Most people say, “When I feel more confident, then I’ll…” But confidence is not the starting point. Confidence is the result of experience. When you take action, plowing through the resistance, anxiety and fear of what lies ahead, that is how you build your confidence and your self-esteem.
Every one of us has experienced resistance around doing something for the first time; continuing to do something that is personally challenging; failure and the vulnerability it brings; and making decisions that will affect others (our children, spouses and parents come to mind).
It feels risky to do these things. I know as much as anyone about wanting to control the outcomes, the fear of failure and of looking bad, and that’s where inertia can set in. Are you ready for a story?
When my children were seven and three, I went back to work part-time for a recruiter (an IT recruiter, no less). It began with general office work and data entry. After a couple of years I was ready to move on and gave two weeks notice. The very next day my husband told me that he was going to leave his job (which was often intolerable), which would likely mean a reduction in salary at his next position. Panic set in. I went back to my boss, asked for my job back, and if he would train me to be a recruiter. He said yes.
At this point you may be cheering for me. What an opportunity! Not exactly. I was a little excited and a LOT scared. This job challenged everything about me, and triggered every self-doubt and fear I had. Those of you who enjoy sales and the art of the deal probably have no idea what I’m talking about.
Talking to people you don’t know is one thing. Talking to them about something you don’t understand is another. (I’d have been a lot more comfortable recruiting child care providers.) Talking to managers was yet another. Then there were the openings that disappeared, and the candidates who didn’t show up or bombed at the interviews. And, of course, there were managers and HR people who wouldn’t talk to me at all, or did and said no right away. There was nothing predictable about the job, other than knowing I’d be on that damned phone every day.
“All I knew was that I didn’t have confidence.”
You should have seen me at my desk, staring at the phone. I mean staring at it, practically willing it to dial itself. Did I buy into the idea that confidence is the result of experience? No way. All I knew was that I didn’t have confidence. I was scared, every day, and at every phone call.
Fast forward four years. No, I was not wildly successful. There were some successes, and I definitely earned more than I did as an hourly office worker. But if we’d needed my salary to pay all the bills and put food on the table, we’d have had to sell the house and eat spaghetti every night. (Footnotes to this story: my husband did not leave his job, and I left for a new challenge, to become a teacher. I could write a book about that one.)
Did I feel confident after those four years? Not exactly. What I do know is that showing up, day after day, phone call after phone call, proved to me that I had courage and was persistent; that I did make a difference in a few people’s lives; that I learned about an industry I would otherwise never have explored; that I felt the fear and did it anyway; that I was narrowing down what kind of work was or wasn’t meaningful to me; and that I learned so much about myself. Maybe that is the beginning of self-confidence.
Confidence in anything (including parenting) doesn’t come from reading books and listening to speakers. It doesn’t come from moaning and groaning about how difficult things are and continuing to do the same things.
Confidence comes in the doing. Try something new, and do it more than once. Act, reflect, modify and do it again. Confidence comes from making the attempt, whether you win or lose. Not taking action creates negativity and hopelessness, stuck in a rut-ness.
When you don’t act, you stay stuck, never knowing what you are capable of. (Does this sound like your child?) Taking action generates energy and creative thinking. It creates possibilities and opportunities.
I know this is true. I am now in my 60+ and feel as if I am just getting started. All my life experiences, from the wonderful to the downright awful, led me to my vision and mission. Do I feel confident 100% of the time? No, and that’s okay, because I keep moving in the direction of leading as many families as possible to hope, strength, and transformation, one family at a time. I have found purpose and meaning, and it’s the result of all of my experiences.
Confidence is not a destination, it’s a journey. Create as many experiences as possible on your journey, because confidence is the result of experience.