How to Build Your Confidence
How can we build confidence if we’re terrified of the things we need to do to begin feeling calm, cool and collected?
Just a few weeks ago, the pastor of my spiritual community asked me if I’d speak for him while he’s on vacation. We met for coffee. At the Hubbard and Cravens coffee shop on Illinois, trying not to knock over the dog water bowl under my chair, I agreed. “Sure,” I said, “What did you have in mind?” I answered as if standing in front of people speaking intelligently about important matters is the easiest thing in the world for me.
I want you to know that it’s not. Building up the confidence to do it was going to take more than a simple cup of coffee. But at the time, that’s all I had, so I said yes.
So why does someone agree to do something they’re not totally confident with?
Because I’m confident about something else that’s even more important: my ability to practice.
When I was eleven, I signed up to be in the band. My mother took me to the music store where we rented a Yamaha b-flat clarinet. When I got home from school each afternoon, I’d prop up my beginner music book on the window ledge, sit on my yellow chenille bedspread, wet my reed with spit and set about scaring the cats out of the house. I wasn’t making music; I was making squawks and squeaks that had my family up in arms. Can’t you practice some other time, they’d ask…or someplace else?
My point is that I was horrible at playing the clarinet…for a long while. But I learned to shut out the complaints, and to shut the door. Over time, everyone stopped complaining (except the cats who always ran for cover when I opened the instrument case). What I didn’t do is give up because people in my house didn’t like it. I practiced because I wanted to feel confident playing my part out loud with the rest of the band.
Confidence isn’t something we find, or are born with. We have to build confidence by intentionally creating opportunities to be courageous.
As I’ve grown into adulthood, I’ve had the opportunity to practice a lot of things: horseback riding, sewing, dancing, loving, running, yoga, saying sorry, writing, parenting, playing guitar, teaching, giving, skating, asking for things, public speaking and tons more. I’m still practicing a lot of these.
Through each of these different forms of practice, I learned something quite valuable: There was a time I thought that I’d grow up, become an adult and “be finished,” like a cake that is mixed, baked and then iced. It has a start point and a finish. But humans aren’t cakes. We continue to grow throughout our lives.
Growth is inevitable. It can’t be stopped, nor should it be because through growth we find the zest for life. We can only grow through opportunities to learn and practice our skills, not perfection. Perfection says, “I’m done growing” and practice says, “I want more from life.”
Developing a practice, whether it’s dance, golf, or African flute blowing, requires only that you devote some time, energy and a little love to something outside of you.
It requires you:
• to show up regularly, wanting change,
• to exercise intention and follow-through, and
• to commit to yourself and your desire.
A practice is something we’re compelled to do because it makes us a bigger, better expression of the human spirit.
Martha Graham, one of the finest choreographers of modern dance, says, “I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
Having some sort of regular practice in your life is transformational. It does more than take up time and energy. A practice taken seriously will lead you right to your scariest walls
- Where you will witness your greatest self-limiting beliefs and fears.
- Where you get to choose over and over again whether to face them head-on.
- Where you get to question your own words of self-judgment and criticism.
- Where you get to experience your passion come alive in the flow of the now.
- Where you get to sit and simmer in the crucible of personal development.
- Where you get to believe in a greater version of who you are.
Without a practice, we have nothing to challenge us. And we can’t build confidence muscles without the tension of challenge. So the answer to becoming more confident is simple: find something to practice.
What things do you practice regularly and what have they taught you about yourself?
Have you given up something you loved to do because it seemed frivolous? Well, it’s more important than you think to have it in your life. What if you picked it back up and invited it to have its way with you?