But what about those times when we don't feel so great, when we don't do so well, when we even feel less than what we are...and the people around us aren't cheering us on. It's during those times, when we must rely on ourselves for the pick-me-ups. Do you know how?
If you're not prepared to boost your own confidence on the days when you need it most, here are a few thoughts to move you in that direction. I call them rules for building confidence, or confidence builders. In the last few weeks, while thinking about and dealing with the death of my friend and colleague Jean McFarland, I needed them. You may have seen them on Twitter, but I'll explain them more fully here:
Confidence builder #1: Move toward your goal--even if it's one timid or tentative step at a time.
You don't have to take giant leaps or move very far to see that you're going forward with a plan, an idea, or an assignment you want to complete. Writing down goals is one thing. But actually taking the steps to reach them is quite another. If there's something you want to accomplish today but haven't yet done anything about it, pick one thing--just one--and do it. Make that call. Draft the letter. Read the chapter in that book. Whatever it is, just do it. If some voice in your head tries to turn you in another direction, away from the work, resist the temptation. If the snack machine or refrigerator is calling out to you, or the dishes in the sink are screaming bloody murder because they need to be washed, ignore those calls. Remind yourself that doing just one thing today to make success happen in your life tomorrow is the only way it's going to happen. You'll be amazed by how good you will feel afterward.
Confidence Builder #2: Celebrate each success--no matter how small-- with a gift. Make it something tangible--no matter how small.
I am big on celebrating achievements. I don't wait for others to celebrate with me. I don't expect anyone else to understand my joy. I just make sure that whatever I accomplish is celebrated, if by no one else than by me alone. I know I might be the only one to fully get what I'm doing. So I don't wait. Here are few examples of what I mean:
- When I first started freelancing, I wrote short stories, poetry, and essays. I had no idea what I was doing really. I just knew I needed to write. So I did. I didn't wait for people to hire me. I just wrote whatever came to mind. And then I started researching markets and networking. When I sold my first poem, I was paid only $10, but I was really proud of myself. So when that check arrived in the mailbox, and before I cashed it, I photocopied it and tacked it on the bulletin board. I still have that check. It's still a positive reminder.
- During my divorce that seemed neverending, I was so relieved as each stage of the process passed. After each hearing, or meeting with lawyers, or whatever other steps I needed to take were taken, I celebrated by going out to lunch. I went wherever I wanted to go, and I ordered whatever I wanted to order. including dessert and coffee. I didn't hold back. I just let myself enjoy the moment. That was my pat on the back. It gave me something to look forward to during what was otherwise a lonely experience. I found a way to make it a little less lonely--and surprisingly special.
- Once there was a really big job that I wanted so very badly. I knew I had to approach the editor with just the right words and just the right enthusiasm and just the right clips. I asked people in sales what they would do. I got input from other writers. And then I did the work that netted me the job. I was so thrilled, I went out with friends to celebrate, arriving purposefully early so I could be by myself to relish the success. I ordered the most expensive glass of wine in the house. When my friends showed up, they ordered me another--and when I told them how much it was ($17), they didn't even flinch. I felt amazing on so many levels.
So celebrate your successes--big and small. Do whatever you can--within reason, of course--to make sure you own your "big deal". Gather friends to help you celebrate, of course. But learn to celebrate and get comfortable being happy for the person that success means the most--you (and your spiritual creator).
Confidence Builder #3: No matter how difficult it is to convict yourself, own responsibility for your mistakes.
Sometimes it really stinks to take responsibility for the things we do wrong in our lives. Certainly, we don't mean to hurt a friend or lover. Certainly, they know that. Accidents happen. Mistakes happen. Things go wrong when you least expect it, even if you did cause it to occur. You probably didn't mean it, right? If you had to appologize for every little thing, you'd never stop talking, would you? Well, don't stop then. Go ahead and apologize. Own that mishap, and then be sure to find a way to let the person wounded know you really mean it. Maybe you'll have to repair or replace something. Maybe you'll have to re-do the work. Maybe you'll have to lose a friend. But ignoring a problem, or pretending nothing happened won't make the issue disappear. It'll be there, nagging at you. You'll feel so much better about yourself if you just own responsibility. The result might turn out better than you think.
Confidence Builder #4: Treat your physical body with the respect it deserves. Just as you exercise your mind, exercise your body.
There's no doubt that when you look good, you feel good. When you treat yourself right, you're happiest. And when you respect yourself, others will do the same. How do you know if you're respecting yourself? By paying attention to how you feel. When was the last time you visited the doctor for the check up, or had your teeth cleaned, or engaged in physical exercise. Taking care of your physical self requires action on your part. When you take positive action, you'll see positive results. It may take time, but it'll happen. And won't you feel better then?
Confidence Builder #5: Accept that life is one big practice game...and you can have as many do-overs as you need.
This is my favorite rule, because it basically says that even if you forget or even refuse to do any of the above, you get another chance. You can wait till later, till you're more comfortable with yourself. You can procrastinate and pause, because we're not perfect. And there are no guarantees. But if you keep this idea in the back of your mind, you'll know--with each faux pas--there's a do-over waiting for you. You don't have to get it right. You don't even have to judge. Maybe you'll experience a sense of freedom when you realize this, and then that makes the doing all the more easier. No pressure. If whatever steps you need to take don't work quite the way you thought the first time out, you can relax in knowing it's okay. You can change your mind, you can try again, you can press repeat. You can take as many steps as needed until it all works out.
And it will.
For a person with confidence, it always will.