Confidence… It’s a magical thing. One little word and it’s meaning can make the major difference between failure & success. How is that possible and why?
The power of the mind is an incredible thing. I’ve talked about it before, read more on that here. Confidence is the key that can make or break you–if you allow it.
Let’s start with the basic definition of CONFIDENCE: NOUN, full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in the ability to succeed.
Belief in the powers… I like that. It’s like a little clue from Dictionary.com.
Confidence is a noun and a noun in this case is something tangible, unlike most adverbs or adjectives. You can’t see enormously or touch eager, but you can grasp confidence.
Now that we had a boring refresher on the basics of WHAT confidence is, let me translate it into what it really means–to us. Confidence is walking into a room full of people and not batting an eyelash when all eyes are suddenly upon you. Confidence is standing your ground when you know you’re right even if not a single person agrees (the cat doesn’t count). Confidence is standing up for what you believe in and not backing down. Confidence is doing the right thing when no one else will. Confidence is knowing that there isn’t one thing you have to prove to anyone (except the cat – and always the cat).
The list goes on and on and on, like–umm–my posts. 😉 So let’s cut to the chase as they say and define what’s on most peoples mind: Confidence is faith in yourself, your abilities & all the combined life-experiences that make up the person you see in the mirror. Such a simple matter with tremendous opportunities, yet not everyone is able to embrace it.
I fear that that question is based on each of our own individual life journeys and even one of my lengthy blog-posts couldn’t cover them all before my fingers fell off, which is why the word why, above this paragraph, has a line through it. The Whys don’t matter. That’s for your psychologist to discover<–don’t get me wrong: everyone could use some therapy. I just think my end result is a lot cheaper (cost of a click)…
…grab a cuppa time.
It was the summer before 9th grade when boys become men! I was twelve-going-on-thirteen and the confidence from my spectacular seven-year-old, season-winning, HOME RUN had long since worn off and I became extremely aware & self-conscious of my obesity.
I wasn’t Jabba-the-Hut, but I was far from Skinny-Minnie Skywalker! If I had to guess…I was probably the 2nd largest kid in my class, easily. (Did you really think I’d give poundage details?) Okay, to be fair, I was a men’s pants size 46. Now I’m going to go hide somewhere while you finish reading.
I probably wouldn’t have cared so much, being el Lardo & all, except (thanks hormones) for that hunka-handsome boy I had my eyes on in 8th grade homeroom. He was two years older (young, dumb & hung) and evoked feelings in me I’d rather not mention. The mere thought that I was too fat for him obliterated my heart to pieces and brought me to tears (don’t forget: hormones+pre-teen=emotional nightmare.) But…
I had a plan… (Nothing’s accomplished without a plan & call to action.)
The plan consisted of consuming nothing but Iced Tea w/lemon (no sugar) and diet pills. I never said it was a good plan…but it worked. My poor Mom, may she rest in peace, was so worried. Never before had I done something like this. A typical breakfast she’d prepare for me consisted of 4 grilled cheese sandwiches (yup, count ’em, 4) and chocolate milk<–2 Large Glasses, btw.
Before you judge her (and yes, I guess it was her fault to an extent) but in her defense I was a very–how shall I put it–persistent child. She’s probably churning in her urn over that one…but, yes, I can be very persuasive. “Mommy! Just one more cheesy-grilled-cheesy-pleasy! Pleasy?”
Okay, maybe I was a little more annoying than persuasive. I don’t have children, nor will I ever thank you very much, but I’m gathering all the parents reading this can relate all-too well.
So, I went from a loaf of bread and a block of cheese to Iced Tea, Just Lemon! She was beside herself, but I forged on. That entire summer – I REPEAT – that entire summer before the 9th grade, not one morsel of food passed through my lips. Just Iced Tea, water and Appedrine. (The diet pill that contained the killer phenylpropanolamine aka/PPA.) Don’t bother looking for it–the times? They have-a changed & it’s long gone from the market, thankfully.
The plan was working! I was losing pounds faster than our presidential candidate’s respect. The pills were phenomenal! They curbed my hunger, rev’d me up with speed & rounded me off with the added vitamins they contained. Healthy, right? Ask me a question that summer and see if I didn’t bite your head off. I wasn’t hungry, but I was mean!
