I would have never suspected what creates confidence. I used to look at people with a tonne of self-confidence and wonder if they were just really, really dumb. I mean, we live in flux. Every cell in our bodies is doing something right now—there is no such thing as security because all you can really count on is change—so what in the heck makes someone self-confident?? What is there to be confident about? I mean, it seems like there are more reasons to stress in the world than be content. Not only do we not know what’s happening right now, but everything will change in an instant (according to laws we don’t yet understand) and much of the data we have collected on things we do understand says we should be very, very afraid. So what gives? What do we have to feel confident about? Well, actually, we have quite a lot to feel confident about.
LaLee Goes to Counselling: “Solve my Anxiety, Please”
I went to a university counsellor in second year asking for the cure to anxiety, please. He sort of… giggled at me. He asked if I knew that everyone suffers from anxiety. I turned away to absorb this game-changing information, then shot back a request for him to tell me how they deal with it. He turned his palms up, threw his bottom lip out and wrinkled his eyebrows ironically at me. His eyes sparkled. I was amusing him.
What he was telling me is that everyone experiences what I experience and how we deal with it is part of the human condition; walking into his office asking how to cure anxiousness under pressure was the equivalent of asking him to tell me what love is! But I cracked the code anyway, because that’s how I roll. So here goes:
Get This: Confidence is Gratitude
*Update: This theory was verified post script by neuroscience.* Read on for an explanation.
Reality Check #1: It’s in Our Language, Our Story
The trouble with trying to think confidently is that it doesn’t lend itself to language very easily. Humans relay information, normally, to describe danger. We’re hard-wired to share problems & warnings. When we have good news, we celebrate. Think about it. Our rational minds, and therefore our language, is focussed on problem solving. And when we have something good to share, we tend towards experiencing it. Trying to *think* confidently doesn’t equate… to confidence. It just isn’t what our linear minds were made for.
Truth #1: Confidence is an experience, not a way of thinking.
So how is it that some people seem to be celebrating a whole lot more? How is it that some people seem to experiencing confidence a whole lot more? I’m not talking about egotistical false confidence (that’s just masking insecurity), I’m only interested in real confidence—the kind that can take Obama amounts of punches and roll expertly with them, come out with a smile then crack a joke at their fairings. Haven’t they seen the research?? Don’t they know what’s happening in the world?? Love is ending, earth is dying, evil is rising, god is dead. Actually, the research says that everything is better in the world than it ever has been… but that isn’t what our linear/language minds are wired to share. So it isn’t what we talk about!
These confident people are celebrating because they are experiencing an understanding: focussing on problems is how we solve them, and there is a whole lot more to full reality than what we discuss.
Reality Check #2: If I’m Having Anxiety, I’m Missing Something Major
I have this little rule with myself now. When I get anxious & I think something is truly horrific, I remind myself there is something I am misunderstanding. I used to get really worked up about stuff—I’d get some information, like rudimentary understanding of the global economy for example, and just be obliterated with the injustice of it all. When I was finally brought around to a more sincere understanding of the world economy, which didn’t really involve justifications for me to rage against the machine at all, (it took 1 brilliant—and patient—teacher, an intricately laid out curriculum & a whole whack of investment on his part) I realized that every time I got extremely upset over something—it was because I didn’t understand it completely.
Truth #2: Things are actually OK, really, really OK.
That’s why really, really smart & knowledgeable people are often awesomest! Have you seen Einstein quotes?? (PS always fact check whether they are Einstein quotes. I’ve seen some hilarious ones Einstein never said!) He was rad! Why? He understood this huge, enormous life-thing at a level that unlocked all of this beauty and grace—he was confident because he experientially understood something, not with his mind alone, but with his entire being. He understood with a wholistic-ness that unlocked the magic of it all.
Imagine how confident you would be if you understood the world is good! And imagine what you could accomplish… That’s what confidence IS… an understanding of the real.
