There’s a big myth that’s perpetuated in the world of self-help, and it goes like this: confidence is something we create – and we create it by taking action and up-grading our mindset. The myth insists that the more you speak out, express yourself, lose weight, feel the fear and do it anyway, and manage your mind, the more you will become confident.
In all fairness, there’s a lot to be said for this formula. I love looking back on all my accomplishments and noticing how I have taken action in spite of my shyness, self-doubt, and fear. And I love it when I can slip into a badass mindset. It’s like updating my confidence resume. It does feel empowering - but only for a while.
But to proclaim that this is the panacea just doesn’t cut it. Why? Because I meet a lot of highly skilled, smart, erudite, action-oriented, and beautiful, badass people who still can’t shake off the pain of insecurity – who are still drowning in self-doubt. Academia is full of smart people who are secretly identifying with imposter syndrome. Clearly, something isn’t working.
So let’s just face the truth – let’s look at the evidence and see what’s really going on. No matter how skilled or expert you become at something, no matter how much you buff your body, work at changing your mindset, and no matter how many advanced degree certificates you’ve got hanging on the wall, you won’t necessarily feel confident. Competence does not translate into confidence.
Another big myth that needs busting is that the feeling of confidence only comes when we succeed at something – when we get the degree, or we lose the weight, or when we give a great speech. So, let’s clear this one up too.
You can lose the game, fail the exam, screw up in public, get fired from your job, stumble over your words, have the biggest pimple on your chin, feel embarrassed when you notice your fly is undone, AND, you can still feel confident. I can recall many incidents when I’d say something stupid, and even though my friends laughed at me, I was still able to laugh at myself and feel comfortable in my own skin.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel insecure, and yet as severe and debilitating as my insecurity was, there were also moments when I did feel confident. I’d have no problem sharing my ideas for a term paper with a fellow graduate student, but I would always clam up when talking to my professor. One moment I’m full of confidence, and the next moment it’s gone. How do we explain that?
So, what is the secret behind one of the most important traits in life? Why does confidence seem second nature to some and elusive and slippery to others?
The explanation I’m going to offer you is one I’ve been reticent to talk about in the past – in fact, I’ve gone out of my way to hide it for fear of being seen as a religious fanatic (which I am not), unscientific, irrational, or just too out there.
But I’ve concluded that if we humans want to experience our full potential – if we want to become a bigger and more powerful version of ourselves, and thereby benefit the whole of humanity – if we want to feel the freedom to be ourselves – and if we’re worried about wasting our precious lives, then it’s about time I do my part to gently disrupt the illusion of who we think we are. Now if the idea of becoming a bigger and powerful version of yourself intimidates you – if it all sounds a bit too lofty, then think of it as you finding out how to have a lovely life.
The secret to why we’re still mystified by confidence can all be explained and blamed on a BELIEF. It is a big, major belief that blocks and separates us from feeling our natural confidence – something we all possess. And if you can get this (at least, intellectually for now), it will transform your understanding of insecurity and confidence once and for all.
The big belief we are all hooked into is that this body we see in the mirror every day, this personality and mind that that we’ve come to identify with so strongly, is the totality of who we are.
Yep, we are all walking around with a made-up story of who we think we are. And the details of our story include our place of birth, parents, family, gender, occupation, star sign, education, and the day-to-day conditions of our life. And it is our strong identification with our story that determines, limits, and dictates how our life plays out. It is one very compelling and influential story.
Have you noticed that the common thread that runs through our story – our life – is that it is always changing? I certainly don’t look the same as I did when I was a teenager – and you can bet that I’m going to look different twenty years from now. And my beliefs, values, preferences, and habits have also clearly changed over the years – especially my preferences in men!
But what I’ve also noticed is that with all of the experiences I’ve lived through there has been an AWARENESS of the comings and goings of those experiences – and that awareness has been a constant - which is why I can look at photographs of myself at various ages and see how my hairstyle, weight, and habits have changed, but I still feel like there’s a ME that has been a constant traveling companion.
It’s a version of me that never changes – and despite all that I’ve been through – the heartbreaks, the sadness, happiness, insecurity, humiliation, the hairstyles - there’s a ME that survived it all. There’s a ME that could never be broken or destroyed. It’s still there.
What I’m referring to – and the thing I’ve resisted talking about – is that inside all of us is a soul – some of us call it Spirit, Atma, Source, or Essence. It is that invisible part of us that travels with our physical body and our psychology, but it never changes or dies.
I’ve always believed that my body is a vehicle for my soul - my conscience, guide – a kind of moral compass as I travel through life. But I never really understood its role fully or the impact it has in my life until recently. And like many of you, I compartmentalized it – and shy-ed away from unleashing or even talking about it for fear it may affront others.
But I feel as if we are in a different time now where people are less threatened and more open-minded because concepts and practices like meditation, intuition, mindfulness and inner wisdom are no longer viewed as laughable and irrational but invisible forces that can up-level our lives. People are hungry to know and experience more for their one shot at life.
I’ve come to see that this invisible part of us has incredible powers that we can learn to harness because when we bring our awakened true self to our everyday pursuits and goals – when we marry the sacred with the profane – when we unite, what I now call, the little self with the big self, that’s when the magic happens in our life.
So, how does - knowing who we really are - help us feel more confident? Why is this such a game-changer?
Knowing who you really are stabilizes, balances, and grounds you. It creates a strong core foundation that carries you so that you won’t sink into the swamp of insecurity and self-doubt when they show up in your life. You’ll remember that your big self doesn’t feel insecure and can't be affected by it - and that it has your back.
You also realize where your resources and potential for confidence (or for anything) are actually coming from – that confidence is our default setting - and that you don’t have to depend on externals to build YOU up.
And you begin to finally see through the illusion of why there has never been any true stability or sustainability when we live our lives from our made-up story – you’ll finally get it why all those self-help techniques and strategies to build your confidence – the outside-in approach - never seemed to get to the bottom of your problem.
This is a BIG conversation and one that clearly threatens our ego. This is not about diminishing, dishonoring, or making light of the life we have created or your identity – albeit a made-up life! In fact, it is the opposite.
More than likely, you’re not going to immediately see through the illusion. For now, an intellectual understanding of these concepts is just fine. But keep practicing AWARENESS of when you are feeling insecure. Remind yourself that it’s just your small self. Keep seeing through the illusion. Keep coming home to your big self.
We have innocently short-changed ourselves by excluding our big self in our ordinary daily practices – it’s as if we’ve been driving our vehicle in second gear unaware that we have five gears. We’ve been depending on our body and brain to the exclusion of our spirit. Conversely, there are some of us who focus solely on being contemplative and spiritual and never take action. Neither of these is optimal.
Our best and most productive life comes when we employ our big self with our little self – when we unite the inner with the outer. See if you can lay down the idea that you are a fixed personality and that you were anointed with insecurity at birth. Try to see it as all made-up.
We are bodies and we are energy. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
We are full of dreams and deep longings. And, we all have superpowers waiting to be unlocked. This is the key to unlock them.