Here’s my definition of true self-confidence. I’m so over the days of being in a classroom and each of us painting our own “version” of what the teacher wants us to paint. We are told that this kind of imitation – producing something that looks “as good as” what we are told is a “masterpiece” – is what we should be striving for. That we should practice for mastery as it is defined by the experts.
I’m interested in the kind of self-confidence that comes from facing the blank page, the open space, the silence, the void. Where there is no map. Only your body, your breath, your instincts, and your wild-eyed awareness. Only by choosing to “go there” – to show up in territory that is uncharted for you – can you experience what I’m talking about here.
For me, it requires venturing outside my zones of mastery and wondering what it’s like to be a novice. I never sang, so I explored what my voice could do with sound. I never painted, so I played with brushes and paper and colors. I bring back the lessons of these experiences to the areas of my life where I may be stagnating in my attachment to being “good at it”.
When was the last time you stood at the edge of your comfort zone, and faced the open space?
When was the last time you took a step into that open space, truly not knowing where it would lead?
Each time you give yourself this kind of opportunity, you discover your relationship with fear, and you have the chance to see and accept yourself as you are.
I used to be good at making money. I learned all my business skills from venture capitalists, the masters of making as much as possible from as little as possible. Money, that is. But even with a pile of money coming in, and plenty in the bank, I was distant and disconnected from its source. I felt no direct relationship with my presence and the money coming in.
Now I’m exploring a new relationship with money. One that is not so distant or quick. One that asks me to pause, reflect, and give or receive from a place of whole SoulBodyMind participation. With this full participation, I am discovering a new way to define value that is not about what we’re told, but about what feels right, and what sustains and supports life. It goes beyond the transaction, but it begins before the transaction. It infuses money with intention, value, and energy that aligns with the exchange occurring between individuals.
I’m taking a hula dancing class – another novice territory for me. I get to notice that the military precision and emphasis on “getting it right” no longer motivate me. I observe, and patiently wait for the music to start so my eyes can close and I can start to listen inwardly to the grace and fluidity within me. I am not there to perform or perfect any outer forms. I am there to touch the soft and lilting place within me. I can enjoy myself whether I am “doing it right” or not.
True self-confidence. We are told it comes from practice, practice, practice. But it really does matter what you are practicing and how you are as you are practicing. Knowing the what and how you are require awareness and attention.
Do you gain true self-confidence by following instructions and repeating them over and over again, making sure you’re doing it right by matching the people around you or getting the teacher’s approval?
Or are you simply gaining more practice in following, trusting others before yourself, and living in avoidance of the dreaded feeling of “doing it wrong” or “sticking out” from the others?
Believing that this builds confidence is a bit like a caterpillar believing it could acquire the grace and confidence of a butterfly if only it put on a pair of colorful wings and took flying lessons.
But the real way that a caterpillar acquires butterfly qualities – which are part of the caterpillar's natural potential – is to make the courageous decision to begin weaving a cocoon. Once it completes this weaving, the caterpillar has created a container for itself where the world it once knew completely dissolves. The processes that occur inside the cocoon are natural, and they unfold according to the laws of the caterpillar’s own nature, which is to transform completely into the form of a butterfly, with the potential to fly and spread beauty.
What I mean by true self-confidence is a sense of trust in the desires of your true nature and your ability to find expression for them in your life. To show up and create experiences for yourself and others that reflect the uniqueness of what only you can offer.
If you feel like you’re standing over here and true self-confidence is somewhere “over there”, maybe you just need to know what to start practicing.
1. Listen. What is your heart’s truth? What is your true nature wanting you to hear? Listen for it. You may have to get very still and very quiet in order to hear its sound. Do it. It is worth it.
2. Decide. What decision do you have to make in order to create the space – weave the cocoon – for the expression of your true nature to take form? You may have to say goodbye to one way of life, and hold only in your imagination the possibility of another. But the decision to create space is necessary to start the process in motion.
3. Explore. Begin practicing the experience of being in expression of your true nature. Explore visual art, movement, sound, voice, and music, contemplative practices, writing, and other adventures that allow you to let go of your thinking mind’s conditioning. Connect with imagination, play, elements of the natural world, and wordless forms of expression.
4. Observe. Along the way, you will encounter all the fears and doubts and obstacles that have ever stood in the way of your true self-confidence. Know that this is all happening as a gift for you. Resist none of it. Indulge in none of it. Observe with precision and gently come back to your heart’s truth, your vision, the feeling of expressing your true nature in the world you are actively creating.
5. Repeat. With each expression of your vision that you experience fully, you will give rise to more visions. More decisions to create space. More opportunities to observe and come back. With more practice, the repetition becomes more familiar, more of a way of approaching your life in any given situation.
With this kind of practice – Listen, Decide, Explore, Observe, Repeat – your muscles of true self-confidence will be getting worked consistently and repetitively, with specific feedback you observe in your own experience.
Steps 1, 2, and 5 are up to you. Once you can envision these steps, it may be easier to accept yourself where you are, and begin moving through it. A coach can help to illuminate the process and help you see where you are right now. You can begin step 3 with your own sense of adventure, exploration, and imagination. Sometimes it helps to have the inspiration of other people’s stories, or a group in which to explore with companionship and support.
Step 4 is where a coach like me can be very helpful. The fears and doubts are often lifelong, deeply held habits of thinking that have not been questioned in many years. They may be the foundation of your identity, and without a gentle but firm and nonjudgmental atmosphere, the ego will put up a fight to its own death to preserve these beliefs.
Once you are familiar with your own responses to fear and doubt, and learn some simple methods to work with yourself in releasing these beliefs, you become your own best coach. You are limited only by your willingness to imagine more, and your curiosity to know the depth and expansiveness of what you can create from your own true self-confidence.