Life becomes easy when you are confident being you…warts and all. While I’ve known this for quite some time, I was reminded of it when I complimented a friend on the improvement in her public speaking prowess.
She responded “It’s gotten easier now that I stopped trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be.” In other words she became more comfortable being herself and that showed up in significantly better presentation skills.
Indeed, that kind of confidence enhances all aspects of your life. For with confidence comes comfort and genuineness. When you’re confident, comfortable and genuine, others instantly warm to you, trust you and want to help you.
That begs the question “How do I get comfortable with who I am?” Unfortunately, many of us haven’t found an answer to that question. We haven’t become consistently comfortable with who we are. There are several reasons for this:
- We see our shortcomings more readily than our strengths.
- Others are more likely to point out our shortcomings than our strengths.
- Mistakes trigger more lasting memories than successes.
- We expect more of ourselves and assume others do as well.
- We, ludicrously, compare ourselves to others.
- Aspirations often spawn feelings of inadequacy.
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Shortcomings and memory
One of the less helpful aspects of our humanity is that things that go as expected don’t trigger an emotional reaction. Oh, there may be brief period of exaltation, but it’s quickly replaced with a desire for more.
There’s nothing wrong with desiring more, it’s healthy. But when that desire replaces the joy we experienced it takes with it the memory of our success.
Conversely, when we make a mistake, that mistake triggers a painful memory…one that can last for decades. Pain triggers a more powerful and longer-lasting memory than our successes. Consequently, we are more aware of our shortcoming than our successes.
Similar experiences occur in our dealings with others. It’s rare that we get compliments on what we do well. That’s, in part, because others aren’t confident, which makes it difficult for them to extend compliments to others. Why? Because it highlights their own inadequacies.
That also explains why others are quick to point out our shortcomings. It allows them to feel superior which, in turn, affords them an illusory sense of confidence.
The other reason why others are quick to point our our shortcomings is that they often feel hurt by what we said or did. Feelings of hurt often trigger a desire for retribution which shows up as criticism…them pointing to our shortcomings.
Implicit in my friend’s response was her expectation that she should be a better speaker than she was. She assumed others expected the same of her.
Nothing is further from the truth. As someone who has done a fair amount of speaking over the years, I’ve had days when I couldn’t string two fluid sentences together if my life depended upon it. Yet, even on these days people would come up to me afterward and say “Thanks Dale. That’s just what I needed to hear.”
It didn’t matter to them that I wasn’t on top of my game that day. What mattered was that I cared enough to share what I’d learned so that others could benefit from my experience.
That’s what my friend has discovered. She knows that it’s the genuineness of her desire to help others that makes her messages powerful…not her “skill” as a speaker. She knows that’s all any audience member expects of her. As a result of this new perspective, she is experiencing…and will continue to experience…growth in her skill.
Another natural tendency we human beings have is to compare ourselves to people more skilled, more successful in some regard, than we are.
Again, this tendency can be very healthy if done properly. Unfortunately too many of us make the comparison, find ourselves coming up short in the comparison and we take a hit to our confidence as a result. That is not healthy.
The healthy way to make these comparisons is to view others who are more adept as some aspect of what we do than we are as teachers. Instead of denigrating ourselves, we should be asking “What can I learn from this person that will help me become better at what I do?”
The reality is that regardless of how good we get at what we choose to do, there is always going to be someone who is better at some aspect of it than we are. That’s always been true in my life…and I’ve been around a long time.
Embrace others’ skills and abilities as an opportunity to learn and you’ll stop taking a hit to your confidence. Indeed, you’ll become more confident and more comfortable being you.
Desiring to be better at something can often lead to feelings of inadequacy. In this instance, instead of comparing ourselves to others we are comparing ourselves to an ideal that we envision. The result can be every bit as devastating…until you realize that the desire to excel makes life exciting.
Can you imagine a more boring existence than one in which you had nothing to look forward to? Those of you who have elderly parents, and see their world shrink with the loss of physical abilities, know precisely what it looks like…and feels like.
Your aspirations should be the source of great joy for it affords a life that’s fun, exciting and full of potential. Look at aspirations this way and you’ll never again view them as shortcomings.
To be consistently comfortable being you, simply remember that the more genuine you are, the more likely others are to warm to you, trust you, respect you and admire you. For it’s honesty and a caring nature that they look for in people that they would ultimately like to call “friend.”
For our kids
Help your kids understand the source of their feelings of inadequacy. Use the explanations in the five categories above to help them look at their world differently…to look at it in a way that will enhance their confidence and their comfort in being who they are.
Remind them that we all have warts, things we’re not particularly proud to possess, but that with time and perseverance we can train ourselves out of behaviors that don’t serve us well. Help them see the progress they’re making and they won’t fall back into the habit of self-criticism and denigration. Instead, they’ll experience the joy of progress.
Finally, live the message. They’re more likely to believe you if they see you living that way…and the positive results that come from living that way.