Reality Check #3: Throw Out Positive Thinking; I’ve Got Something Better
As I mentioned, we don’t talk about the good. We experience the good. We don’t go to school to study what’s right—we research what’s wrong. It’s just how linear thought & language evolved. That’s why we have art. Poetry is a different kind of language expression; it fires different centres (it delineates experience & that’s part of what gives us awe). Music is poetry. Art uses symbols to portray meaning: Symbolism evokes the same sorts of understanding in the brain that experience does. It speaks to a different part. A non-linear part. And that’s why reading poetry is different than reading peer reviewed research! Taking in art is an exceptional way to get in touch with experiential understanding, to invoke awe. It becomes a feeling, not a conversation.
Truth #3: Feeling Positively is Confidence, Thinking Positively is a Coverup
Our minds naturally grasp problems, even improbable ones. It’s a survival thing. It’s how we’re wired. And constantly focussing on problems is a sure way to feel very, very insecure. Naturally, taking a conscious look at what there is to be grateful for has the opposite effect. And guess what?? It makes you MORE realistic! Yes!
Confidence is a feeling, not a command. What we need to do to experience confidence is to practice it … and how we practice solid, grounded confidence? By gratitude. (Which is what neuroscience backed up for me after I wrote this.)
Example: Danger Alert!
I was on a trail & some hikers hunted me down to warn me about a cougar that was seen in the area days ago. I heard it on the radio and at yoga. The cougar was gone, they don’t even attack fully grown humans on the Vancouver Island (where I was), but everyone was talking about it. There we were, in paradise, and they call out to me “yo, cougar alert!” That’s our nature. But if we fixate, that’s bonkers. It’s so easy to get caught up thinking about the totally improbable cougar attack and forget about the waterfall, the company, the very real scenario where the cougar is more afraid of you than you are of it—the enormous goodness all around you: that’s harmful. If you then try to combat it with positive thought, you end up at war with your natural inclination to think of the possible problems you’re going to encounter on the trail. Then you are consciously waging a war on your natural propensity, or someone else’s, and that’s anxiety. Practice gratitude, feel positively, and you will naturally get creative about problem solving.
Reality Check #4: We Can Choose How We Perceive & Absorb Information
So what does a well-meaning human who’d like to be confident but also attached to their nature and reality to do? Don’t ignore a possible cougar attack, but catch your brain if it starts fixating and look around. Don’t try to tell it to think something else, take stock of what you have to be grateful for… that’s reality. Look to reality as a whole: to experiential understanding. What is happening? You’re on a trail, in the middle of a beautiful rainforest, some nice people cared enough about you to run after you and give you a heads up, and there is, in all probability, nothing that is looking to eat you on the trail today. Get back into the experience and you will not only cultivate a sense of appreciation, of celebration, and of gratitude, but you will also feel an influx of that ever-lovely confidence. This is what spurns us to create and gives us the wherewithal to go forth and do so! This is how we do change. This is how we cultivate beauty, truth & confidence.
Truth #4: Taking stock of things to be grateful for IS getting in touch with reality!
Confidence is the way that we process wonderful news, the solutions, the exultations & the kudos; confidence is gratitude for what is present. If you want to cultivate confidence, the most linear way is not to cultivate positive thoughts, but to look to reality for things to feel grateful for. It’s natural for the language mind to focus on problems to fix, but it’s a tiny part of reality. If it gets stuck there, you’ll feel incredibly insecure. Reality will definitely give you more to be grateful for than grieved (the science is in, and it is final: this is the best time to be alive). There is no question. If you can’t believe that, you’re missing life as a whole! Practice gratitude to get out of that anxiety.
Reality Check #5: If You’re Not Grateful, You’re not Realistic; if You’re Not Realistic, You Can’t Be Confident
Being grateful enters you into the mode where confidence lives—it ushers you into the good (and real) life. Unlike ‘thinking positively’, gratitude is actually grounded in reality. The kind of confidence that is forced/ignorant is short-lived and I’m too much of an investor to put money in stock I know will crash—but you can make a very sound investment by simply taking stock of what’s really going on around you, what is truly happening in your life and surroundings, getting outside verbal communications and into experience to understand the whole.
Even if something truly terrible is happening, it’s only through gratitude that we feel an absolutely necessary strive forward to make change.
Truth #5: Confidence is never about stopping growth, it is the greatest—and only—way to truly make change.
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Take care everyone! Peace and so much, LL