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The Illusion of Confidence

Confidence is a Facade

Confidence is thought of as being self-assured or assertive, certain or positive. But, these words merely describe the various facades we put forth to appear confident. But, these are just words we use to hide how we really feel deep inside – insecure. In fact, you can swap the word confidence for the words safety and security. When we lack confidence, what we really lack is feeling safe and secure. Others may be fooled when we act confident .¨ we may even fool ourselves for a moment. But, deep down each of us knows the truth- we don’t really ever feel fully safe and secure.

Within the system of thinking we have been taught, the path to confidence is varied and inconsistent. There are many “How To” articles written about how to gain confidence or become confident and these may be helpful. But, we are often chasing a moving target. We have been taught that if you are strong, intelligent or powerful, you must be confident, but there is no guarantee of this. And what one person thinks makes them confident may not be what someone else thinks makes them confident. For instance, some may believe a university degree makes you confident. This is hardly the case. I can’t think of a single university graduate who is miraculously confident simply because they hold a piece of paper in their hand. On the contrary, most graduates are uncertain about their future and don’t feel the least bit confident about where they will be in one, five or ten years from now. Similarly, some may believe that many years of experience at the same job makes you confident. But, even the most seasoned professional or expert has their confidence shaken on unusually challenging days. And there is no consistency with confidence since what makes us feel secure one day doesn’t make us feel secure the next. Based on the current way of thinking, there is nothing about confidence that would make one, well, confident.

Our beliefs about safety and security are borne from a thinking system that doesn’t teach us self-acceptance and self-love. When you don’t accept and love yourself, it is nearly impossible to feel safe and secure. In response to our training, we are forced to put on a performance, so to speak, to feel confident. We act in ways we otherwise wouldn’t, all in an effort to overcome what we think we lack. The problem is no matter what we do, we never fully experience confidence on all levels in our life. And though we may feel confident in some things, we typically go through life feeling unsure about ourselves in most circumstances. The good news is that’s just training, not truth, and we can unlearn training. It’s time for us to wake up and realize that being confident isn’t something we need to become; it’s something we need to remember we already are.

Dig Deep and Unplug

We have to dig deeper when we don’t feel safe or secure and ask why. If we realize the answer is because of early training in a society that feels anything but safe, we can use our adult perspective to reposition our beliefs about ourselves and our lives. For instance, notice how we were raised in a society that ridicules what is different more than it celebrates it. Also notice how we are taught to judge ourselves and each other in a way that is disconnecting, demeaning and unloving. It is easy to see why we don’t feel acceptable and worthy of love. A friend of mine in Scotland told me that in grade school, when picking sides for teams, the last kid picked was ridiculed and laughed at. They called that kid, “Billy No-Mates” as if this child is undesirable and unworthy. Most playgrounds have stories like this one. Where do the children learn such behaviors I wonder? More than that, I wonder how that child will ever feel safe and secure or confident.

We don’t have to look hard at the thinking system in our society to see why we don’t accept and love ourselves. But, we also don’t have to subscribe to this training any longer either. We can start with practicing self-acceptance which leads to self-love. Start by no longer judging your appearance. Look in the mirror, deep into your eyes (this itself can be very challenging for many of us), and tell yourself you are okay just the way you are. This is not easy, but connecting with your soul through your eyes is very powerful. Do this every morning and night. Get used to accepting you for you. Repeating this is known as an affirmation. Author Louise Hay is famous for teaching the power of affirmations. And though it takes a moment of your time each morning and night to do this for yourself, it is well worth it.

Being willing to see the truth about our thinking system, we can decide to unplug from these insane teachings and be open to something other than what we have been taught. This creates a space between our training and our truth. We can begin letting go of the training and drift towards our truth.
This happens with awareness, understanding and practice. Anyone is capable of this. It is our job to tell ourselves the truth about us. We must remember that we were born confident, feeling safe and secure. It’s time for us to return to the truth about who we are.

Confidence is Self-love

I was a bridesmaid for Maggie Green, a jazz standards and Brazilian jazz singer who I had known for years. If anything can get four ladies together for lunch, an upcoming wedding certainly does the trick. We met at a fabulous sushi and Asian fusion restaurant, sat at the high top, dark wood table and enjoyed the beautiful food while we talked about wedding plans, dresses, colors and other sorted details. We all added our thoughts throughout the luncheon about the wedding and concluded with success in all of our topics at hand. On the way out of the restaurant, one of the bridesmaids quietly said to me, “You’re so self-confident.” I replied, “Don’t mistake self-confidence for self-love.”

