[Listen to this reflection on my Spotify podcast here]
I grew up learning to feel confident only once there was a reason to.
The typical ‘once this, then that’ conditioning.
Once I graduate from school, then I can feel confident in my education.
Once I get some work experience, then I can feel confident in my skills.
Once I hire people to work with me, then I can feel confident in my business working.
Once I lose weight or shake off a cold, then I can feel confident in my health.
For others, it might be different milestones such as once getting a promotion, once buying a house, once entering a relationship, once a chosen political party gets elected, once the weather, and so on.
This type of conditional confidence on external events or people has been my norm. I have been fortunate enough that the external events and people in my life have been a consistent source of confidence for me in life.
I am now realizing though that to depend on events external as my primary source of confidence is a high-risk proposition. Although I have a part to play in influencing these external events, I do not have complete control. The reality is that much is out of my hands.
Confidence is fuel for the journey through life. Without it, I cannot go very far. My curiosity now turns to how to build additional sources of this fuel, in a more reliable and sustainable way, then to depend solely on external events that are mostly out of my influence.
For example, if I were to lose any of, or all of, family, friends, health, looks, occupation, money, or home, how might I feel?
The question now becomes how to build my confidence from the inside, verses from the outside. To know that regardless of what external events happen, I will be okay. I am okay.
This requires me to believe in myself, even if my entire world is telling me the opposite.
Difficult moments in life build resilience.
They show me through direct experience that I can be okay, even if it does not feel that way while going through it. And the next time I am faced with an unpleasant surprise or difficult moment, I am subconsciously reminded that the last time I felt this emotion or sensation, even though it was prompted by a completely different circumstance, there is a familiarity to it and deep down I know I am okay, just like last time.
In these moments of difficulty, I tell myself that I have my own back. I am here for myself.
For example, if I feel rejected by someone, be it a romantic interest, a friend, a potential client, or even for a bank loan, I do not reject myself.
This is difficult. To not reject myself in the face of feeling rejected from the outside.
Once I get invested emotionally in something or someone, then I begin to identify with it, her or him. And when reality does not pan out how I had imagined, I will not only feel disappointed in this discrete event but will often extrapolate it to have more meaning and weight than it actually has.
It is in these moments, when I remember, that I tell myself that I have my back. To not reject myself in the face of feeling rejected from the outside world. To believe in myself, even when there may be little evidence to do so.
This is unconditional confidence. It is available to me, without any limits, only from one source. That source is not outside, but deep down inside, and one that I am learning how to access regularly.