A reader recently asked, via email, “How can one make up for a lack of self-confidence?  How do I beat this nasty character flaw?” Having self-confidence is integral to building Inner Excellence, so I thought this would be a good time to address this question.

First, let me start by telling you a story:

dalai-lamaGary travels to the Far East to get guidance from the Dalai Lama on how to find peace in his life.  The Dalai Lama is known as one of the wisest men in the world, and one who is at peace with whatever happens in his life.  Gary finally gets in front of the Dalai Lama, and he asks, “I am constantly agitated by stress, work, and  life challenges. How can I put my mind at peace?”  The Dalai Lama replied, “You can’t — Your mind can never be at peace.  Only you can.”

This is how I interpret the Dalai Lama’s advice: Being at peace is not having only peaceful thoughts.  In fact, I would bet you a million dollars that the Dalai Lama still has all kinds of agitating thoughts every day of his life.  That is part of being human.  The only difference is that he has learned how to watch his thoughts go by, and only take the actions that keep him at peace.

The same advice applies to any self-management skill you want to develop, like self-confidence.  Gaining confidence is not achieved by figuring out how to suppress all thoughts of self-doubt and insecurities.  That’s impossible!  Having negative, self-doubting thoughts is part of being human, so you need to accept that those thoughts can and will pop up at times.  The only difference between someone who is confident vs. someone who isn’t is which thoughts he or she decides to concentrate on, and what kinds of thoughts he or she chooses to create in response to those negative notions.

Here is an example of what can happen in the mind of someone who lacks confidence:

  1. A self-doubting thought occurs in his mind: “I don’t know what I am doing with this analysis.  I am not sure how to start.”
  2. He then chooses to believe that his thoughts are true. As a result…
  3. He keeps repeating it to himself.  Even when he tries to suppress it, he just ends up repeating it. As a result, he fulfills his own negative thoughts by…
  4. Taking no action and waiting for someone else to show him what to do. Finally, in the future…
  5. He takes this example and tells himself, “I am not good at this.”

On the other hand, this is what can happen in the mind of someone who has self-confidence in a difficult situation:

  1. It can start the same way.  He thinks, “ I don’t know what I am doing with this analysis.  I am not sure how to start.”
  2. He then chooses to not believe his thoughts.  Instead, he follows up with a new thought that inspires him to act:  “I am not sure anyone else knows how to start, either.  Since there are no right answers, I can just give it my best shot.  As long as I am logical and say that it’s a draft, I am getting somewhere.”
  3. He chooses to believe this second thought, and starts putting his mind toward creating a draft.
  4. He proposes a way to start the work and got good feedback. Now he can take this example to help him create more confident thoughts for the future — “I can definitely do this again, even if I don’t know where to begin.”

I have definitely been in both scenarios above. Of course, I don’t read minds.  This is just an example of how I have seen my mind work.

The important point to note is that we are not our thoughts.   We can decide which thoughts we believe and which thoughts we ignore.  We may not always have confident thoughts about ourselves, but like the Dalai Lama, we can choose which thoughts we believe and want to focus on.  To gain confidence, you need to develop the ability to create inspiring thoughts for yourself, in spite of the fact that self-doubting thoughts will surface from time to time.

I hope that this new perspective gives you a new way to think about confidence, and helps you realize that you always have the power to create an inspiring internal dialogue to build your confidence.  Also, remember to take baby steps and have no expectations when you try this out.  Best wishes to you in developing your confidence and overall Inner Excellence!

Your comments:  What do you think of this new perspective?  Do you feel more empowered to give yourself confidence?  Add your comments below and let’s have a discussion.

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I am always in your corner.

– Lei

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