This month I’m focusing on confidence. Confidence is a tricky trait and one that’s often misunderstood. Confidence should not be confused with arrogance or hubris. Both of those traits stem from a lack of confidence.
True confidence comes from self-assurance rooted in fact. For example, I have made egg salad 9,567,234 times (this is an estimate) so when I go to make egg salad, I am extremely confident in my ability and the outcome. To further extend the analogy, since I have such success with egg salad, I am also confident in my ability to make other kinds of “salads”, even if I haven’t made them before. This is largely informed by my experience following recipes. I know if I follow a recipe I can pretty much make anything. Where my confidence falters is if there is math or science involved in a recipe. This is where I turn it all over to my husband and go to bed.
I feel I have worn out this egg salad analogy. Also, I’m hungry.
Confidence—one of the core change muscles
When we talk about resilience and the ability to face uncertainty, Confidence is one of your core muscles, in addition to Positivity, which I talk about more in-depth here. By engaging these two muscles I set myself up to lean on the remaining five in a way that will (hopefully) accurately address the upcoming disruption and allow me to remain sane and healthy throughout. That’s the goal, right? How many of us have come out on the other side of some change feeling run-down and exhausted, only to be faced with another change almost immediately? Already depleted, we crawl back to bed hoping someone else will deal with whatever it is. I know for me, this causes me to ignore situations that could be opportunities, or walk around feeling like a failure. It’s not a fun way to live.
Prosilience—oh great, another “ilience”
Here is where I’d like to introduce the idea of “Prosilience”. Prosilience, a term coined by Linda Hoopes, comes from a combination of the words proactive + resilience. Prosilience asks us to practice being resilient even when we don’t need to be. To move forward in a discussion about resilience demands a conversation about what we do when we’re not freaking out. It’s difficult to be resilient if you haven’t been practicing, right? The best athletes say that practice is just as important to their success as talent and skill. Just ask Serena Williams, who daily practices at least 4 hours in addition to the time she spends working out and taking a dance class. If you want to know more about her workout and diet, you can check it out here. She is incredible. I could write an entire article on her and how she is Prosilience personified.
So if we’re talking about being proactively resilient, it is important to first build up Positivity and Confidence since these are the first muscles generally flexed when expectations aren’t met.
Positivity: What does this mean for me? Is it dangerous or will it present an opportunity? (this may not be your specific internal dialogue. Mine is usually closer to “oh for f*ck’s sake WHAT NOW?”)
Confidence: Can I handle this? Will everything be ok? (or me: “someone call my MOM”)
Resilience workouts—the only workouts that don’t require sweaty bathroom selfies
To answer these questions in a way that allows us to stay energized and alert we need to weave a resilience workout into our daily routine. So how do I build my confidence when I don’t know exactly what I need to be confident in? The good news: confidence doesn’t have to be specific to one thing.
“Confidence is the muscle that helps you understand your own strengths and capabilities and see how you can use them to solve the problems you face. A strong Confidence muscle helps you have a “can-do” attitude, believe in yourself and your capabilities, tolerate disappointment, and persist in overcoming obstacles.”
Hoopes, Linda. Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World (pp. 74-75). Dara Press. Kindle Edition.
Our confidence in any given situation is closely tied to our ability to problem-solve. To proactively build my confidence, I challenge myself in a few different ways.
- I try to keep a “growth” mindset. Instead of viewing my abilities, talent, skills, and intelligence as fixed, I remind myself that I always have something new to learn. Yes, there are things I may be an expert in (like making egg salad) but I do my best to stay open to learning from others. I also try new things. There are tons of free online courses in everything from creative writing to cooking. I sign up for a new course about once a quarter and learn something new. It challenges me to use my brain differently and come at something like a total novice and it’s a great exercise in remaining teachable.
- I know my strengths. This one is a biggie. I used to be very hard on myself and thought I wasn’t good enough at anything. In my tumultuous 20s, a friend told me that I was good at something and it blew my mind. This was the first time I ever considered that just because someone else might be as good or better than I was at something, it did not mean I, too, wasn’t good at it. I realized how empowering it was to know I was good at something and to let that fact stand alone. I didn’t have to be better. It was ok to know I was good at something and file it away as one of my strengths. Since then I have taken a few strengths assessments and even asked supervisors and coworkers what they think I’m good at. It’s so helpful to have a clear understanding of your strengths in addition to the things that may not be your forté.
- I’m (mostly) nice to myself. Like I said before, I used to be really, really, really hard on myself. I berated myself for what I thought people thought about me. If I made a mistake or acted out of anger I would spend days and days upset and horrified at my behavior. Coworkers were afraid to talk to me about the mistakes I made at work because they knew how mean I would be to myself about it. It caused people to be uncomfortable around me. It was a problem. Eventually, I decided it was time to stop treating myself this way, and sought advice from someone in my network. Through our work together, one of the best tools she gave me was to turn my sense of humor inward. I had heard “be nice to yourself” so many times and it seemed so silly and unattainable. But laughing at myself was easier to do. It opened the door for me to be a bit more objective when I felt myself succumbing to my inner critic. If I could look at the situation like I would if it were one of my friends I had a much easier time laughing at whatever dumb thing I’d done. With years of practice, I very rarely get down on myself anymore.
- I make sure I’m having fun. It’s easy to get caught up in all this “work” and forget to enjoy myself. Nothing builds my confidence more than when I am laughing and having fun with my people. It gets me out of my head and into the moment where I realize everything is really ok.
Confidence is not a feeling—except when it is
And finally, it’s totally ok if you don’t feel confident all the time. No one does. When something happens that is out of my control, very rarely do I feel confident at first. I usually get scared, and anxious, and want to run away. This is when I have to use my logic to decide that I can handle something and work my way up to being confident either by doing research or asking for help. However, there are times when something comes my way and I do feel confident, which is a bonus of lots of practice.
Taking small steps daily to build confidence will ensure that when faced with change, whether it be at work or at home, you can flex your confidence muscle and engage your energy in a way that’s optimal for you. If you want to learn more about your resilience and how to be prosilient, contact me and let’s chat!
Now go make yourself some egg salad.