I am not certain what my fellow bridesmaid saw that day that felt like confidence to her. I never asked and she never said. What I do know is that I had gone through some massive mental and emotional growth spurts in the five years earlier. It started with a long, drawn-out break-up loaded with crying, wallowing in self-pity and hopelessness. After nearly two years of hell and wearing black clothes to everything, I broke free from the suffering and fears of being on my own. Through all of the blubbering, a fantastic moment of clarity hit me like a ton of bricks. It got so quiet in my head you could hear a pin drop. Then, some voice deep from within said, “I’m not special because someone else loves me. I’m special all by myself. And I don’t need someone else to love me. I need to learn to love myself.” The voice wasn’t me and yet it was me. This voice was an all-knowing, intuitive me .¨ an authentic me and she was telling me the truth about my life. I had to listen.

And listen I did. From that day forward, I dug deeper into this concept of self-love, realizing this is not a concept we are taught when we are growing up and it certainly isn’t supported in the adult world. But, that’s okay. We can realize this as adults and, with awareness and practice, we can unlearn our old beliefs attached to self-love. These tell us this that self-love is conceited, selfish or egotistical. It’s not something that is judged as attractive or admirable. But, the love that comes from being conceited is the same love that makes us seek out the love from someone else as a replacement to loving ourselves. This is not love. This is fear.

Self-confidence is confused with self-love. True love, or self-love, is already a natural part of who we are. Self-love comes from our heart, not our mind. No one can teach you to love yourself; you have to be willing to remember this part of you. When we stop saying and doing the things that aren’t loving, true love is there waiting for us to embrace it. Love is who we are.

5 Ways to Practice Self-Love

Loving yourself is easily defined as caring for, understanding, being compassionate and being kind to oneself.
When you get used to this, you also treat others the same way. Here are some easy ways to get you started on the path back to self-love.

  1. Practice accepting and honoring yourself. Each morning when you look in the mirror, do you smile and accept yourself as you are or do you look at all of the things you think are less than perfect? Most of us do not accept ourselves the way we are. This doesn’t mean we can’t shed a few pounds to get healthy or learn a new skill. But, we tend to over-criticize ourselves, running the opposite direction from self-love. On top of that, we add negative terms like ugly, stupid or loser to the already destructive evaluation. Tomorrow morning, look in the mirror and smile at yourself. Tell yourself you are lovable and wonderful. Listen for negative words you use against yourself. When you hear them, stop. Replace them with kind, supportive words. You will be creating new habits of how you treat yourself with the focus on accepting and honoring yourself.
    This provides the space for self-love to shine through.
  2. Connect with what makes you happy. Make a list of five things that you love to do or that make you happy. Look at your list and know that these are the foundations on which you can find self-love. Each day, do something on your list and allow yourself to experience what it feels like deep within to be connected to the real you , actively participating in that energy. Use this as your filter for other parts of your day.
  3. Imagine the best, not the worst.
    If you can imagine the worst, which we often do with future events, you can imagine the best. Because we are in the habit of imagining what bad things might happen, we forget that it is as easy to imagine the good that can happen, too. It all comes down to retraining ourselves. So, when you catch yourself imagining a less than stellar outcome for yourself for any reason, stop and imagine the best that can happen to you. Then wait to see. It is all just experience anyway.
  4. Be kind to yourself.
    Pamper yourself. Get a massage. Go see your brother and make amends. Get out of your head and get into nature. Feed yourself well with whole, organic vegetables, fruits and lean proteins.
    Drink lots of water. Go to bed early. Buy yourself a comfortable pillow to help you with quality sleep. Write. Dance. Paint. Be kind to yourself. When we treat ourselves with kindness, we feel stronger. When we feel stronger, we feel more valuable.You deserve to feel as valuable as possible, because you are.
  5. Enjoy Your Life. We don’t spend much time really living. We spend a lot of time focused on thoughts in our heads that don’t match reality. We make up stories about other people’s lives, we rehearse doomsday scenarios for some event in the future and we regurgitate past pain .¨ at least most of the time. Instead of living life in your head, come back to reality. Sit quietly and practice deep breathing. Allow your head and the present moment to get acquainted on a regular basis. Compliment people. Practice random acts of kindness. Smile .¨ a lot. These things all bring us more joy in life. This is part of self-love.

Confidence is an illusion as it fa‚àö√üade that masks what is really going on beneath the surface. Lift the veil and realize that what we ultimately want is to feel safe and secure. This is what confidence really is. Know that it is your birthright to feel safe and secure. The same is true for acceptance and love. It is time for us to dissolve any beliefs and thoughts that tell us otherwise. When we were little, learning about us and the world, we weren’t able to choose which parts we wanted to take on and which ones we wanted to leave behind. But, today, as adults, it is up to us to recognize these untruths and correct them. It is time for us to remember that love is who we are at our core, in our essence and in our soul. It is time for love.

Bo L. Arnold

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