own drum, beating himself off over in the corner again. We’ll all be laughing about it soon enough.
(Having an ability to laugh at yourself is a key source of resilience.)
But then what did they expect anyway? I can’t see the conductor from all the way back here.
Can you see the conductor? I thought you did a pretty good job on your obo solo, but is there someone in formal tails giving you your cues?
No, of course not. There is no conductor. No one is waving a little white stick around telling us what to do, so we’re all just improvising the best we can.
Ohh… favourite image of the week.
(Maybe that’s why I’m going on about an orchestra. I actually hate classical music.)
Anyway, nobody knows what they’re doing. It’s all a bit jazz in here tonight.
But this isn’t the point I wanted to make. I wanted to talk about confidence.
We normally talk about confidence like it’s situational.
He’s a confident public speaker. She’s a confident networker. They’re more confident on their forehand than their backhand.
That is, confidence applies to particular fields of expertise.
But there is a broader confidence as well – there is a confidence that seeps into everything we do.
Maybe it’s the confidence of life. Are you a confident artiste in the theatre of life? Are you confident in your being?
Are you doing a good job of being you?
My theory is that most of us aren’t that confident that we’re doing a good job of being us… but the ones that are… they’re killing it. They’re having a grand old time of it.
Maybe they don’t have all the visible trappings of success. They might not be the richest or the most powerful among us.
But I reckon they’re having the most fun.
They’re hitting life the way that you would hit a year 2 spelling test.
“Oh yeah. I got this. Cat? C-A-T. Dog? D-O-G. Boom! Killing it.”
(That’s how I used to approach my year two spelling tests. Right up until I was 14.)
Because with confidence comes a certain level of relaxation.
When you are confident, you are safely within your power, just steadily applying yourself to the task.
When you lack confidence, you’re on edge. A certain level of anxiety creeps into your game. You become a bit stressed.
It stops being fun.
My theory is that nearly all of us have some of this life-level anxiety creeping into our beings to one degree or another.
We are not as confident as we could be, and so we are not as relaxed as we could be, or having as much fun as we could be having.
But I’m not going to settle for that. I want to be having as much fun as possible before they stuff me in a little box and call me worm-food.
And you’re not going to settle for it either, right?
So the question then is, how do we get that kind of confidence? How do we purge that anxiety from our system, and live deeply in our power, exuding relaxation and confidence?
I’m glad you asked. I’ve got three suggestions:
1. You were set up to fail
The first point I would make is that you were set up to fail. The odds are stacked against you.
Being a human in this day and age is an incredibly strange thing. If you go back to pre-civilised tribal times, which is the great majority of our history, it was probably much simpler.
First, your culture would have given you strong guidance – when it’s this time of year, harvest these berries. When this flower is out, hunt wildebeest in this area. When a woman’s husband dies, his nephew has to look after her or pay a three cow penalty.
Your culture would have given you confidence. When you were in alignment with your lore, you could be confident that you were doing the right thing.
Secondly, the tight weave of tribal society would have given you confidence as well. You would have known that if anything went wrong, there was an extended family and social network that had your back.
And everything you needed in life would have either come from the ever-generous land, or come from someone who you had a tight social relationship with. If you needed some beads, you’d be like ‘Hey, I know a guy.’
We didn’t have economic relationships. We had social relationships with an economic dimension.
I’m romanticising this for sure. There would also have been a good chance you got TB or got speared in the back of the neck, but my point is that many of the things that we would have traditionally drawn confidence from are no longer available to us.
Our culture is still in a state of reconstruction, as the overly-rigid Victorian rules continue to be torn down. Have you watched music videos lately? It really feels like anything goes these days.
The demolition works continue.
And that’s a good thing. Personally I’m happy to live in a world where a women’s ankles are not considered indecent, but without anything to take the old value system’s place, we live in a cultural vacuum.
And if anything goes, how do you know that you’re living the right way? Where do you draw confidence from?
Likewise with the tight social relationships that we no longer have. We have broader, but looser social connections these days. I mean, I have over 2,000 facebook friends. That’s more people than many of my ancestors would ever have even laid eyes on. But how many of my so-called “friends” could I rely on to help me out if I got bitten by a sabre tooth tiger?
What, like 12? Maybe?
And our economic system now puts distance between us as well. I used to know the guy that makes beads. Now it’s some faceless company in China. My material needs are no longer met by my social network. Instead I have to rely on having enough money to get what I need, and the global economy not coming to pieces.
That’s all out of my hands.
So the point is, your biology was calibrated for different times. And many of the things that used to help us find our place in the world – that helped plant our feet on solid ground – our culture, our social network, our economy – these things have been taken away from us.
So of course we have this base-level anxiety creeping into our lives. Of course we’re not as confident as we could be.
The first step is recognising the challenge, and understanding that it’s completely natural to feel a little uncertain in times like these.
You can feel relaxed about it.
2. Accentuate the Positive
The second tip I have is to make sure you have things in proper perspective.
Confidence comes from experience. The more successful deals you pull off, the more confident you become.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at recognising the victories that we do have.
Our biology is primed to focus on the negatives. Our social media is primed to make us feel like we’re falling behind. Our media system is primed to make it feel like we’re not even in the running – nothing but an insignificant spectator to the Brangelina spectacle.
So our confidence is based on a faulty evidence sample. It is heavily biased to our failings.
But if we can tackle this bias – if we can make sure we’re celebrating our daily successes – I mean, sometimes just getting out of freaking bed is a massive victory.
So celebrate your victories and change the story you are telling your self. You are not falling behind. You are kicking goals off every boot and doing a fantastic job of being human.
Look at you go.
3. Laugh at yourself
As I flagged earlier, if you can laugh at yourself – if you can happily fail – then things become a lot easier.
The anxiety we’re talking about is tied to a fear of failure. So while you can reinforce the narrative that you are a person who tends to succeed with one hand, you can also attack the fear of failure directly with the other.
There’s probably a few strategies on that front. Maybe I’ll write about it one day. But at the end of the day you have to make peace with projects failing and looking like an idiot.
If there’s one resiliency tip I could offer its to become ok with being the fool.
Be ok with seeing yourself as a strange comedy skit. Those weird things you do, the inappropriate things you say in social gatherings, your quirky hopes and aspirations.
It’s kind of funny, right? … when you look at it.
But if you can each failure as just another slap-stick gag in the RomCom of your life, failure loses its sting.
… and we stop making an inroad for anxiety.
So these are my three tips. Recognise that you’re starting from behind the 8-ball. That’s ok. Then make sure your perspective is balanced and you are properly celebrating your victories.
And then, be ok with being the fool and learn to laugh at yourself.
From here, we open the way into an unflappable life confidence.
And everything just becomes a whole lot more fun.