Oh-boy, the pills worked…but I won’t begin to imagine the damaging effects on my nervous system alone.
When the summer was over, I had lost over 100lbs! I was down to a size 31 in men’s pants and I was 6 foot tall, even then!
But the funny thing was – when I looked into the mirror, I still saw that fat 12-y/o-going-on-13 y/o boy. Not for many years later did I learn that it was an actual sickness called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Many people may have it in varying degrees and could live life completely unaware. This disorder is where a person is unnaturally obsessed with their flaws and in my case: my weight. Regardless of whether the flaw is fixed or not, people with BBD will not accept it. The world could tell me I was skinny & I still wouldn’t believe it. I struggle with this even today.
First day of the 9th grade…I was sitting in homeroom as the teacher was calling roll call. People kept sneaking glances at me here and there, but the looks were different, strange. I thought nothing of it because in my mind I still needed to lose a lot more weight. I just chalked it up to Chubby-Gawking.
Then the teacher said, “Dean Kutzler.”
“Here,” I replied.
I can still see the look on Diane Hamilton’s face as she turned to look at me. You’d have thought she sat on a tack and I was the one to place it there.
“Oh my God! Dean, is that you?”
I nodded my head.
“I thought you were a new student! Wow! You look great!”
Then I noticed that the rest of the class was staring at me. I’d lost so much weight that I looked like a completely different person! A new student! I was thrilled, even though I still thought I needed to lose weight. I was a bean-pole!
There was no way Mr. Hunka-Hunka wouldn’t want me now!
But, Mr. Hunka-Hunka and I didn’t last very long even though everyone told me I was a bean-pole. I do have some tantalizing stories about he & I that will forever remain secreted away in my head & the walls of my childhood garage…but he was only going through that “curious” phase most early teens go through.
I, on the other hand, was not in a phase…
So, thankfully, I remained thin enough throughout high school, but I learned a few valuable lessons. Lessons that none of the teachers taught. I learned that NO ONE’S assessment of me meant a goddamned thing-other than my own. I also learned that my confidence level did not come from my appearance OR my assessment of my appearance.
Sound like a conundrum? It is… Think teen, hormones, BDD.
I discovered that whether a person is skinny/fat, ugly/beautiful or any other Yin/Yang version of possibilities that that person is still just a person, human, just like me. They eat, breathe, think, just like me. Can they be better at things like, say, ballet, than I can? Certainly… How boring would this world be if everyone was the same?
And therein lies the secret…
All our lives, we’ve been taught that we need to be the best at everything and this is good advice. But somewhere along the line things got blurry. Competitiveness jumped right over Confidence. And competitiveness can be downright ruthless, good thing, too. It has its own driving force & useful merits. But it can be off-putting. Not all people can see the lines between healthy, friendly competition & (for lack of a better word) war, so clearly. Then competitiveness becomes wanting someone to fail and who wants to compete against that?
But I’m moving too far back into the realm of why, but it was necessary to understand a very big why for many for example’s sake, before I move onto how to get your confidence back and maintain it.
Confidence lies within all of us and has nothing to do with the actuality of abilities. Confidence is the tool we can harness to better those abilities. What needs to happen is a retraining of your brain. Like Rome, that wasn’t built in a day either & neither did you lose your confidence in one shot. So patience and persistence are key, here, to rebuilding your confidence. Below, I’ll outline what I think are a few important ways in which this can happen.
STOP NEGATIVE THOUGHTS: 1st & Formost, cease the endless babble in your head that is always telling you that you cannot do something. Nothing deflates confidence more than not believing in yourself. Sometimes, it’s as simple as telling yourself; I CAN.
STOP COMPARISONS: We are all unique individuals with our own sets of pros & cons. It is like comparing apples to oranges. By comparing yourself to someone you are setting up unrealistic expectations. Picture me in a tu-tu. Focus on being the best that you can be & stop worrying if you measure up to anyone else (but the cat.)
