How To Be Confident: Even if You’re Scared Out of Your Mind
Have you ever felt like there was something that you wanted to do, but couldn’t do, that you shouldn’t do until you lost weight, until you became more confident? You couldn’t take swimming lessons until you like the way you look in a bathing suit, you couldn’t apply for a job until you lost 25 pounds, you couldn’t write a book until you took more write classes, you couldn’t sell your handmade jewelry on Etsy until you had a giant collection, you couldn’t invite people over for dinner or a party until your house was spotless… so many things that had to wait…
If only you had the… the confidence. Have you been trying to learn how to be confident? As though gaining the ever elusive self esteem was something that eventually came over you if you repeated enough mantras and enough affirmations…
The only problem was that you were waiting for it to come, and while you were trying to figure out how to be confident life kept moving forward…
“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.” –Millard Fuller
We try so hard to learn how to be confident that we can do the things that we want to do. But honestly, confidence is overrated. Some people will tell you that doing 100 push-ups in a row is how to be confident. But the truth is, you don’t need confidence, you need courage. Courage comes first and confidence eventually follows. Confidence comes from being so terrified that you are frozen but still trying something and failing again and again and again and again until you finally succeed. Confidence is not inherent, but fear is. We are all afraid, we are all terrified. But if you can feel the fear and not let it stop you, that’s how you gain confidence. Fear is crippling, terrifying, and paralyzing. But when we know that it’s going to feel that way no matter what and we understand that everyone has fear, then we can just allow it to come with us wherever we need to go.
When I first started my private practice, I decided that I wanted to have a bulimia/ binge eating therapy group. I advertised all over. I put flyers all over San Francisco, I put ads all over Craigslist (it was a long time ago 🙂 ), I couldn’t wait to have a giant group where I could really help people heal from BED and Bulimia. Eventually, two people signed up for my group. Two. I was devastated. My first inclination was to cancel the group. But I decided to just do it, to just push myself. I was a young therapist, and the groups that I had done up until then were at Eating Disorder facilities and I had been leading with a co-therapist. This was to be my first group alone and I believed somewhere that nobody had any faith in my abilities. Nobody had ever heard of me and maybe I was just a fraud. Each Wednesday, I felt a pit in my stomach before group. And I’d pray that my two clients didn’t show up. I literally had to drag myself to my office to see them. This went on for months. But as I continued to go, leading the group became easier, more enjoyable and more intuitive. Eventually the group grew until I couldn’t let any more people in and I wound up having a wait list.
My fear didn’t go away in order for me to gain confidence, my fear stayed. But eventually, after doing this group week after week and seeing that people were finding peace and healing I just allowed it to be there. I let it be there and eventually I began to feel confident in my abilities.
If you let your fear tell you what to do, you won’t get to the place that you want to be in life. Do things before you’re confident, do things when you’re scared and terrified and you have so much anxiety that you think you might pass out. Do that again and again and eventually the confidence follows.
When I was writing my book, each day I had to drag myself to my computer to write. Again, I kept asking myself, “who am I to write a book?”
One day I stopped writing and started my application process to UC Berkeley’s PhD in Neuroscience. I was talking to my husband later and he asked me how my day was, how my clients were, how the book was going.
“Oh,” I told him, “I’m applying to get my PhD in Neuroscience”
“Um, why?” he asked me?
“Oh well, I thought I would know more after I got my PhD so then I could write the book.”
My husband looked at me and said, “write the fucking book.”
“But I need to learn more!” I told him.
“You’re a licensed psychotherapist who’s been treating binge eating disorder for more than ten years, you know a s**tload…” he told me, “sit down and write the book. You’re not writing the book for a bunch of scholars, you’re writing the book for a group of people who need help, and I don’t think they want to wait another seven years while you get your next PhD. Go write your book, people need to hear what you have to say… you can go get your PhD in neuroscience if you want, but don’t wait to write your book, just do it now. You have what you need inside of you.”
So I took all my fear and I wrote my over 300 page book. I guess I did have a lot to say!
But I was so nervous that I didn’t tell anyone that I wrote a book! Not my friends, not my Dad, not my family…
And then one day, after my book was released in 2014, I finally put a small note on my personal Facebook group. “Hey guys, guess what, I wrote a book! It was released today.”
And then I closed my computer because I was so nervous for putting myself out there… I didn’t look at my Facebook page for many days because I was having a vulnerability meltdown.
A few days later, I finally looked at Facebook and saw that so many of my friends had made these really positive comments, they shared my posting and they were all happy for me. I realized that this was just something that I had to practice, I had to push myself to get out there. As an inherently painfully shy person, putting myself out there is not something that comes easily, but the more I practice, the less difficult it becomes.
Success isn’t about never having fear, success is about being able to feel the fear and do it anyway.
So how do you gain confidence? You don’t wait, you walk into that vulnerable state, you put that bathing suit on no matter what you think your body looks like, you go to that job interview despite the fact that you don’t have that level of experience, you call that guy/girl even though you don’t think that you are “perfect enough,” for them… because life is too short to wait for confidence to come to you.
And the truth is, you might never be confident, but don’t let that stop you from having the life that you want and that you deserve.