A radical approach to being more incredible
It’s easy to think that confidence is a quality we either have or we don’t - depending on the situation. We may feel we’re confident in one-to-one situations but not in groups. We might even believe we’re confident in social situations but not with our bosses. Sometimes we just shrink, can’t find the words and feel paralyzed with fear. At other times we’re unstoppable. Why?
In this article, I’m going to describe how to recognise what confidence really is and how we can enhance it using the principles behind how the human mind works.
What is Confidence, and Where Does it Really Come From?
Most personal development approaches use different factors which try to help you become more confident and effective. It may be through understanding your personality type, developing leadership abilities or communications skills that provide the principal content. They may put forward certain attitudes, thinking patterns and strategies to adopt that enhance confidence and help you to be more successful.
The approach I use is different as it explores the fundamental and natural functions of our mind, what thought is, and how our thinking (and narrative) creates our experience of confidence (or lack thereof).
Lacking Confidence Is Painful
The human mind is capable of the most incredible feats of understanding and creativity, yet somehow our full potential eludes us. Somehow we’ve become scared to explore our own thinking, and therefore our own reality, whilst perhaps accepting the common assumption that 'life happens to us' and that the qualities, feelings and important things we aspire to come from ‘outside’.
Even if we try to change our thinking, attitudes and beliefs, our experience can easily default back to what it was before.
There's a missing link.
Part of our failure to really feel the extent of our own awesomeness is that we don’t fully appreciate how our mind works and how it shapes, and indeed creates, our experience. The common paradigm is that the world is ‘out there’ and things ‘happen to us’ thus we see things from an outside -> in perspective.
When we use this common approach in relation to confidence we’ll seek confidence in what others think of us, praise, status and the external trappings of success (for example what car we drive or what brands we wear). As a consequence of the way we see things we seek some kind of ‘confidence fix’ in the wrong object. No wonder we end up feeling deeply unhappy and lacking in confidence when we lose an important client, our boss berates us or our financial situation is not as good as we’d hoped.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that receiving praise or encouragement from others is bad or not helpful. And I’m not saying success and financial freedom are not useful. I’m saying that in themselves they can’t provide real confidence and if we rely on them we’ll remain vulnerable and lack resilience.
Key Principles of How The Mind Works
In truth, what is really happening is that the world 'out there' is shaped, formed and experienced from inside. Our mind is creating (and trying to understand) the world around us and our thinking shapes our experience of it. So, in reality, the external things that contribute to our ‘confidence’ simply don't have the power to deliver because they are outside of our mind and ‘confidence’ is something we’ve made up - a bunch of thoughts and feelings about ourself that we mistakenly attribute to what others think of us, our status or some other external thing. Our 'confidence' will, therefore, be sitting on thin ice.
There's a deeper confidence that's available to us. But to access it more of the time we need to understand how our mind works.
The way the mind works is a bit like the body's immune system - when we allow things to heal, they heal. They sort themselves out more effectively. The mind is like this and our busy thinking just gets in the way.
So, when we get out of our own way and allow our mind to function as it should, we can see things from a wiser perspective. One of the natural side-effects is that we experience more flow, connectedness and confidence. Our mind becomes clearer and new insights can emerge. For example, when we sit quietly in meditation our mind eventually settles on its own. Or we may be focussing on a big challenge without any solutions coming. If we relax, do something different, forget about the problem, then new insights can emerge.
After 25 years of martial arts, deliberate personal growth and meditation, I don't doubt this at all. You see, the nature of the mind is really clarity and lucidity. Our personal thinking obscures this, just like clouds hiding the blue sky behind.
Our Thinking and How It Creates “Confidence”
Are any of these thoughts familiar to you?
From our stream of thoughts, and through how we have interpreted events in our lives, we create a narrative about ourselves. That story forms much of our experience and although it changes over time, it can keep us stuck in counterproductive patterns, that we end up believing.
And guess what? That thinking governs our behaviour and creates a feedback loop of ‘reality’.
But we forget one really important thing. Our mind is not the camera – observing and recording our experience – it's the projector. It’s all made up from inside. We’re making it up with our thinking.
So, confidence doesn’t really exist. It’s just part of a narrative or story we tell ourselves. And that narrative is not accurate nor is it even the truth of what's happening.
How to Enhance Confidence, So That it’s Always There When We Need it.
We’d all love to experience more confidence, but as we have seen, our thinking about ourself just gets in the way, so having an understanding of how the mind works means we can access a deeper form of confidence.
The challenge is that our thinking is immersive. So how can we access the qualities that are already present within us? How can we shine, and feel happy to do so when the noise in our mind is telling us so many other things?
The interesting thing is, when we get out of our own way, we feel capable, in flow, effective, able to deliver - because confidence and all those other qualities we have are actually already there because they are naturally part of us.
But how do we get out of our own way?
We might need a few minutes a day to remember these key things - or use some kind of lever to rebalance our mind for example meditation, yoga, going for a walk or something similar. When we allow our mind to work unhindered, we then find that we can be naturally confident. It seems so simple, yet this is quite a shift in our mindset.
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