We all have dreams and goals. Many of us wish for the confidence to go out and make our dreams a reality. And for many of us, having confidence is sometimes the goal itself. How often do we hear people or even ourselves go, “I wish I had the confidence to do that”?
The question that’s almost never asked is, “how am I undermining my own confidence?”.
Because that’s the hard question. That’s the question that makes us aware and responsible for our actions and growth. That’s the question that gets us to face up to how we sabotage our own confidence, and therefore our results. How do I know this?
I’ve lived it myself.
I grew up in a family where both my parents were musicians. My dad loved playing the guitar and my mum had a lovely singing voice. I can’t remember a time in my childhood when they were not part of a band. I remember them going for band practice every Friday night, and Wednesdays were when their friends usually came over to jam. Naturally, I wanted to become a musician myself.
At the age of 12, I wanted to play the saxophone, but my music teacher convinced my parents that it would be better for me to learn the clarinet first. I didn’t really like it though. After playing for a couple of months, my parents wanted me to perform one of their favorite songs with them. I practiced my guts out – to perform with my parents would be a dream come true.
We had to perform in front of a small crowd of maybe 40 people. When it was our turn on stage, I couldn’t even enter the room. I was terrified! I was so scared to make a fool of myself in front of so many people. I was lying on the floor outside the room, hyperventilating and crying like shit. A family friend had to calm me down.
And here I am today, a public speaker and trainer. I love giving keynote speeches and working with large groups of people. I coach C-level directors, students and managers on overcoming their fears and I write articles on confidence-building.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize that many kids – including myself – do three things that keep us from being confident:
1. You are listening to your own 💬 self-talk of “I’m not good enough”.
You have probably realized by now that most people’s self-talk is usually negative. And it’s incredibly difficult to get this inner voice to shut up – like when I was supposed to perform on stage. When I wanted to talk to this girl I liked in school. Every time I wanted something that could potentially hurt me, like asking the parents of my girlfriend if I could marry their daughter and hearing them say “No”.
We all have this self-preserving voice inside of us that doesn’t want us to feel the pain of rejection. That voice constantly tells us not to take any risks, and we listen to it to avoid pain. But when we do this over and over, we’re practicing ‘not taking risks’. We become experts at it. The negative voice inside gets stronger and our confidence gets weaker. Eventually, not taking risks becomes our default. Staying safe becomes our automatic reaction. And confidence becomes just a pipe dream. Shit. I never wanted to be a scared little chicken.
“Practice makes mastery. So be careful what you practice.”
2. You are agreeing with other people and their 💩 bullshit opinion of you.
I remember when I had my first car, a Ford Fiesta 1998 model. I told my friend that my dream is to drive a Porsche. He straight up laughed in my face and told me that’s stupid. He said I should only have dreams that I can reach.
We subconsciously let other people decide how our future is going to be. It took me a while to understand that ‘no one needs to believe in me, only myself’! I only started going after my dreams in my twenties, regardless of the bullshit opinions that people might throw at me. In fact, their bullshit kind of motivated me. If someone said to me, “You won’t make it” or “It’s not possible”, I would think to myself: “Don’t believe me? Let’s talk again in ten years. I will show you my results!” Don’t let narrow-minded people and their negativity be your prison.
“Don’t wait for anyone to agree with you. Go! Create! And show everyone how it’s done!”
3. You are breaking your word 🗣 and then justifying it with dumb reasons.
This is a big one for me. And it starts with the small stuff. The promises and agreements between you and yourself. If I pointed out how many times you break your word on a daily basis, you’d be shocked.
Just think about it. How often have you told yourself, “I’m going to take action!” or “I will change this behavior!”? And then a couple of days later, you are back to status quo. Fitness, health, diet, reading, waking up earlier, not watching so much Netflix, etc.
How often do we say one thing and do another? Would you trust someone who constantly breaks his word to you? What if that person is yourself?
The worst part is that we justify it with all sorts of things, like: our job, the kids, the school, no time, no money, too tired, too hungry, my parents didn’t allow me, no one else wanted to, etc. By the way, that is also why we allow other people to justify breaking their word to us, because we don’t want them to call us out when we break our word. So, we all end up breaking promises with ourselves and each other on a regular basis, and then we end up wondering why there is no trust and no confidence in ourselves.
I have been a champion of all these three deadly habits. I listened to my inner saboteur, agreed with everyone else’s opinions of me and made that my excuse. Because they said I can’t, I don’t even try.
That’s why it took me 10 years after I left school to learn English. I got a D in English when I was in school, and from there I created the belief that I sucked and that I was too stupid to learn English. My report card supported that belief, and there were plenty of teachers and people around me who agreed with that. Well, they said it in a different way. “Oh Sebastian, you’re more like a sports person”.
Maybe you’ve heard something similar. That you’re more of a Math person, or a language person. That maybe you have more of a leaning towards something other than what you’re passionate about. But in most cases, it’s just bullshit. It’s a just a good excuse that justifies not trying anymore.
For myself, I finally decided to do something different. I started practicing new habits. I learnt to replace the negative self-talk with productive conversations and actions. I chose to see other people’s opinions of me as challenges to overcome. I really listened to my justifications for not getting the results I wanted, and recognized how I was sabotaging myself. Most importantly, I had coaches in my life, coaches who were willing to call out all my blind spots and equip me with the skills and tools to grow bigger and better, to pick myself up over and over again, to chase after my dreams and achieve the results I want and more. I learned English in just 3.5 months, became a bilingual keynote speaker and wrote and published a book.
The only way to change your habits, regardless of how you’re thinking or feeling, is this:
It worked for me!
I am curious! Tell me what you think? 🤔