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The Cure for a Lack of Confidence


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Is a lack of confidence holding you back, sabotaging your efforts, or eroding your joy?

Do you sometimes catch yourself saying all kinds of not-so-nice things about yourself…you know, the kind of things you’d never say to a five-year-old?

Every time you do that, you take a shot at your confidence.

Want to know where a deep sense of confidence comes from?

It comes from a few things:

  1. Understanding yourself

  2. Being able to accurately discern reality

  3. Knowing where you fit in this crazy world

  4. Stringing together a series of small wins

Let’s step back a second and take a deeper look at human nature and how it relates to confidence.

HUMANS ARE SIMPLE, AND PARADOXICALLY, COMPLICATED.

We’re simple in that the basics of human nature don’t change.

We all have the universal longings for love, adventure, romance, understanding, affirmation, significance, dignity, purpose, becoming, autonomy, fairness, and so on.

We also have (I would say) a “God-shaped hole” and a “People-shaped hole” inside us.

In other words, we are created with a hard-wired need for relationships.

Look again at those basic human longings above—are they not all related to our relationships with both God and people?

Here’s where things get complicated:

  1. We don’t always understand the deeper longings driving our behavior

  2. We often try to fill those holes/meet those desires, with the wrong things.

For example:

  • We eat not because we’re hungry, but because when we’re lonely, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, feeling misunderstood, etc.

  • We attempt to fill our desire for love, belonging, or authentic connection with things like materialism, porn, status, power, money, etc.

And here’s another complicating factor.

HUMANS ARE MEANING MAKING MACHINES

You’re always telling yourself a story.

  • That look on your spouse’s face.

  • That person who cut you off in traffic.

  • What your friend was implying with that text message.

  • The real agenda of that politician, pastor, teacher, parent, or news anchor…

Moment by moment, we are filling narrative gaps by telling ourselves a story about what something does or does not mean.

It’s good and natural that we tell ourselves stories, but the rub is that sometimes (perhaps a lot of the time) we get the story partially or completely wrong.

Yet, because we are the one telling the story, we tend to believe it’s true.

Again, this isn’t a bad thing—you’d send yourself to the loony bin if you doubted every story you told yourself.

Yet, to admit you missed the mark (i.e. to change your perspective) is to admit your storytelling (your understanding) isn’t always accurate.

That’s uncomfortable…and not great for your confidence.

And it’s one of the reasons why, even when we sense something isn’t true, we cling to it as if it is…because our sense of identity is at stake.

To lose confidence in our judgments is to lose confidence in ourselves, i.e. who we think we are.

All of us are regularly confronted with evidence that our stories don’t matching reality.

  • That diet we thought was going to work, didn’t.

  • That promotion we thought we deserved, didn’t work out.

  • That second date we thought the other person wanted, didn’t happen.

  • That perspective we had on world events…it turned out to not be true.

As evidence piles up that our storytelling lacks accuracy, it tends to lead up to one of two predictable outcomes.

  1. We lose confidence: The more we realized we “missed the plot,” the more evidence we compile that there must be something wrong (or unlovable) about us because we “keep getting it wrong.”

  2. We lose relationships: The pain of cognitive dissonance causes us to become more and more closed off to other people’s perspectives. To avoid that feeling we put up walls—walls that shrink our world and leave us isolated and lonely.

There’s a better way…

THE THIRD OPTION

So, what’s the antidote to all this poorly-informed storytelling we’re doing?

How do we keep our confidence from being blown by the wind?

How do we interact with people who see things differently?

In my view, we need two things:

  1. A posture of curiosity and humility

  2. Outside counsel – someone wise who is emotionally unattached to our situation

Regaining confidence means taking the unreasonable pressure off ourselves to always be right.

None of us are.

How freeing.

One of the most liberating moments in life is when we realize and embrace (I’d even say celebrate) that we’re not always right—that there is more nuance and grey area than we had left room for in our thinking.

Sometimes that even means admitting we’ve completely missed the mark about major, long-held paradigms.

Instead of feeling threatened by every challenging idea, what if we cultivated the ability to entertain competing thoughts, to wrap our head around different perspectives, and maybe even to build more empathetic, authentic relationships in the process?

Can you feel the difference?

Curious questions build bridges.

Dogmatic (i.e. insecure) rejection builds walls.

When we approach the world with a sense…

  • Interesting, what else do I not know”

  • Huh, I’m curious how he/she came to that conclusion”

  • “Maybe their perspective could enrich my understanding”

  • “I wonder what genuine emotional need is driving my/his/her behavior”

…tension gets diffused and the world doesn’t seem so cruel.

You know what else happens…our confidence isn’t on trial anymore.

With humility and curiosity, we’ve flipped the emotional impact of life not making sense.

Instead, our confidence grows because in searching for better questions we’re gaining understanding instead of getting frustrated and isolated.

THE MAGIC FACTOR OF OUTSIDE COUNSEL

Want to accelerate the growth of your confidence—find a trusted sounding board (ideally someone you can actually talk with) who is emotionally unattached to your situation.

All of us are limited by the quality of ideas we have.

Through relationships, we can greatly expand the number of ideas we’re exposed to.

In the presence of a wise sounding board who hears what we say and mirrors back thoughtful questions, we can more accurately (confidently) answer the question “How shall I then live”?

Look again with me at the four things it takes to build your confidence.

  1. Understanding yourself

  2. Being able to accurately discern reality

  3. Knowing where you fit in this crazy world

  4. Stringing together a long enough series of small wins

Be it God or other people (I recommend both), a trusted sounding board can help you with all four.

When you’re wrestling with questions of confidence and direction, know you’re really wrestling with three major identity questions:

  1. Who you think you are

  2. Who (you think) others think you are

  3. Who you aspire to be

When there is a disconnect between those identities and your results, your confidence can be shaken if you don’t find better questions and truer perspectives.

When reality is framed well, and when you string together evidence of progress in line with those identities, your confidence builds.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Confidence can be a fragile thing, but it’s not irreparable.

If your confidence isn’t what you want it to be, take a step back and ask yourself which of the four areas stands out as in need of the most help.

Then, whether it be a coach, counselor, friend, parent, pastor, or teacher, (whether it be in written form, virtually, or in person) find a respected, non-emotional sounding board who can accelerate you stepping into the identity you’ve always wanted.

The process will stretch you, so remain humble, and practice empathy for yourself and others.

Here’s to having the courage to confidently entertain important questions about life, love, truth, and other mysteries.

Until next time,

Christian

PS. If you’re interested in knowing yourself better and leveling up your interpersonal skills, you may want to check out the Home and Community Module of The Sovereignty Project. We’ve got an entire track dedicated to building your confidence by developing a rich, relational toolkit.

PPS. If you’re interested in having a coach as one of your trusted sounding boards, let’s chat. I do Life and Health Coaching, or as I like to say, I coach the Whole Human.

This article was republished with permission from Christian Elliot of deconstructingconventional.com. To learn more about Christian and his coaching services, check out his website truewholehuman.com.

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