TAKE RISKS: Make a list of the things that rattle your nerves like speaking in public, walking in front of a crowd of people, etc. and then practice them. Prepare before hand so you aren’t scrambling around, trying to think. Lay it all out first, practice alone. Then do the actual thing & push through the fright until you realize that everyone around you is just human like you. Tell yourself in the moment, I can do this…ask yourself, would I rather succeed or falter? (Not fail…no such thing, right?)
DIET & EXERCISE: This dynamic duo seem to be the key to everything… Can we ever get away from them? All kidding aside, there is more data on the effectiveness of diet & exercise than I care to research. We all know the proven benefits. Give the ole D&E a whirl, even if it’s a small thing like cutting back on fat and walking during your lunch break. You’d be surprised what that can accomplish in a month’s time. Another commonality that keeps popping up is time… Go easy on yourself, give it a chance to work.
SPEAK SLOWLY: This was a shocker for me…and I definitely need practice, although being a New Yorker it will be difficult. But this simple thing may just be your key to gaining confidence. When people talk fast they tend to sound rushed, as if what they’re saying isn’t worth anyone’s listening time and they’re trying to get it all out before the person stops listening. I’ve seen this while I’m talking. Don’t blame the person not listening, we all do it whether we realize it or not. It’s human nature & that’s all we are: human. Speak slowly & deliberately. I. Don’t. Mean. Like. A. Robot. Just slow it down & observe the person you’re speaking too. They look at you as a person in authority. Ever listen to the president speak? Regardless of your opinion, the president commands your attention. He doesn’t sound like Rosie Perez after a pot of Puerto Rican coffee. Damn that stuff is delicious.
SET SMALL GOALS & ACHIEVE THEM: Completing small, attainable goals is a great way to boost your confidence. Remember how proud you were when your mother taped your kindergarten picture on the refrigerator? It was a small thing, but how important did it make you feel? Like that million bucks, right?
STOP PITYING YOURSELF: There’s that negative inner voice again. Don’t think you do it? Think again. Most of us were coddled too much as babies. It isn’t our fault that we learned this. Stop whining about what you can’t do, don’t have, will never be – it’s painful for me to even write it! This will break your confidence in half & toss it out the window, whether you realize it or not. Instead, tell yourself all the ways in which you’re lucky: roof over your head, food in your belly, etc.
SMILING: I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again. A happy face is a confident face. There is proven-literature out there about how, smiling whether you’re happy or not, will result in an improved mood. Smile! Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
EMPOWER BY KNOWLEDGE: I touched upon this already, but let me stress it. Arm yourself with knowledge about what ever it is you need confidence in, like public speaking, etc. Have that speech ironed out. Know what you’re speaking about inside/out. Ever notice those little Geek Squad people? They confidently go on & on about the products because they know them inside/out. Now think about how you reacted to them. You stood there, rapt in their speech, right? You listened to every word, right? Is your reaction the same when you come across one that you can tell doesn’t really know what he’s talking about?
CHANGE YOUR BODY LANGUAGE & IMAGE: I saved this one for last because it goes against what I’m saying about being confident in your own skin and I’m a firm believer in being proud of who you are, but there is no denying the feeling you get walking out of the house, crisp & sharp (so fresh & so clean), knowing you look like that million bucks…so, embrace it. It can only help, as long as you remember that what’s on the inside is far more important than the outside.
Embrace the beautiful uniqueness that can only be you, because that individuality is part of what makes this world a wonderful & exciting place to live in. Remember that your uniqueness is not better/worse than anyone else’s because they aren’t things to be compared. They’re to be celebrated & embraced. Don’t waste the gift you’ve been given. Don’t let a simple matter of lack of confidence hold you back with anything in life. As far as we know, you only get one and how sad would it be if you wasted yours all because you let a stupid thing like fear, stand in the way. Also remember that it is never too late to accomplish your dreams. A plan and call to action is all you need. Add in a dash of confidence & it’s a winning recipe.
I hope my tips help you become more confident in your daily life. Drop me a comment on what you think or if you have questions, please leave them below. I will do my best to help you and answer anything you may ask. I only wish you the most success in life that you’re willing to reach for and I’m here to lend a helping hand. To get started, I’ve added a little bonus content of a few redundant, but important steps. Click below.